World Of Tanks preview

With the free-to-play MMO World Of Tanks due for launch in November, Harry looks ahead to what promises to be a great online war sim…

War has always been a firm favourite of the videogame brigade, pitting us brave gamers against rampaging hordes from the dawn of time to the dim and distant future. We play out our conquests on digital fields, strategising our way out of tight corners and blasting any damn thing that moves, cackling as we bring down empires and raze cities from the comfort of our opulent desk chairs.

Throughout these various campaigns, though, one thing has been conspicuous by its absence – mobile artillery. Sure, there are games that let you hop in a tank when you see fit, but in the past decade, there just haven’t been enough full-on tank sims. Well, all that’s set to change with World Of Tanks, a Freemium PvP MMO from Wargaming.net.

The game offers 60-player team battles, more than 150 authentic tanks from Russia, Germany and the US, with more to follow post release. For those looking for a deeper experience, there’s strategic clan based warfare too, that lets you join forces with your friends to take over and defend vast territories.

Tanks for the memories

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Don’t go thinking that World Of Tanks is a po-faced simulator with a capital S and a capital PO, though. Whilst its tanks may be authentic, the battles you engage in are fierce and arcadey, eschewing complex controls for spectacular displays of firepower and well thought-out, team-based gameplay.

There are five different types of tank to choose from – light, medium, heavy, tank destroyers and self-propelled guns. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses – light tanks aren’t that well armoured, but their speed makes them difficult to hit, for example, whereas heavies are cumbersome but hugely powerful. The key to victory lies in a well-balanced team, as well as personal mastery of the many different options available.

Whilst the action is furious, one of the key parts of World Of Tanks is customising and outfitting your rolling weapon of choice. All of the components you can add are, as you’d imagine, authentic, and give you the extra edge you need to truly annihilate the opposition.

Clan warfare

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Whilst you can happily play World Of Tanks without joining a clan, the real fun lies in the giant battle for supremacy that is the Clan Wars mode. Here, you’re battling it out to take control of areas on a browser-based map, battling for supremacy over fellow clans to find out who rules the tank-based roost.

The Clan Wars are brilliantly handled by a chip system. Each player in your clan gives you one extra chip, when you have enough to join the game (15) you get to try and invade one of the landing points on the map. Of course, there are going to be plenty of other new clans vying to get on the map, too, making the battles that little bit more exciting.

Once you’ve successfully started your invasion, you can attack other areas by placing chips on them and battling against their current owners. Days are split up into hour-long rounds, and if you lose a round, you’re going to have to sit out the next one while you recover your strength. You receive an income from the territories you control, which goes into a clan pot to be spent as you see fit.

Clan Wars adds a level of strategic depth on top of the skirmishes of the regular game. Vying to stay in control is an addictive thing to get involved with, and having the backing of a well oiled and strong clan is going to be essential, as well as a steady hand and a strong mind.

Micro market

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While World Of Tanks is free to play, it also offers micro transactions to those who want to lay a little bit of money down and get where they’re going faster. You can use Gold, the in game currency, to strengthen your tanks and their crew, add more space to your garage and convert spare experience points to spend on whatever tanks you’d like. Of course, laying down cash isn’t essential, it just means those who pay are going to have the edge.

Obviously, the strength of any military combat game lies in how well it plays, and World Of Tanks is already an impressive experience. The balance between the tanks is just right, with no one style being too overpowering, and even the beginner tanks packing enough punch so that newcomers don’t feel too overwhelmed. Successfully guiding a team through enemy lines is a brilliant feeling, leaving the battlefield littered with the smoking ruin of your dispatched foes.

You’ll also find a website full of useful tips and hints, detailing the hows and whys of the game, as well as a huge Wiki full of information about the factions, tanks and weapons available to you. Wargaming.net isn’t just creating a game, it’s creating a community, and that’s one of the most important things for any new MMO.

Tank commanding

World Of Tanks is shaping up to be one of the most interesting MMOs of the coming months. It’s quick to pick up and play, yet deep enough to keep even the most hardcore gamer coming back for more, night after night. The authentic tanks are going to appeal to the simulation fans, and the arcade combat is designed well enough to entice ardent shooter fans.

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With support and content post launch guaranteed, and a rabid fan community already swirling around the game, it looks like Wargaming.net is on to a winner, a shooter that mixes historically accurate tanks and events with some modern gameplay twists. It’s interesting to see an MMO that isn’t focused on swords and sorcery, although it remains to be seen whether World Of Tanks is going to be able to woo players into its World War II themed world.

If you like your explosions tempered with strategy, teamwork and customisable artillery, then World Of Tanks could well be the game you’ve been waiting for.

World Of Tanks will be available to buy on 11th November for PC.