Taking a look at World of Tanks + Short guide
Now, I’ve had a fairly long relationship with MMOs, starting back at the launch of World of Warcraft (fun, and played for a long time, but ultimately got fed up). I’ve tried Age of Conan (some good ideas, but failed to hold my interest), Anarchy Online (lost interest due to lack of friends), Champions Online (fun combat and powers, but silly and vapid universe), City of Heroes (got into it too late, and didn’t want to devote money to it at the time), Perfect World (made a fox lady and played like 10 levels before bored), Star Trek Online (excellent space combat, abysmally dreary ground combat), DC Universe Online (didn’t even renew past the first month), Aion (I was so disappointed by the wing mechanic), Guild Wars (not really my thing, though GW2 looks promising) and Star Wars: The Old Rebublic (great story, setting and characters, but same old dull combat), plus probably a few more I’ve forgotten.
And then there is World of Tanks. I first started playing it in October of 2011, if I recall correctly. I had heard of it before, but never gotten around to trying it. Having actually been a gunner on a modern Leopard 1 tank at the end of my teen years, I wondered how the game would represent battlewagons (as we called them). Short story: I was impressed.
Some people might call the game realistic, but I would rather go for authentic. The controls are very simplified compared to actual tank driving and shooting, but the vehicles and guns behave pretty much like I expect them to, and the whole experience just feels right. Plus being able to lose crew members and tank systems and become handicapped from that is a nice touch, even if getting your tracks blown off is always just as annoying.
For those of you who don’t know, World of Tanks is a free-to-play MMO arena combat game from Wargaming.net with World War 2 era tanks and a Premium pay-what-you-want system for those who want a boost. The system works mostly well, as though you can buy special tanks, they aren’t really better than stuff you can actually unlock through the progression system. Otherwise it’s mostly for earning exp and money faster (and I can definitely see the appeal of that), and increasing the size of your garage and barracks to fit more tanks and crewmen. You don’t really need any of it, but if you’re going to be playing for a while, you’ll probably want it. The biggest offender is the gold ammo, which you can only purchase with premium coins, and is actually better than regular ammo, but I haven’t felt that not having it has really impeded me, nor given others such an edge as to leave me useless.
The gameplay consists of two teams of 15 tanks each dropped into an area where they have to fight it out, and anyone who gets killed is out of the match. No respawns here (you can however exit the match and find a new one with a different tank, though the one that was destroyed is locked till its match is over). There are currently three modes in the game revolving various scenarios for capturing a base, but to be fair it mostly dissolves into which side can kill the other fastest. To be successful you need to rely on teamwork: Scouting, flanking, using tactics, backing eachother up, moving as a team. This is a lot harder than it sounds, especially considering all the players are people. At the start of a match you don’t know who is reliable and who isn’t, and if your team is shit, it can often make little difference how skilled you are personally.
Scouting is important because enemies not within view of a teammate are invisible. A good artillery spotter might infer an enemy position from damage done to area, like crushing houses or knocking over trees, or (more reliably) by seeing where the tracer from an enemy shot originates, but normally you need someone in range to see where the enemy are hiding. If they’re standing still or hiding in foliage, you often have to get really close unless they fire or move.
Flanking is important because all tanks have heavier armour at the front than the sides or the back, and keep in mind that turret armour tends to be thicker than chassis armour. A good flank can also let you bypass the enemy lines entirely and give you a free shot at their artillery.
There are currently 4 nations to choose from when it comes to progression. USA, Germany, USSR and France. I’ve heard that they’re currently working on adding Britain as well. Choosing a nation doesn’t confine you to any side. You are lumped together more or less randomly, so most battles will have tanks from all four nations on each side.
Controls are easy enough. WASD to steer, accelerate and reverse. Space to handbrake. Left mouse to fire. Right mouse to lock target (I do not recommend this, as manual aiming will always allow you to get a better shot). Shift to enter sniping mode (gun-barrel mode), or bombardment mode for artillery (which moves you to a top-down view of the battlefield). X to lock down your hull (mostly used by tank destroyers and artillery). 1-8 to change ammo and use consumables. Hold Tab to show team and objective screen. And F1 to bring up the help menu to see controls and instant commands (F7 to call for help).
Tanks have several things to them, the first being the crewmembers. They can have as few as 2, and as many as 6, being a mix of Commander, Gunner, Driver, Loader and Radio Operator. My BT-7 light tank has 3, with a Commander doing double-duty as Radio Operator, a Gunner doing double-duty as Loader, and a Driver being just a driver. In contrast, my SU-14 mobile artillery platform has 6, with a Commander yet again also on Radio duty, a Driver, then 2 Gunners and 2 Loaders. And I used to have a T-28 medium tank with 2 dedicated Radio Operators. Gods only know what they actually did.
