World of Tanks: the world is hell

, | Game diaries

The above screenshot depicts the southern deployment zone of a battle map that is so reviled that many players either suicide rush the enemy the moment the match begins or destroy themselves in a fit of pique. Its official name is Malinovka, but its legion of detractors refuses to call it anything but Campinovka. Malinovka wins every “most hated map” poll on the official forums by an order of magnitude and is the subject of endless threads calling for its deletion. I don’t agree. While it’s not my favorite battle map, I appreciate its challenges and enjoy fighting there.

After the jump: why I like going to camp

Malinovka’s “problems” are more the artifact of a subset of gamer attitudes than actual design flaws. The two bases are close together and separated by a wide field completely lacking in cover. Most attempts to end the battle quickly by rushing across the field get shot to pieces for the simple reason that tanks in motion are far less accurate than those that are stationary. Add to this the fact that each side has some indestructible buildings and boulders to hide behind and you’ll understand why frontal assaults are generally foredoomed to failure.

Go-go action gamers who want the current match to end immediately so that the next one can begin loathe the stately pace of battle on Malinovka. Each side generally sends between one- and two-thirds of its force on a flanking maneuver to the east, but that side of the map is dominated by a hill that slows movement to a crawl. With no chance at fast resolution, a Malinovka fight resembles a stately but lethal gavotte, a deliberate and careful dance of destruction. It’s no wonder that players who prefer a more frenetic speed-metal style of gaming want the map deleted.

Other maps offer different challenges. Erlenberg, pictured above, features two bases in very close proximity but separated by a river whose three bridges serve as both objectives and choke points. Lakeview, below, is probably my favorite battle map because no matter what vehicle I’m driving, I can take advantage of terrain well suited to its strengths. The western third of the map consists of a narrow canyon with a hill in the middle, and the long lines of fire from both ends to its crest are perfect for sniping tank destroyers. The eastern third is dominated by a town with narrow streets and corners that are tailor-made for in-your-face brawling tanks, while the exposed center road beside the lake offers speedy light and medium tanks a direct shot to the enemy’s rear.

A few maps severely penalize one or more categories of vehicle. Himmelsdorf, for example, consists almost entirely of narrow streets lined by tall indestructible buildings that make it a nightmare for artillery players. Even when they find a relatively open area that allows their upward-arcing shells to clear nearby structures, it’s unlikely that there will be targets the downward trajectory can hit. It’s not uncommon for the faster artillery pieces to pretend they’re tank destroyers on the Himmelsdorf map, charging forward and shooting straight at the foe instead of struggling to find long-range fire opportunities.

The map I currently dislike the most is Sand River. I prefer to play tank destroyers and heavy tanks, two classes of vehicles that benefit greatly from cover. Tanks destroyers are designed to ambush foes from long distances and generally camouflage themselves in woods and bushes while waiting for targets. Heavy tanks are fairly slow but very powerful, which makes them artillery’s favorite target. They benefit greatly from being able to duck into and out of hard cover that arcing artillery fire can’t penetrate. Sand River is the game’s most wide-open map, being composed primarily of, well, sand. The dunes can block direct fire but do nothing to hinder artillery, and there’s very little in the way of concealing vegetation in the midst of a desert. While two clumps of buildings do exist, they’re short, destroyable, and almost useless against artillery.

In summary, no matter what vehicle you drive or what your preferred play style happens to be, you’re going to spend some time on maps you dislike. The world is hell.

Next time: balance is hell
Click here for the previous World of Tanks entry.

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.