World of Tanks: war is (still) hell

, | Game diaries

A lot has changed on the virtual battlefields of World of Tanks in the 18 months since Dave Markell’s excellent series of articles. The matchmaker has been improved. Many new tanks have been added, including French and British tanks and tier X medium tanks and tank destroyers. The roster of available maps has grown significantly. Two new game modes have been added. The graphics have been improved through the use of a new renderer. And a new physics engine has radically changed the gameplay on certain maps.

But to those who are quick to dismiss freemium games, the biggest change is still to come: In the upcoming Version 8.1 update to World of Tanks (currently available on the public test server) premium “gold” ammunition (purchasable only with real-life money) will also become purchasable through the in-game “silver” currency. With a stroke, has eliminated your excuse for refusing to try the game!

After the jump, your new excuses for not trying the game!

In spite of these many changes, most of Dave Markell’s broad criticisms remain relevant.

Equipment is still hell. Stock tanks remain notably inferior to upgraded tanks. This is not a major impediment in the game’s lower tiers, but for higher-tier tanks the system seems designed primarily to frustrate players into spending real money to speed up their progress.

The enemy is still hell. Years of play has made some people really good at virtual tanks, and if they’re on the other team, they will ruin your day in short order.

Your own team is still hell. Poor documentation and player apathy means that a disturbing percentage of players have managed to play thousands of matches without ever bothering to look up or figure out how basic mechanics work.

The world is still hell. Not all tanks are suited to all maps, and the inclusion of new gameplay modes has exacerbated that problem (a slow but thickly armored tank destroyer is good on defense, but less useful on the attack.)

Balance is still hell. While the matchmaker’s narrowed tier ranges have greatly improved the game, the matchmaker continues to value pure randomness over match quality. No attempt is made to rank players, or to ensure that each team has a roughly equal number of skilled players or desirable tanks.

However, there have also been many major improvements to the game, which open up new solutions to old problems. The above photo shows a friendly artillery (a M7 Priest) who has inexplicably stopped in the middle of a coverless bridge to block my advance. It is a relic of past versions for three reasons: The “Komarin” map has been removed from the rotation for being terrible, early-war tanks like the M3 Lee or T-28 are no longer placed in games against late-war Tiger and Panther tanks, and (perhaps most importantly for the above scenario) the new physics engine now allows me to push my teammates out of the way when they try to get me killed!

To new players looking to try the game or veterans looking to return, this is a great time. While improvements to World of Tanks often have a “two steps forward, one step back” feel to them, the new physics and graphics engines released in version 8.0 were unqualified successes. The 8.1 patch should fill the lower tiers with new players and with veteran players trying to learn how to handle the new British tanks, which will be an easier learning environment than taking on veteran players in tanks they already understand. And, as icing on the cake, World of Tank’s recent success in bribing its players into voting in the “prestigious” Golden Joystick Awards mean that you’ll be able to take advantage of the fruits of other people’s ballot-stuffing with free premium time, and accelerated XP gains.

For the rest of this week we’ll be examining what makes World of Tanks so great, and what you should be doing to be less terrible at it.

Next: The new player experience. (Or: “Starting is hell.”)

David Lydon has been playing games since he was very young, and hopes to still be playing games when he is very old. This is his first attempt to write about games, unless annoying e-mails to his friends count. David posts on the Quarter to Three forums as Dave47.