Having a crewmember knocked out will handicap you in various ways. Without a Commander, your view range will be impeded. Without a Radio Operator you won’t be able to signal as far and won’t be able to see what other tanks on your team see. Without a Gunner your accuracy and turret control will drop dramatically. Without a Loader your reload time doubles. And without a Driver you will be driving and turning slower. Components can be damaged or broken to produce similar effects. The most catastrophic being that your ammo rack is hit and ignited, usually doing enough damage to kill you instantly. Crewmembers gain experience and rise in skill the more you use them, which makes them better at their tasks, and allows you to choose from various perks if they hit 100% skill. (They start at 50%)
There are five parts that can be upgraded on most tanks. There is of course the gun itself, and most tanks usually have one that is better than the rest, though certain tanks have such a wide assortment that you can pick the one you feel suits your playstyle the best.
Each gun also has 2 or 3 ammo types available. If 2, then it’s usually High-Explosive (HE) and whatever the gold ammo is, and if 3, then Armour-Piercing (AP), HE and gold. HE has high damage, but low armour penetration. But even if it doesn’t penetrate, it will still usually do some damage. AP only damages if it penetrates, but then tends to do more actual damage if it does. (If an HE shell actually penetrates, that usually means insta-kill)
Then there’s the suspension which can usually be upgraded only once to improve traction and load limit (often needed to mount better parts in other categories).
And most tanks can get at least one turret upgrade that may unlock access to better guns and give you faster turret rotation, improved turret armour (which is separate from chassis armour) and longer view range. Tank destroyers and mobile artillery typically don’t get turret upgrades as most of them don’t have separate turrets.
Upgrading to a better radio means you are able to keep in contact with team-mates from further away, both relaying what you’re seeing, and receiving what they are.
And finally getting a better engine typically results in improved horse power, but can also reduce the risk of engine fires (which are devastating).
All tanks can also be mounted with consumables and special equipment (that is crazy expensive) to improve their battlefield performance.
Let’s move on to the different tank types and what roles they’re suited for.
Light tanks (like my BT-7) are the scouts. With a few exceptions, they have thin armour, small guns and high speed. The idea is to never stop moving. Dart around at top speed, spot enemies, scurry away again, let off a few pot shots before you leave. If you can, try to break through somewhere, hoping your speed lets you survive, and go for the enemy artillery. Heck, if you’re feeling brave, why not try to trap and kill a tank destroyer or two? You do the most good the longer you stay alive though.
Medium tanks can fill several roles, what with having more speed and maneuverability than heavies, and more toughness and power than lights. They can get big guns and pretty thick armour, but playing them as if they were a heavy will often get you killed. Look at it this way. If the lights are the cats that pounce on weak prey, and the heavies are the bears that will charge right at you, then the mediums are the wolves that look for weak points in the strong, and coincidentally also work best in packs. Find a place to flank without exposing yourself too much, and you’re pretty much gold. Or charge in like a hero and kill half the enemy team by yourself. Your choice.
Heavy tanks are big and slow, with thick armour and big guns. They can take a lot of punishment before going down, and are ideal for slow advances with adequate support, or for holding the line where no one else could. Unfortunately for me my KV-1 heavy also has a very limited view range, so most of the time I can’t see who is shooting at me without help. They require patience and skill, and can be quite tricky to get right. But when you do, it’s just about the greatest feeling in the game.
Tank destroyers are pretty much the snipers of the game. They’re at their best when they lie in wait in a good position, firing their big guns at anything the others spot or that happens to roll into their own view. Most of them do not have a rotatable turret and can as such be easily outmaneuvered at close range by regular tanks. You can use them more offensively, but it will often not end well.
Finally we have the mobile artillery, or self-propelled guns (SPGs) as the game calls them. The are slow and lumbering with little mobility and no turret to rotate (with one exception), because their role is to sit at the back of the base and lob huge explosive rounds at unsuspecting foes. As an SPG you rely entirely on your team for spotting enemy tanks, and hope that you’ve got a good position to hit from. All sorts of things can get in your line of fire, but with a lot of patience you can do some real heavy damage. The main issue I have is that occasionally your gun will rebel against you and only hit the outer part of your aiming ring, and since it takes 40 seconds to reload with my current gun, that can be quite agonizing.
In conclusion, I’d say World of Tanks is one of those games that are easy to get into, but hard to master. For its simple control scheme, there is a lot of depth to get into, and it certainly won’t be for everyone. A lot of what I would count as tactics in this game is simple common sense. Though you have to be prepared to die a lot. If that is too big a hurdle, this won’t be the game for you unless you love tanks enough to overcome that.
I can’t think of any more that needs mentioning. I hope you enjoyed this look at and guide for World of Tanks, and maybe I’ll be seeing you in the game. If you are interested in signing up, simply go to the World of Tanks site. (This one for US and North America.)