Spotlight On - World of Tanks
We take a look at this free-to-play online tank battle game from the creator of Order of War and Massive Assault.
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Russian developer Wargaming.net has made a name for itself as a developer of war and strategy games based in World War II, but the studio has focused its undivided attention on a new project: World of Tanks. This is an online tank shooter that lets you control a World War II-era tank and dive into head-to-head multiplayer tank shooter matches with other tank commanders. Currently, the game is in an ongoing beta state and offers full sets of Russian and German tanks to play as, though in the future, the studio intends to build out sets of tanks belonging to the US, the UK, France, and Japan. Each tank is modeled after actual historical armor, but the handling is extremely forgiving. This is very much an action-based shooter that uses the W,A,S, and D keys to move your tank while tapping your mouse buttons to fire--and very much not a hardcore strategy game with punishing physics.
World of Tanks has been in development for more than three years and is currently in a two-stage beta running in both Russia (where more than 110,000 "testers" currently play) and in Europe as an English-localized version. According to Wargaming.net frontman Victor Kislyi, the game was built on brand-new technology (not on the Order of War engine). Currently, the game supports only drop-in, drop-out team-based deathmatch play against teams of up to 15 randomly matched players driving whichever tank they've selected. The actual gameplay is purely skill based and doesn't use any dice rolls or random figures under the hood--where you aim is where you shoot. And whether you hit is a function of your skill; not some hidden math tied to your level (though damage will be dependent on your vehicle's statistics). The game currently has a handful of maps that include urban warfare zones in Eastern Europe (which will test your ability to acquire and fire from cover) and open-field maps, though it will eventually include battlefields in Russia, North Africa, and other theaters of war from World War II.
When you first create a World of Tanks account, you have access only to lower-level light tanks, which do not have powerful cannon or heavy armor, so your survivability is, frankly, limited. However, light tanks have high speed and excellent maneuverability, and while they may not rack up tons of kills, they do provide visibility to your teammates, particularly those who are playing as artillery cannon. Even though as a light tank, your job involves dying many glorious (and not-so-glorious) deaths, you can spot enemy vehicles as targets for artillery salvos and may even pull them out of position as you zip around heavier tanks. This will cause them to turn their turrets to aim at you or even move out of position to pursue you.
Then again, medium tanks are more well-rounded vehicles that are slower; they're also tougher and more damaging. The highest level tanks in the game are slow-moving, heavily armored monsters like the massive German SturmTiger, whose poor speed is offset by its awesome firepower. Kislyi suggests that the average player can play World of Tanks for free for weeks, even a few months, gradually earning enough of the game's in-game credits currency and enough experience levels to unlock most light vehicles and a handful of medium ones. A player may even purchase a few upgrades for such vital tank parts as cannon, treads, engine, and armor level. At a certain point, some players may feel the need to reach into their pockets to purchase enhancements with real money by way of microtransations that will more quickly unlock the higher-level vehicles. But Kislyi points out that in no way does the game let players become more powerful than others just by buying stuff--what's for sale are mainly convenience items and enhanced experience gain to speed your progress. Besides, high-level tanks, while equipped with powerful cannon, have their own drawbacks in terms of maneuverability (particularly when sighted by enemy artillery). The idea is that no vehicle in the game is intended to be flat-out better than any other--just different. They also require a different skill set to play effectively.
While the game currently supports only team-based deathmatch, Wargaming.net has big plans for the future of World of Tanks, including numerous content updates in the form of new maps, the four additional nations' tanks, and new play modes. These include Clan Warfare, which will let organized clans of players battle for control of a persistent world map divided into territories that can be captured by organized groups and will provide bonuses when held. And while the game is currently being run out of Russia and Europe, plans are in place to bring servers to North America to allow for even better performance for any North American players who just happen to have made it into the Euro beta (and may later join a probable North American launch somewhere down the line).