World of Tanks Preview - An F2P Tankstravaganza!

When it comes to Tank battles, only a few games have taken a remotely realistic view of them.  Then World of Tanks comes along and adds location spec

When it comes to Tank battles, only a
few games have taken a
remotely realistic view of them.  Then
World of Tanks comes along and adds location specific damage, a
architecture and hit box for every tank, and more variables than you
can shake
a stick at.  It’s
easy to get into
because everyone can drive and shoot like a madman, but when you start
it to win in platoons or team battles, you’ll find that this is much
more deep
than your standard arcade shooter!

Games are extremely quick to get into. style="">  Just a quick tap of the
Battle! button at the
top of your screen and you’ll instantly be in the queue to fight. style="">  Battles are fairly large
scale, usually in
the ballpark of 15v15.  It’s
rare, but if
you’re queueing at odd times of the night in a high level tank, you
might get a
smaller 5v5 skirmish from the quick battle button. 
Teams are automatically balanced by tank ‘tier’
and role.  Each side
will generally get
an equal level of tanks, artillery, and tank destroyers, preventing
most of the
crying that happens in role based games when one side is loaded up with
class.  Want to
queue with friends?  No
problem, you and two buddies can join the
normal battle queue together.  If
want to get more together though, you’ll need to form either a full
team, or
just split up sadly.  It’s
a good thing
to prevent stacked teams via cooperation/voice chat, but it’s
disappointing to
be the odd man out sometimes.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 640px; height: 363px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">The game will always try and
make fair teams by picking the same amount of tanks from each tier and
type.  One side may get more heavy tanks, or tank destroyers,
but you can plan strategies around that during the 30 second pre-game.

style="font-style: italic;">Clan Warfare

The big team warfare in particular is
something to get excited about.  Multiple tournament formats
are emerging, and a point system has emerged to prevent everyone from
running around in maxed out heavy tanks.  Teams have to pick
and choose the right tanks, and right players for those tanks, when
they execute their strategy.  Battles of this format often
result in crazy strategies, such as mass artillery and tank destroyer
defense, medium tank hordes pushing down a road killing all in their
path to the soft artillery underbelly, and psycho light tanks tearing
around the map harassing bigger tanks like a swarm of bees.
 It's as fun to watch as it is to participate!

style="font-weight: bold;">The Fervor of Combat - A typical

One of my favorite tanks is the
Panzer IV.  It's a Tier 5 Medium tank that has below average
speed, but one of its gun options is a massive howitzer capable of
blowing a hole in anyone.  Here's an idea of what I go through
in a typical round.

Most maps have several 'lanes',
think of them as paths that people tend to pass through.
 Fighting on a map consists of getting to a channel,
evaluating a situation, and advancing or defending as the situation
warrants.  Since my tank is slower than average, I trail the
speedy lights and USSR mediums as they surge forward along the west
side into the sandy dunes.  Dunes are an amazingly complex
area, with several mounds, they serve as both cover from direct fire,
and make life difficult on artillery to target you on the far side of
one.  However, it also makes it difficult to advance and leads
to several standoffs.

The scouts meet in the southwest
corner of the hilly dunes, and my minimap lights up with potential
targets.  Unfortunately, my engine being lacking, hills are
not kind to me.  Making an offensive move is difficult when
your top speed is cut 75% trying to tackle any kind of elevation.
 I stick to the valleys between the dunes and we're in a bad
spot.  The enemy outnumbers us down here, and I watch a light
tank in front of me eat a shell that blows off his tracks.  He
fights back, but the enemy retreats behind the hilly dunes in between
shots.  Getting your mobility removed is a death sentence,
especially if artillery is involved, and a shell rains from the sky
into his turret and down he goes.  

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 639px; height: 361px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">An example of using a hill to
your advantage.  My buddy and I are impervious to the enemies
on the other side, and if they try and take the hill, we'll have free
shots on their hulls as they come over the top.

The good news is that I've got some
extra cover to work with.  Destroyed allies and enemies will
block shots, and the Panzer IV is a fairly compact package.
 Sporting a small hitbox, I'm able to park directly behind it
and take shots on people as they come into view.  I don't have
to move to ge behind cover, so my accuracy is perfect, or well, as
perfect as this howitzer can get.  Firing this gun on the move
and hitting a target at medium range is about as likely as winning a
carnival game.

All I have to do is wait until they
show enough of their tank to hit part of it and I'll take the shot.
 Boom, down goes a M3 Lee, one shot.  Another pops
its head out, and another round is fired--missed high.  His
shot nails my dead comrade in front and does nothing.  I get
ready for the killing blow, and an artillery shell flies overhead and
explodes a foot behind me, doing minor damage but damaging my tracks.
 With my movement crippled, and the artillery inevitably
loading up another shot, I know I need to get moving and take out
whoever I can before another shot or two finishes me off.  I
charge the valley, soak up a heavy damage shot to my front end, and
delay my blast until I know he has almost reloaded in order to get as
close as possible.  I let loose another round and it goes
right through him.

