World of Tanks: the China syndrome

, | Game diaries

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Yesterday’s 8.6 patch contained good news for anyone who has been thinking about trying World of Tanks for the first time. While the game’s starting field of World War I era tankettes have not changed, the crews inside those tanks now start with a 100% training level instead of the previous 50% training level. On Monday, the gap between a new player in a stock tankette and a veteran in a kitted out tankette was immense. Today, that gap is merely large. Progress!

If the idea of having to care about a crew’s training level sounds dangerously abstract, World of Tanks isn’t for you. But if caring about levels sounds dangerously abstract, you’re probably not cut out for modern online gaming. The insertion of experience point systems into action games has reached a point where I expect Id’s upcoming Doom sequel will require hours of leveling guns and perks.

After the jump: gaming versus garaging

World of Tanks slots perfectly into the current gaming zeitgeist by giving you a host of different numbers to increase. You’re gaining experience points for your tanks, which allow you to unlock new modules and eventually entirely new tanks. Simultaneously, your experience points level up your crew, who gain proficiency in their primary skill (a gunner’s shots will deviate less) and secondary skills (faster repairs of damaged modules). Meanwhile, your matches are earning you silver currency which can be spent on tanks, ammunition, crew training, and other upgrades. Tying it all together is a separate gold economy that uses real money to mimic (and in some cases exceed) the benefits of the silver economy.

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All of this takes place in the game’s garage, a series of menu screens where you spend a lot of time looking at tanks and zero time shooting tanks. The garage can be overwhelming at first, and the game’s tutorial provides zero assistance navigating the many menus. But if you’re going to stick around the World of Tanks long-term, you’re going to need to spend some time learning to harness the garage interface to work for you, instead of wring money out of you.

This is why starting with a 100% crew is so great: less pressure to learn the garage interface right away. Focus on playing the actual game, and learn to control your tank and place your shots. Eventually you’re either going to decide to quit the game, or you’re going to want to start playing with real tanks. That’s when choices will have to be made regarding what tanks you want to own and how you’re going to go about getting them. It can be complicated stuff, so spend some time with the wiki, and don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

If you want choices made for you, start by moving down the Chinese tree. Lower tier Chinese tanks offer a quick history lesson about how obsolete French and British tanks were exported to Chinese warlords, who were then supplanted by the Japanese tanks of the Manchukuo puppet state. Following Japan’s defeat, the Americans and Soviets dumped their surplus tanks into China’s civil war. Viewed through the filter of a tanks video game, one of the darkest periods of China’s history is transformed into a “greatest hits” album that should provide an excellent introduction to the World of Tanks.

Tomorrow: missing the mark
Click here for the previous World of Tanks entry.

David Lydon has been playing games since he was very young, and hopes to still be playing games when he is very old. David posts on the Quarter to Three forums as Dave47. His previous World of Tanks diary begins here.

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