As the self-proclaimed Free2Play guru of the Horrible Night contributors, I felt it important to give the community an update on my current go-to F2P game of the past year, Wargaming.net’s World of Tanks. A lot has changed since my initial review in June 2011, and I’ve never been more excited than I am for this update.
For those of you unfamiliar with the title, World of Tanks (WoT) is a MMO in which you take command of WWII era vehicles, both actual and conceptual, in a 15 vs. 15 tactical onslaught of heavy metal. The extent of playable armored vehicles has grown significantly since my last review, and that alone has kept me enthralled in the experience.
Let’s quickly review my favorite changes from 7.5 to 8.0, of which I feel compelled to highlight a few:
- New tanks
- Expanded Achievements
- Increased exterior customization of vehicles
- Vastly improved physics engine
- Improved garage visuals & functionality (tech trees and post battle stats)
- Totally enhanced audio (weapons systems, environmental effects, suspension sounds)
- Brand new rendering system & map improvements
- Ability to select preferred battle type (Standard, Assault, Encounter)
Increased Functionality and Improved Graphics
8.0 brings tankers a new way to view available upgrades and “family members” within a country’s tech tree. Though it will take a little time to get used to, the developers decided to run with a horizontal display rather than a top-down tiering of its vehicles. I assume this layout will help the integration of new vehicles into the tech trees in future updates. The stand-out addition: all premium vehicles can now be seen on the tech tree and upgrades and vehicle purchase can now be made via the tree, and not just in the store or the garage. The major complaint from most is that to see all the tiers of your country, you have to us a side scrolling bar. I did like the look of the old setup, but I’m not playing this game for the garage layout.
Also greatly improved are just about every level of WoT’s visuals. The rendering system itself is more efficient, allowing for hardcore gaming rigs to absolutely fly, but enabling integrated graphics platforms more usability, making the experience much more inclusive to games of differing hardware levels. The lighting effects are beautiful, FPS has dropped on all maps for most users and some of the visuals of the tank models have also been improved. Sand River, one of my least favorite maps prior to 8.0, is now one of my favorite; largely in part to how the new rendering system really makes you feel like you are in the desert. Couple that with the new layout of most of the maps, and you have a winning combo. There have been some reported FPS drop issues, but Wargaming.net has been diligent in getting out tutorials to help users tweak in-game visual options to get the best performance out of their rigs.
New Physics Engine
This is the game changer. As an active member on the Russian test servers, this is what I’ve been waiting for. Nearly everything on the maps can be traversed, slid down, ramped off of and used to create new paths to your objectives. I can’t even begin to describe how this changes combat. As someone who has logged over 7,000 battles, the previous map iterations left flexibility, but yet there was more of a predictability of where the enemy was at. Now, you can run up a hill previously impassable and spot incoming enemies even quicker.
Enemy sniping your team from a ledge that you can’t quite seem to hit? Plow into him and send him crashing to a fiery demise in the valley below. The “invisible barriers” of elevated areas are now gone, so you can’t simply bust out a “rocking shot” and retreat away; you have to consider the fact that your 60 ton beast might slide down the hill. But, this can also be an advantage. The other night I was rolling in my AMX 50-100 and was about 80 feet above an entrenched enemy. I found a slope that had enough of a gradual decline that would not destroy my tracks, angled my position downhill, slid silently down the slope, and then absolutely demolished the enemy with the help of my 6-shell autoloading beast of a machine. Before 8.0, you’d have to run completely around the hill, down a specified path, and risk tank destroyers lighting you up from their set positions. While this game is still intended to be an arcade-style shooter and not a simulator, the improvements have greatly increased the feel of being in the battle.
Looking Towards the Future
Wargaming.net isn’t done yet. They have made it clear that WoT will continue to be supported and updated with new maps, new tech trees for new countries and a variety of other upgrades and features. They are busy with World of Warplanes and World of Battleships, have vastly increased their number of employees internationally, and continue to have a tremendous fan base world-wide. Who knows what 2013 will have in store for World of Tanks’ players?