World of Tanks is a free to play video game on PC and Xbox 360 that focuses on tanks developed, designed, and/or fielded before the mid 1960’s.  Its fast paced battles and plethora of content is a breath of fresh air when slated against the hoard of other games that are shooters or are free to play.  Let me start off by saying that World of Tanks isn’t like other free to play games in that almost everything in the game is available without spending a dime without any impossible hoops to jump through for free players.  What World of Tanks does well is that Wargaming.net does a nice balancing act of staying true to the historical aspects of the game while also bending to create an addicting game to play.  That isn’t to say that the game is not without it’s faults and this review will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of World of Tanks.  Please keep in mind that this World of Tanks review is for the PC version of World of Tanks and while the Xbox 360 version is almost identical gameplay wise, there are some differences.

Free to Play Model

This review is starting with the free to play model that World of Tanks uses since with starting a game an important factor is how much it is going to cost you to either play it or enjoy it.  Lets start out with what gold, which is the currency you can purchase with money in-game, can buy you.  The only things you can buy with gold that silver(the currency that you earn by doing battles/missions) cannot buy are premium tanks, permanent camouflage/emblems, and a premium account.  One final gold only perk is being able to convert experience on elited(fully researched) tanks into “free experience” that you can use to research on any other tank.  This only helps you skip past tanks you do not want to play, skip non-upgraded tanks, and get to higher tiers faster.  Premium tanks earn more silver compared to similar ranked tanks but perform worse than other tanks in their tier.  Camouflage and emblems can be purchased with the silver currency on a non-permanent basis and do not provide any significant performance boost aside from making your tank look cool.  The main perk of having gold is being able to buy a premium account since you receive 50% more experience and silver than a standard account.  Premium accounts account for the majority of the revenue in World of Tanks(so says the developers) followed by premium tanks.

To find out more about what gold can do in World of Tanks you can hop over to the Using Gold Wisely page to learn more.

Those gold only options are the main features that are behind the “pay wall” and looking at them you will see that it does not impact the game all that much for players who choose not to spend a dime on World of Tanks.  Premium tanks and premium accounts primarily help you to earn silver faster and to gain more experience to buy other tanks faster.  It does not give players an unfair advantage since the tanks they can unlock with that experience and credits are open for everyone.  One jab many players make who have a standard account is that they cannot reach tier 10(biggest and baddest tanks) without playing a couple thousand battles.  While that may seem like a huge amount of fights many players have 15,000+ battles and some over 25,000.  You can easily focus on a specific tank line and go from tier 1 to tier 10 in it with a standard account without spending a dime.  Keep in mind that although in many games the “end game” content, which would be tier 10 in World of Tanks, is usually important to keep a game interesting it doesn’t hold true in this game.  Each tier is enjoyable to play and jumping from tier 5 to tier 10 provides a different experience and quite frankly the mid-tiers is usually where most people play.  Tier 5-8 is the most populated since the matches are quick, the tanks are fun to play, and tanks are balanced very well.

Content

Phew, lets move onto content.  Currently there over 349 individual tanks in World of Tanks and over 80% of them are standard tanks that can be unlocked by anyone while the others are either premium tanks or reward tanks.  If you think about it that is a huge amount of content compared to other games since each tank plays differently from the next and non-premium tanks have many modules/configurations to use which further expands the experience you have.  When you add in now over 30 different maps that are in World of Tanks you have so much available to unlock or experience that it keeps the game fresh and addicting.  New maps are added every patch or two, old maps are rebalanced, new tanks are added, and things are always being tweaked to improve the game.  With new patches/updates coming every 6-10 weeks you have an ever expanding game that has content lined up for the next several years at minimum.

Having trouble figuring out which tank line in World of Tanks is right for you?  Worry no more!  Check out this article that breaks down every tank line in the game.

Graphics and Performance

One knock against World of Tanks is that it’s graphics don’t always hold up against it’s competition or that the game does not perform well even on well equipped computers.  While the graphics might not be out of this world since the engine World of Tanks runs on is older and has it’s limitations, it certainly doesn’t look as bad as some make it out to be.  Running on high or maximum settings makes the tanks look very realistic and unless you honestly sit there and nitpick you won’t feel like the graphics are bad.  One plus side is that World of Tanks caters towards weaker computers with a wide array of graphic settings that allows almost anyone with a working computer to play the game.

