There is a curious thing about the fascination of the Russian people for the Second World War, considering the role they played in the biggest conflict of the century past. They managed to combine military genius with some pathetic decisions, as well as technical innovations with lackluster equipment for their ground troops. Some may crown them winners while others, looking at the casualty list, may think otherwise. Us gamers can be content, however, since this fascination translated into very interesting titles from our vodka-loving neighbors, such as Blitzkrieg, Men of War and World of Tanks.
In the armored battlefields imagined by Wargamming.net, things are as simple as they come : We have an MMO centered around this fascinating war machines, where players try to destroy their opponents in a battle where each ton of equipment and where every positioning mistake could make the difference, and where tactics makes a good team with furious action.
In other words World of Tanks is for both the casual gamer looking for armored action and the historically and technically passionate guy who gets his jollies from squeezing every last drop of efficiency out of his tank. The producers have also been busy from the early stages of beta, with many new features available at launch, although for some others we still have to wait.
The first novelty that jumps into view is the presence of American tanks. These follow the general lines of all game vehicles, which is graphical accuracy and balanced parameters in order to not interfere too much with the gameplay. In other words, opting for the US Army path is more of a patriotic decision (if you live on the other side of the ocean) or for aesthetic reasons, not necessarily taking into account the historical abilities of the American battle tanks.
This is because in-game, the Sherman tank, for example, can easily hold its own against the German Tiger, even though in reality the latter used to chew the Sherman to pieces from over 500 meters away. This is also because the Tiger continues to be a mediocre unit according to the producers (which are probably not big fans of Operation Barbarossa) but I’d rather not go into “this tank is so much better than the other” discussion, which is guaranteed to take us nowhere.
It must be noted however that even in the US side of the conflict we can drive some tanks that have never been past the prototype phase or if they did, they hardly saw any combat action at all, even though the historical period covered in the game spans from the early ‘30s all the way up to the Korean conflict. An example would be the T95 tank destroyer or the heavy models of T3x series, not to mention the vast options in the self-propelled guns area.
Even so, all American models are well-balanced compared to the other vehicles, with the usual options of light, medium and heavy tanks, complemented by tank destroyers and self-propelled artillery. There are differences, of course, such as the reduced maintenance and operating costs between armies but overall you can choose either faction without worrying (too much) about lack of balance.
The fluffy tech-tree has been updated with more realism and efficiency while costs have been optimized and the upgrade to a new Tier is now more logical and easy to grasp, even though players still have to go through a bearable grind in order to accede to the next level.
Maintenance of your own vehicles has also been updated a bit, as we now have the option of adding a few additional pieces of equipment alongside to the vital tracks, engines, radios, turrets and guns. As such, we can now install a sight stabilizer (helps with targeting while on the move), a trolley for ammunition (decreases reloading times) and a gun stabilizer (decreases lock-on times). Furthermore, a number of consumable equipments can be purchased for each fight, such as chocolate (Cola for Americans) which helps with crew skills or manual fire-extinguishers, both of which can be used at any time during the battle.
Given the fact that the producers are still paying attention to a vehicle’s battle statistics and behavior on the battlefield, we can still count on furious and very dynamic battles. Each component of the tank along with the vehicle itself has some influence on tactics and combat, whether you choose to snipe enemies from afar or bring your tank closer and start dealing blows from point-blank range. However compared to the beta-version the currency which can be purchased for real money (gold) has a bit more influence on the gameplay, which was to be expected.
With gold you can buy special prototype vehicles – such as the heavy Lowe tank – premium armor-piercing ammunition (with higher piercing probability), as well as special equipment for your tank (like the automatic repairs module). None of these “advantages” will give you an unfair edge in combat, as I soon found out on my very own gold-filled-press account, but for trully skilled players these purchases may be the difference between a victory and a wreck in the garage.