Updated Mon, Apr 11, 2011 by Stow
Perhaps the best part about World of Tanks is how the tank battles play out differently according to what level the tank average is. A tank battle with all newbie tanks, or all heavies, will obviously play out much more different. But when you throw in multiple artillery on each side, or multiple tank destroyers, the pace and strategies used will change greatly.
Light tanks are speed demons that love to circle targets and fire while moving. They reload incredibly fast, but don’t pack a lot of punch or have any decent armor to speak of. You can still play these as you would a medium or heavy, it’ll just take more than the one or two critical shots to dispatch a target. Also of note is great acceleration and turning radius, the latter being one of the most important and most ignored statistics of mobile combat. Getting outmaneuvered in this game is death, and the light tanks are great at doing it and avoiding it themselves.
Medium tanks are the bread and butter of the game. With some having killer mobility almost on the level of a few light tanks, while packing a gun that can actually hurt someone, you can’t go wrong with a medium tank. While the light tanks only go up to tier 4, mediums can be researched all the way up to tier 9, and the tier 9 mediums can put some serious hurt even on the steel behemoths of the tier 10 heavy class. You also have a lot of variety in your weapon choices on most medium tanks. Some will sport quick firing, poor accuracy weapons good for close combat skirmishing in the streets, and others will have long barreled cannons for taking out approaching vehicles. Hell, some even have massive howitzers that can blow a tank apart in a single shot…. If the shot actually hits them with the barrel’s pathetic accuracy.
The big boys in the Heavy tier have the most HP of any tank by tier, and in general the most armor. However, they’re crippled when it comes to mobility. Top speed, turning radius, general horsepower, and turret traverse speeds are all lower than average. If you can keep your front to an enemy, you will win any slugfest. If they get past your gun though and start circling you, all the armor in the world won’t help you as they pepper you with shots you can’t retaliate against. Heavy Tanks are great in city warfare, where their rears and flanks are protected by narrow paths, and buildings defend them from incoming artillery or sniping.
A great action of shot of playing the role of artillery. The green line indicates I have a clear shot where I'm targeting. The left red hash marks indicate I'm reloading and can't fire. The right ones indicate my current HP, and in between, the dotted circle indicates the possible area my shot will fall in if I fire. As for the orange trail to the east? That was my friend scoring the killing blow before I could fire :(
If you’d prefer a more passive style, the Tank Destroyer is for you. Tank Destroyers pack long barrels, insane accuracy, and as much punch as any tank could pack for the tier it’s in. The downside is poor mobility in general and the lack of a turret. This means in order to shoot your foe, you must be facing them. You can’t drive one way and shoot the other, and this means if you get flanked or have your tracks destroyed, say goodnight. Tank Destroyers are often the ones that guard long choke points and abuse as much cover or foliage as possible to give them the first critical shot.
If you’d rather play field commander and rely on a little luck every now and then Self-Propelled Guns or SPGs, commonly just called artillery, are for you. 90% of your time will be spent looking at the map from a top down perspective as you line up shots from across the map. You have no armor to speak of and your direct combat skills are laughable as the moment you move your accuracy goes to hell. But if the enemy is spotted in the open, your ability to home in on the target and drop pain on someone who thinks they’re being clever is unmatched.
While the typical roles of each tank are the same, depending on the faction (USA, USSR, or German) and specific tank, there are a few that stand out and can play much differently than usual. For instance, the USA T30 heavy tank is the biggest tank the USA has to offer, but it has less armor on its hull than most medium tanks. It compensates by having the biggest damn gun in the game for a tank, and plays more like a Tank Destroyer than a Heavy Tank as a result.
Spending the last few months with this game, I keep seeing new things pop up in the sounds and graphics that put me in a complete state of awe. Buildings crumble, trees fall, shots whizz through forests and plink off sloped steel, and the overall feel of the game is just as it should be. The tank details are nothing short of wonderful, with gritty emblems and accurate designs to the era on each model.
I don't think I've ever played a F2P shooter that actually gave a damn about the background beyond the map's constraints, but the rest of the city you can't fight in actually looks pretty good. Little graphical touches like this contribute to the immersion greatly, and makes the city feel more real and less like a bunch of LEGO blocks spotted throughout for cover.
It’s not going to blow you away, but for a free to play game that prides itself on being somewhat realistic, the graphics actually help rather than hurt its cause. Seeing the faint trail of an artillery shell can allow you to call out the area you think it came from, and gives your artillery the option of going for a counter barrage. Seeing trees fall can be an indicator of a tank charging forward, and enable you to line up a shot once they come into view or even fire blind and score the sick kill.
It’s very customizable, and runs quite well in a window should you prefer to multitask between shots. Since most free to play games only offer the most basic of options when it comes to graphical customization, this is a welcome change of pace.
A Truly Free to Play Experience
As we all know though, being a F2P game simply isn’t profitable on its own, so there is another currency in the game—gold. Gold is used to buy special tanks, special ammo, crew training, and can be converted to pure credits. The ammo is typically slightly better than a similar grade of ammo, but the tanks are negligibly better or even worse in a few cases. Crew training is automatic as you play the game and eventually everyone will be on the same level of crew regardless of gold.
The point is, the game isn’t decided by the credit card. The best tanks and pilots can all be trained and bought with time, and the grind for new tanks isn’t negated by the credit card either. Experience cannot be purchased! However, purchasing of gold right now will net you bonus tanks that will save you a lot down the road. 12,500 gold is enough to buy several fully trained tank crews, several hundred rounds of gold ammunition, and a special consumable or two for those games that come down to a 1v1 or 2v2.
With the release a week away, World of Tanks is shaping up to be the best free to play action option in a long time. With a surprisingly varied set of maps, tanks, and strategies, it has held people’s attention for its long beta and will continue to well into release!