The downside lies within the performance of the game.  The engine that World of Tanks runs on only uses a single core of your CPU for the majority of the game and even then only one other core on your CPU is used to a lesser extent.  While mutli-core support has been promised and is “being worked on” it has been years and yet the game still runs primarily on one core which in this day and age simply does not cut it since most computers have 4 or more cores now.  GPU wise the game is very heavily dependent on a good GPU for higher settings which takes some strain off of the CPU.  In the end there is always a bottleneck with the CPU which will cause the game to perform funky at times and FPS to be very hard to to figure out why it is jumping all over the place.  With each patch and each ‘improvement’ to the graphics the game takes one step forward and two steps back at times which forces many players to lower their settings drastically just to play.

On the plus side even with the negatives on performance and stability, at least the developers are working to improve and fix the faults of the game.  Yes, it is taking a very long time but major fixes are usually done quick and if they ever figure out multi-core the game will improve drastically performance wise.  With the introduction of “HD” tanks and maps the graphics side of World of Tanks is making a huge leap forward to keep up with newer games.

Gameplay

World of Tanks fits into many different video game genres since it has different aspects such as driving your tank, firing the gun, and then the MMO aspect of being online and the research side of the game.  Playing World of Tanks you will find yourself primarily using the third person view that allows you to keep an eye on your surroundings while still allowing you to aim/fire where you want to.  The first person view(sniper mode)  restricts your view to you looking down the barrel of your gun and lets you fire more accurate shots.  The mix between first and third person is done well and allows you to pick the best one for a certain situation.

While World of Tanks does try to keep many aspects of the game historical it does lean towards an arcade-like tank game in some areas to keep the game intricate yet simple.  Tanks do not take damage running into odd objects unless you fall off a cliff or ram another tank driven by a player.  Tanks also do not have a limit on how far they can drive and the controls are very easy to learn.  Damage models are as simple or as complex as you want them to be.  On the surface each tank has a certain amount of health points, various modules such as the gun/ammo rack, and armor to protect the entire package.  Digging deeper you can improve by learning where modules are, where each tank has it’s strongest armor, and how to engage each tank you come across.

The most negative things about World of Tanks you hear from many players if the random elements of the game.  The random elements are the penetration values, damage values, and where your shell goes(accuracy).  A random number generator/formula  dictates a decent amount of the game(damage/penetration are +-25%) which can make it frustrating.  Accuracy also can be odd at times with your shells not going where you want them to for an entire match.  When the RNG isn’t on your side you feel like you should just give up since there is nothing you can do which for a game as huge as World of Tanks is a critical flaw in the game design.  On the other hand the random elements make each make unique and keeps the game from being stale since you don’t go into a fight thinking “oh I know I can kill him since he has 50 HP and I do 55 damage each shot”.  Your shot might do 48 damage, you might bounce with low penetration, you might get ammo racked(instant death), or you might kill them in one shot.  The results are endless which is what makes World of Tanks addicting and yet frustrating as hell.

Each tank has many different armor thicknesses, angles, layered armor, and much more which effects the effective armor values.  For many players they simply are content with pointing and shooting, but the game opens up depth by rewarding you for learning the game mechanics.  To find out more on armor, shell types, and armor layouts you can find a few articles below.

How Armor Works

Shell Types and Shell Mechanics

Weak Spot Guides

The blend between complex game mechanics and the simplistic arcade-like approach is what makes World of Tanks appealing to many different types of players.  On the other hand it does lead to some frustration since the main game mode(random battles) does not take into account the skill of each player.  This often leads to teams being unbalanced if one team happens to get more skilled players and also if you are stuck relying on someone who worked their way to the high tiers by failing the entire way little by little.

Game Modes | Tournaments | Clan Wars

Mentioned earlier World of Tanks players primarily play in random battles which is 15 v 15 and you randomly are assigned a team through the matchmaker.  You have the option of grouping up with two other players if you choose so, but primarily many players play solo.  In this game mode you can play a death match/capture/defend the base type mode, an assault/defend mode, and a mode where there is a single flag to capture(which usually just ends in a death match).  Overall these three modes are very similar and overall 75%+ matches end by destroying all tanks on the enemy team.  This isn’t a huge problem with the game since the matches are quick and the fighting is fun.  However, it is lacking a game mode that is different than a straight up death match like feel that most of the battles feel like.

