Monday, February 7, 2011

World of Tanks! Exclusive Report (Part I)

I have a confession to make. There is no exclusive here unless you count access to my brain as an exclusive. It was only a cheap hook designed to pull you into my blog. I could have easily started with “Free Candy!” but the last time I used that one I ended up in a lot of trouble and had my white van confiscated for quite some time. Some people are, apparently, without a sense of humor, and protective of their children.

Statistically speaking over 50% of my title is true. I am going to talk about World of Tanks (WoT), and it is the first part, but there is no exclusive. And no candy. And definitely, absolutely, positively, no exclusive candy. Or candied exclusives. But it is free. Winner: You! Huzzah!

WoT is shaping up to be a great little game. I have a tendency to over-use the forums when playing a new game. I like to feel like I am a part of what’s been happening and join in on the discussion. It is in open-beta as well, so I feel I should do something to earn my keep. In this case, however, I am going to try to avoid all that. I don’t want to get hooked in to all the negative stuff that inevitably gets included in forum discussions. Besides, the game now has 500,000 people signed up, and every time I log in there are at least 3,000 users on and somewhere between 50-90 tank battles occurring. They are not short on enthusiasts so I am going to focus on having fun.

And there is a lot of it to be had. I really like the simple complexity of the game. Simple because you just log in, choose your tank, and go fight. Complex because there is a progression of equipment, and tanks that you earn through fighting. Not brain-busting, but there is a bit to it.

You earn gold, credits, and experience (though at the moment the gold is being given out daily but only for beta). The gold allows you  to buy specialty items, or elite tanks, or can be converted to credits or experience.

Credits are what you earn in battle (or buy with gold) and are used to buy ammo, equipment, and buy, repair, and upgrade your tanks.

Experience is used to progress through the technology ‘trees’ which unlock better engines, tracks, guns, radios, turrets, and tanks. You have to achieve all the research in light tanks, for instance, to unlock an artillery tank. You unlock all the mods in the Tier 2 artillery tank to access the Tier 3 artillery tank, and so forth.

You also, as of this writing, can choose to start with, and upgrade/research any of the Russian, German, and American tanks currently available. You are not limited to playing for any particular ‘side’. They are also bringing in French, and British (I believe) very soon and I think they are already out on the Russian test-servers. The game is, as a point of order, Russian in origin.

The members of your tank crew also gain in experience with each battle and there are options to pay (via gold or credits) to have their training upgraded. Overall then you will be progressing both your tank, and its crew, and have the option to pursue this with any nation’s tanks. There are no factions to choose (though there will be clan-based competitive play at release) so you are not restricted. Try them all! The dev’s will love you for it (and so will their cash-store).

It does appear that the cash-shop will weigh heavily in the game. You will be able to play for free but if you want access to the elite (heavy) tanks, and other goodies, you will need to spend some money. If you’re happy pottering about in the ‘free’ tanks you won’t have to spend anything. It seems that if you want to be competitive, and definitely if you want to do well in the clan-wars aspect of the game, you will have to pay.

I haven’t checked on the prices yet but from what little I have read there are (or will be) various pricing plans available which will include gold and bonus elite tanks. I personally have no issue paying to play, or paying to be competitive. If the game is good, I’d sub, so why not spend that monthly money in the cash shop? Seems reasonable to me, and someone has to keep these games profitable, now don’t they (mooooooooochers).

The game is smooth, and fast, and focused on action. Twitch-based pvp I believe is the term. You choose your tank from your garage, and enter your battle. Currently you can fight in a random battle, a team battle, or you can do a practice battle (no experience awarded). I have to say the game’s matchmaking system is flawless with an even-number of like-tanks of equal ranks always matched up, and always in less than a minute (average wait time for me is 10 seconds).        

The Depot- this is where you spend your time when not in battle.

When you enter the battle there is, for instance, a like number of artillery, tank destroyers, light tanks, medium tanks, and heavy tanks. Some matches might feature 7 artillery per side, others only 2 per side, but it is always even. Always. If you should get knocked out early (which happens to me a lot at the moment) you can leave the battle (your tank stays behind) and select another tank to use in a different battle. When the original battle is over, your exploded tank returns to the depot, and you are awarded credits and experience.

There is no questing, no crafting, and no wandering about in an open, pervasive world. This, I can see, is the reason for the ‘is it really an mmo?’ debate. I don’t care, however, because I love this. I’m not a fan of questing and pve, and rather enjoy instanced pvp with a balanced team. Call me crazy but I’d rather not get face-rolled by 15 Tier 10 heavy tanks with uber-gear (are you listening Warhammer?).

Clan battles look like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Europe, North America, Russia, and I think Australia are getting their own areas (servers) to battle in, and the campaign map, I am told, will look a lot like a Risk board game. Clans will have markers that they can use to lay claims or challenges to provinces. Provinces will provide resources such as gold. You can belong to a clan, or you can be a mercenary for hire and work for gold. Establish a rep and earn the big bucks, or fight for your clan. It will be up to you.

How all this will come together I’m not sure. I’m a new-comer to the game and am going to try to learn as I go. Some of my facts regarding the upcoming release may be off but I will correct them as I go. In the next part I will look at some of the research trees, tanks, and equipment available. And there will be exclusive, candied screen-shots to look at, I promise*!

*The promise offered by the author may contain traces of peanuts and deceit.

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