World of Tanks Review: Freemium Price without the Freemium Taste

Alright, I’m cheap and I don’t have a lot of time to play games right now, so I pay as little for them as I can. I’ve been an aficionado of the freemium (free-to-play, but premium access available via purchase) titles in the past few years, and World of Tanks has me freaking hooked. The concept is simple at first glimpse: Jump in a tank from the USA, Russia or Germany, link up with a random crew online and blow stuff up! But wait, there’s more to this formula. WoT has a plethora of statistics and combat data that is intertwined into the entire experience. It’s not as simple as jumping into a M4 Sherman and expecting to blow a hole in the side of a German Maus. This game demands tactics; running and gunning at any opponent will put you in a smoldering pile of steel very quickly.

World of Tanks

Is that a 8.8cm KwK 43L/71 in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

You’ve got your three classes of tanks (light, medium, and heavy), your SPGs (Self Propelled Gun) and TDs (tank destroyers). As far as what the classes represent, your lights are your scouts, your heavies are your warriors, your mediums are stuck somewhere in between with your SPGs and TDs as your long rang snipers. And, for you history buffs out there, all of your tools of destruction are based off of the real things! These are WWII era machines, and the developers did a great job detailing most of the armament options available during that time period.

Three cheers for tiers

Ever hate those free MMO’s where the person that spends the most money will wax your tail end 9 times out of 10 during every PvP event? Well, the first solution to this dynamic is creating a battlefield with multiple skill/tank levels per event. The tiers run 1-10, 1 being beginner (think lunch boxes with guns) and 10 being the ultimate beasts of destruction. Tiers 1-3 are typically bunched together, and combat is pretty similar; keep yourself alive, work in teams and destroy your opponents.

From that point on, though, the tiers space out in armor and firepower availability, and it gets increasingly more difficult to grind for the experience points needed to modify your vehicle. Once at Tier 4, I found myself in my light M5 getting obliterated by larger tanks with single shots. This is why modifying your tactics for each battle is so important. I couldn’t go mano-a-mano with them, but I could speed around, hide and spot those same targets for my artillery to blow to kingdom come.

The United Nations of tech trees

Each nation has a tech tree for all of the available weapons. In most cases, you start with one of the nation’s light tanks, earn exp and then gradually branch out to the other classes of vehicle you want. The rewarding part of this dynamic is that you actually get satisfaction when your new tier of vehicle opens up and you have mastered that section of your tech tree. Your tank crew gains experience as your vehicle does, and the more proficient they get, the more effective you are up until you get the 100% “Elite” status. The negative to this… it takes a long time to work through the tech trees past Tier 3 and your experience points only apply to the tank you are working on. There is a general experience point set that you can apply to any vehicle, but this takes a significantly longer time to accrue.

World of Tanks Tech Tree

Like a family tree, only more destructive

This is no Gran Turismo 5; your tank inventory will be small. I really wanted to try out all 5 classes, but there just isn’t enough time for that. My strategy; stick with one nation and go broad. I took the US route (whose light and medium tech trees actually overlap at a point) and have 3 tanks I regularly grind with. In all, there are about 150 different armored vehicles, and no battle is the same. I like having at least 1 medium and 1 heavy tank at all times in my garage; others might just want to get a heavy tank in each nation. It’s all a matter of preference and combat style.

If you want to advance your tanks quicker or buy some unique weapons, you have the option to buy in-game gold to do so. That being said, I don’t feel like not buying in-game credits is keeping me from enjoying playing with those that do, which has already been a problem in similar titles. After all, this game is much more about skill than coinage, so the big spenders have to compliment their wallets with their brain or else they die.

Rise to victory

The goals of the game are to either eradicate all the opposition’s tanks or capture their base. A simple concept perhaps, but the path to victory is anything but that. As I described above, you’ve got lots of considerations in battle. You need to account for terrain changes (most armored weapons suck at traversing inclines), your machine’s armor, effective blast power of your gun, your range of site, speed, turret maneuverability and even radio signal distance between units. This game is not for the solo-killer. Even some of the most heavily armored units can be picked apart by an onslaught of artillery fire in combination with pesky, high-speed medium tanks blowing holes in their backside. Just like your fantasy MMORPGs, going into a battle with a disproportionate class makeup often results in a quick demise for your team.

World of Tanks battlefield

Off the road again, just can’t wait to get off the road again….

This doesn’t look freemium

Personally, I think the graphics are great considering this game is free. People have complained that there are some issues with certain models being overused, but aside from that I’ve found less terrain bugs in this game than some that are being sold right now. There is also a pretty cool camouflage system at work too. You hide behind a fortified building and no one can see you until they come around the side. You fully hide yourself behind a large bush, and it takes longer to be spotted by the enemy as long as you don’t move. And how about the armored vehicle models in the game? Well, go open up your favorite WWII picture book and compare what’s in those pages to what’s on screen. Every time I play the game, I want to go watch another episode of Greatest Tank Battles to see if I was there.

The one major downer for me is that I don’t know anyone else right now that is playing this, and making “friends” in game is a bit more complicated because you only spend a short amount of time with complete strangers in game. There is a really cool “Ultimate Conquest”, RISK-like aspect to clan wars, but I’m not there yet. The other downside for some is that the grinding in this game (especially when thrown in with higher tier units battle after battle) can be unnerving at times and downright frustrating. However, the gameplay and tactics more than make up for it.

If you like tactical team-based shooters and also happen to be a military history buff, you are going to love this title. It’s engrossing, deep, and best of all, costs as much as you’d like it to. So put away your magic wand and replace your “tank” class with a real one, you won’t be disappointed.

Sources

World of Tanks (images)
Giant Bomb (images)