Or so I'd like to say.  My
hesitation for a more accurate close range shot was my downfall, as the
artillery lands a shell that kills my driver and finishes off my left
track.  As my crew scrambles to cover for the driver and get
the track back up to a working condition, the enemy backs off further
into the dunes for cover knowing I'm immobilized and another artillery
round finishes me off.  Bastards!  Fortunately, I had
some backup tanks behind me that were able to penetrate the line and
eventually take out that artillery and win the round.

style="font-weight: bold;">Victory and Progression

When the war begins, how does a side
win?  Well, besides
the obvious destruction of all enemies
in a game with no respawning, there is also a base that needs to be
defended.  If a
player enters the enemy
base area and is undisturbed for 60 seconds, that team wins regardless
of the
current odds.  But
rushing for this
victory objective is hardly an option. 
The bases are large areas, and almost completely flat and
devoid of
cover.  So going for
a capture (which can be seen by all players when you enter the base
instantly makes you a good target for
everyone in the area, and especially any artillery that are still alive.

Once that’s done, you’ll receive
credits and
experience.  The
former is used for the
purchase of new tanks, ammunition, and repairs. 
Experience is used to train crew members, research new
parts on a tank,
and research new tanks entirely.  You
cannot purchase a tank you haven’t researched, and it’s entirely
possible to
run a deficit after a battle where you fired a lot of rounds, died
early, or a
combination of both.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 639px; height: 360px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">You'll spend a lot of time
zoomed in, adjusting for better accuracy, and then firing that killing
blow.  But your enemy is clever.  They'll use
buildings, trees, cars, and even their defeated allies as cover to stop
you from lining up that shot.

style="font-weight: bold;">The Death Penalty, or lack thereof

you bite the dust early in a scenario, you don’t have to sit around and
stare at your
burning wreckage or watch your allies fight a futile battle. style="">  You can leave the fight
right then and there
and start a new one with a different tank until that tank’s battle
resolves in
victory or defeat.  Credits
and experience
will still be rewarded as though you stayed there cheering your team on
entire time, which helps out those of us who tend to drive ahead of the
scout/skirmish, and meet an early end.

style="font-weight: bold;">Alas, not all is right in war

There are a few frustrating issues in
the beta though.  Number one is map imbalances.  Some
maps have much easier access to cover, or an important chokepoint, or
just flat out give one side a better firing position.  Other
maps, such as any map with tons of buildings, basically render
artillery useless.  It's wonderful to have variety in the maps
and not just have them being mirrored over an axis, but it can be
frustrating to have an uphill battle from the start.

Nothing is more frustrating than
firing a massive artillery round across the map, have it right on top
of an enemy heavy tank, and have it plink off and deal no damage.
 Note, this happens even with the most advanced armor
penetration ammo the vehicle has to offer!

The game really needs more
documentation and numbers when it comes to vision.  Sometimes
tanks are invisible while moving even a hundred feet away from you, and
if you shoot from 400 feet away in the middle of the forest, every gun
in the game will shoot at you 2 seconds later.  Even people
with thousands upon thousands of games played can't tell you the exact
way radios affect the battle.  Just the fact that the line of
sight rule does not apply in this game may frustrate a lot players.
 If you can see me, I can see you--nope.  Leading a
charge and dying before you know what hit you is all too common as guns
gain power, effective range, and accuracy.

Next, we cover the tank types
themselves and the variety of playstyles they bring to the field.

style="">The Tanks

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
incredibly fast, but don’t pack a lot of punch or have any decent armor
speak of.  You can
still play these as
you would a medium or heavy, it’ll just take more than the one or two
shots to dispatch a target.  Also
of note
is great acceleration and turning radius, the latter being one of the
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
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
sport quick firing, poor accuracy weapons good for close combat
skirmishing in
the streets, and others will have long barreled cannons for taking out
vehicles.  Hell,
some even have massive
howitzers that can blow a tank apart in a single shot…. If the shot
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. style="">  Top speed, turning radius,
horsepower, and turret traverse speeds are all lower than average. style="">  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. style="">  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.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">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
artillery, are for you.  90% style=""> of your time will be spent
looking at the map
from a top down perspective as you line up shots from across the map. style="">  You have no armor to speak
of and your direct
combat skills are laughable as the moment you move your accuracy goes
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.

style="">The Presentation

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
details are nothing short of wonderful, with gritty emblems and
designs to the era on each model. 

style=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 640px; height: 360px;" alt=""

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
rather than hurt its cause.  Seeing
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
barrage.  Seeing
trees fall can be an
indicator of a tank charging forward, and enable you to line up a shot
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.

style="">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. style="">  Gold is used to buy
special tanks, special
ammo, crew training, and can be converted to pure credits. style="">  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 style=""> 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. style="">  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!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our World of Tanks Game Page.

Last Updated:

About The Author

Around the Web