Saturday, 10 January 2015

PC Games for Wargamers (Review) = World of Tanks

Why World of Tanks?
Whilst not a "tactical/strategy" game per se it's a great "Dad" game (i.e cunning is important, good reflexes aren't) that is simple to play but has a very high skill ceiling. In addition, the 10-minute rounds are great for the time-challenged, and the "collector" aspect of unlocking tanks will also appeal to many gamers.  It's designed by "Wargaming" - a company that used to be involved in tabletop conversions (they did the ancients DBA online) so there is some attempt at historical accuracy.  It's hugely popular - I think it got a record for 700,000 concurrent players or something a while back.

What is the game about?
You control a single tank.  Basically two teams of 12 tanks enter a map, and either completely annihilate the enemy team (most of the time) or capture the enemy base by parking their tanks in it.   The tanks are mostly WW2 with a few from the 50s (i.e. Centurion, T-54).  Tanks are usually matched by tier (ability) rather than historical accuracy (though that is an option.)

How hard is it to learn?
The controls are super simple, and the game is quite slow paced.  No twitchy reflexes required.   It's very much like chess in that there is a very high skill ceiling, and there are some very good players about. However, don't be concerned - most players are so dumb sometimes I suspect they are computer-controlled bots. 

 The actual game looks nowhere near this good. But we can all agree tanks are awesome...

What is the gameplay like? How do I do well?

The game is not too complex - kill the enemy while avoid being killed yourself.  Much of the skill is commonsense - stay in/behind bushes while stationary to remain unseen; go hull down (expose only your turret) or angle your tank to increase the chance of a deflection.  Try to flank so you can shoot at the enemies sides and rear whilst avoiding exposing your own.  Team up with other tanks to "break through" and hide and try to pin down superior forces.  Whilst charging across open ground screaming "Leroy Jenkinnnnsss!!!" isn't recommended - don't be overcautious - you actually do need to damage and destroy opponents to win.  Hiding and being the last tank standing usually means you didn't contribute to your team and you're about to get messed up by five enemy tanks who now can devote 100% attention to hunting and killing you.

Then there is what you learn from experience - weak spots on specific tanks, the capability of your tank relative to opponents, and good positioning and tactics for specific maps, and the "ebb and flow" of a game. If you die you can start a new game straight away, but I often "spectate" good players to learn from them.

Finally, avoid going up the tiers (ranks) too quickly. Most players make a beeline to unlock favourite tank, without actually learning their trade, and get overwhelmed at the high tiers (5+) because that's where all the good players tend to be. Having a high tier tank is no advantage - as you face tanks of a similar tier - i.e. your King Tiger won't be facing Shermans, but Pershings and IS heavies.

There are 100s of good tutorials in how to become a good player - understanding how viewing range/detection works is very important.

Will I get a lot of hours of fun out of it, or will I only play it twice (replay value)?
Most of the people I know who play it have logged 100s of hours.  If you are a "collector" (and most wargamers I know are) unlocking new tanks is addictive, and it gets harder as you go up the "tiers".
It's a good "casual" game (each game takes 5-15 minutes) but it's one where you can develop your skills.  If you're one of those people who tracks their 40K wins and losses there are very detailed stats available which can track your performance in different tanks.

This gives a fairer idea of what the games look like...  Wargaming does regular TV shows explaining changes and tank tweaks

How good is the sound/graphics? What system specs do I need?
Quite good.  Tanks rumble along convincingly, cannons have a nice "boom" and shots spang off armour.  It is optimized so it plays fine on most computers. I'd say 2G RAM, a dual core CPU and a 512 card (i.e. your work laptop) would run it OK but I'd recommend double that. It takes up a bit of room (16G) on the HDD though.

+ free
+ everyone likes tanks
+ simple to learn, hard to master
+ fast paced
+ 10 minute rounds
+ teaming up with 1-2 of your mates gives a huge advantage
+ mostly realistic tanks specs
+ commonsense play / real life tactics work
+ slow paced for those without the reflexes of a teen on Red Bull
+ even non-gamers will give it a try
+ poor ping is not an issue

- completely unhistorical matchups with axis and allies mixed together; it's a game not a simulation
- 12v12 deathmatch gameplay can get very repetitive after a while
- very "grindy" at high levels (play 100+ games to unlock a "new" tank)
- sometimes your tank faces higher tier opponents and you're screwed
- light tanks can't penetrate much so you're limited to hiding in the bushes like a birdwatcher
- can't recall the download, but it takes up a hefty 16G of hard drive space

Recommended: Yes.  A simple but fun free 12v12 tank  game for those short on time.  The slow paced gameplay emphasizes tactics > reflexes, and it's easy to talk your friends into playing with you.  Easy to learn but hard to master.  Tanks seem to have historical armour, speed etc - just don't expect historical matchups.  There's also a mobile app available (World of Tanks: Blitz).

PS: This is a "test run" for a PC game review format. Useful or not?  What other points could I address (or could I condense some areas?)

Also, feel free to add me: (evilleMonkeigh) - despite being an Aussie I play on the American servers.


  1. PC MAC version as yet :-(

    1. You need to join the PC master race! - a pity as I could jump on the US East server and have a game with you; the game is very ping-tolerant


      There is a mac version/mod apparently