Outside of the standard mode is historical battles, team battles, and company battles.  Historical battles allow you to fight in historical vehicle set ups and on preset teams that have specific tanks for a specific battle.  Overall this mode is not played what-so-ever even though it is rather new.  Team battles and company battles allow you to group up with more than just your standard 3 man platoon and you can face off against other teams.  These modes are played semi-regularly(you can actually find matches) and are exciting since they are ore organized.  Most of the time you will want to do these modes with a clan since grouping up with other random players usually ends in failure.

To top things off World of Tanks has a popular “end game” like tournament and clan war option.  Clan wars occur nightly and are 15 v 15 battles that are very organized and take place over a risk-like map where you fight to control territories.  Your clan can win gold by owning territories and also during special events win special unique tanks that are only given out for winning an event in clan wars.  Tournaments on the other hand usually consist of smaller teams that do not need to be clan specific in some cases.  Team usually are around 7 players but that number can be as low as 3-4 in some cases.  Tournaments can be as small as a daily one or as large as the Wargaming league which spans seasons and is year-to-year.  Again, you can win gold and special prizes for taking part.

Community

The heart of the game lies within the community which not only consists of the die-hard fans but also the casual players who contribute on forums.  World of Tanks has a huge community that while very open to helping out new players can also be very elitist and off putting for most players.  Many players judge others off of their statistics and by using formulas concocted to determine how good you are and often discussions devolve into a cesspool of elitist/stat-whoring accusations.  Since World of Tanks does have this huge gap between the players who take the game seriously and are focused on performing well and others who are not concerned about doing that well but rather having fun.  It leads to a gap in where many are caught in the middle and will find themselves either alienated for not being a “unicum”, which is what good players call themselves, or not being able to get into a good group since their stats aren’t good enough.  Some clans resort to “forcing” new recruits to play specific tanks to get their rating up based on these formulas when in reality it doesn’t mean squat.

Overall the community as a whole consists as a ton of helpful players that post guides, tips, and also historical facts about the subject in World of Tanks.  However, while the community is helpful it has a dark negative posse that’s goal is to put down players who do not see things there way.  This is the case in many games, but in World of Tanks it’s taken to a slightly higher level as evident by entire websites being centered on these stat formulas and how to not “be a baddie”.

Conclusion and Lasting Appeal

Although World of Tanks does have it’s ups and downs it does do more things right than wrong.  Add in the fact that since it is a free to play game it does allow players to easily pick up, try out, and drop the game whenever they want without feeling that they have wasted their money on yet another game.  The fast paced battles that often last under 10 minutes(with a maximum of 15 minutes) lets you get in a few battles if you are lacking time or if you are playing for a few hours you can cover dozens of different tanks each with their own playstyle.  With the huge selection of tanks, maps, and new content at your fingertips there is always sometime to work towards and you never feel like you have beaten the game.

Whether you are a casual player looking to dabble in something different or an avid tanker who enjoys the historical aspect of the game World of Tanks pulls of the “arcade sim” it strives for.  Even players who have only played first person shooters(call of duty for example) can find themselves sucked into the game since it retains a lot of the aspects of a shooter but adds in addition levels of gameplay.  Learning armor layouts, how to angle your tank, different map locations, and many other things provides endless depth.  Yes, the game is frustrating when you simply cannot win for several battles in a row due to some quirk in the matchmaking and there is no denying that.  The random element in World of Tanks is both a blessing and a curse since it keeps the game interesting but also keeps it equally frustrating.

Overall, World of Tanks is at least worth a try for any avid gamer.  You do not need to like tanks or be into history to enjoy the game since the game elements are very fun and exciting for hundreds if not thousands of hours.  This is an example of free to play done right and on top of that you get an ever expanding game with a huge player base behind it.  I hope this World of Tanks review helps describe the game that is often hard to find a clear description about since it is something different to every player.