World of Tanks: equipment is hell

, | Game diaries

See that tank up there? That’s me. No, not the sexy US T29 in the foreground, with the sloped armor, twin aerials, and muzzle-braked cannon. I’m the one behind it. The big olive drab thing that looks like a square box perched on top of a rectangular box. That’s my KV, and I love it. It’s kind of like a bulldog: ugly as sin, tough, loyal, dependable, and the last thing you want to see leaping for your throat.

After the jump, meet the KV, terror of the early game

The KV is the first heavy tank a Soviet player can buy, and it’s available at Tier 5. World of Tanks organizes its armored vehicles into ten tiers of tank destroyers, self-propelled guns, and light, medium, and heavy tanks. Each step up the ladder is (in theory) more effective than the one before. Just like its historical counterpart, when the KV finds itself pitted against contemporaneous opposition like the German PzIII, the result can be carnage.

Oh, when you first unlock the KV, it doesn’t seem like much. It’s ridiculously slow, doesn’t hit very hard, and turns like the brick it resembles. About the only thing it can do it take a pounding. Everything changes once you earn enough experience to research the KV2 turret and a better gun to mount therein. My personal favorite is the ZiS-6, a 107mm monster that can one-shot most lower tier vehicles and has the penetration and accuracy needed to put the hurt on the rest. If you’re a decent marksman, pretty soon your battle results start looking like this when you’re the toughest tank on your team (which, thanks to the game’s matchmaker, happens fairly often):

Then something terrible happens. You unlock the Tier 6 KV3. One of the strangest things about World of Tanks is that moving up usually feels like moving down. I spend a lot of time staring at the tech tree, dreaming about that Tiger or JagdPanther or IS-3 that’s just one step away. The problem is that the stock version of a new tank is almost always worse than the upgraded lower tier I just abandoned.

Until I can research a new suspension and engine for this 66-ton behemoth, my factory-fresh KV3 is even less maneuverable than my KV. It can mount the same ZiS-6 gun as the KV, which sounds great but in practice is now disappointing. The accursed matchmaker thinks my Tier 6 KV3 is stronger than my Tier 5 KV, and so it consistently provides me with tougher opponents. They generally aren’t invulnerable to my formerly uber cannon, but they don’t die the moment I pump a shell into them, either. In fact, I’m usually the one doing the dying when they one-shot me.

Effectively, each of the game’s vehicles belongs to three tiers, not one. When I first unlocked the Tier 5 KV, its horrible stock equipment made it about as effective as a T4 tank. After I researched a few upgrades, it started to perform like the Tier 5 it’s supposed to be, and, once fully upgunned, it fought like a Tier 6 beast. By contrast, the stock KV3 behaves like a Tier 5 but gets often gets thrown into matches with upgraded Tier 8’s, which promptly blow me away. This pattern of moving up only to feel like you moved down repeats itself throughout the game. Equipment is hell.

Up next: The enemy is hell.

Dave Markell’s probably been playing games longer than you’ve been alive. While his preferred genres are turn-based strategy and RPG’s, he’ll gladly demonstrate his incompetence at anything.

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