Apart from having occasional access to World of Warcraft, up until a few months ago my schedule was completely devoid of PC gaming in any shape or form. However, after piecing together a plausibly mid-range build I now find myself bewildered by the lavish library of PC exclusives of past and present. However, given my devotion to other consoles and writing here at TheSixthAxis, a number of classics will inevitably slip under my radar but there is little time for regret.
2011 proved that PC gaming is still the most diverse and evolving breed in the medium, both The Witcher 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic standing out as the two blockbuster forerunners among a cascade of beloved indie gems. It has also been the leading platform in accommodating the ever-growing free-to-play movement, recent entries under the F2P banner being just as big and ambitious as most premium, shop-bought titles.
Developed by Wargaming.net (Massive Assault) World of Tanks originally launched in Russia on October 30th, 2010 with Chinese, North American, and European releases soon after. Completely free to play, the game is best described as an online shooter with players assuming the roles of war machinery as opposed to dispensable foot soldiers. Though cost-free, World of Tanks is still surrounded by a sturdy barrier to entry, namely the somewhat beguiling learning curve.
Without as much as an opening tutorial players are dropped straight into the game hub, immediately bombarded with a cluster of jargon and numbers that represent the statistics for each of your starter vehicles. Aside from appearance, even after taking a glance at the details for each tank, I couldn’t make an informed decision as to which one suited my playstyle and so I prepared for the first skirmish.
Thankfully the simplest aspect of World of Tanks happens to be its gameplay. In its primary game mode two teams of fifteen similarly-skilled players are pitted against one another, having to obliterate their opponents entirely or occupy their spawn point. Basic movement and combat comes naturally without any real need to look at the control layout; vehicles can move forward and backward whilst also being able to pivot at any desired angle, with two keys being used to moderate the speed of your tank.
As soon as an enemy barrels its ways into your sights it’s temporarily flagged for all of your team-mates to see, as well as the tank’s silhouette being outlined in red when your reticle is directly hovering over it. Using the scroll wheel or shift key you can navigate between camera angles at ease; a third person perspective allowing you to keep an eye on your flank, whilst cross hair sights give increased pitching and precision. Whether you score a direct hit depends on a number of factors including range, elevation and stability (remaining stationary increases your hit rate significantly). Right clicking locks and traces a target, obviously improving your odds significantly over firing blindly.[drop]With each player only having one life (per round) World of Tanks is definitely one of the most intense F2P online shooters on the market, promoting teamwork and patience above all else. During one battle it took me a good five minutes to pick out an enemy, my tank only managing to hit 18kmph, and once in range I was torn apart by an entire battalion of enemy tanks which remained stationary in their tactical position from start to finish.
It’s extremely methodical, even more so as you unlock more advanced tanks, which could be a major turn-off for those who relish in accessible, fast-paced shooters. Through experience earned in combat, or with help from your wallet, you can unlock new components to help increase performance, with both the upgrade system and skill tree requiring an equal amount of insight.
There may be some interesting concepts at play and plenty of depth to back it up but World of Tanks is going to take some time to grow on me. Flicking through pages of user-made wikis and guides to find the most efficient tank/crew build is time-consuming to say the least, not to mention the long wait between dying and a game actually finishing. I can understand how awarding players with just one life each adds a dramatic sense of survival but for the more casual gamers and those who want to refine their skills not having a multi-spawn deathmatch variant with smaller maps is a glaring omission, even if it would be in stark contrast with the authentic feel of the game.
As it stands, World of Tanks has a lot to offer but only for those who are willing to invest an ample amount of their time. Simplifying player progression, time-friendly game modes and the inclusion of interactive tutorials should be the top three priorities for Wargaming.net if they are looking to build on World of Tanks mass following. However, given its status as a F2P game it’s certainly worth a look, despite the complexity and niggles.