World of Tanks is something of a juggernaut in the F2P community, originally released in Russia on PC back in 2010, it has been upgraded multiple times since, including fully fledged console releases for both Xbox One and PS4, settling on what has been a fairly stable game state as of 2016. It’s been a popular and enduring title for years, but what does it have to offer to new players in 2017, where the F2P market has grown exponentially, both on console and PC. It turns out quite a lot…
The key element in World of Tanks’ success is that it’s easy enough to pick up and play at the first instance. It has a natural advantage against many of the traditional F2P MMO games in that the initial learning curve is incredibly shallow, especially in comparison to the fantasy staple of the MMO genre. Rather than having to learn a wide combination of hotkeys and abilities, as well deciding on a build immediately which you then intend to stay with, you simply select your tank and roll out.
The menus are easy to navigate, and the control system is incredibly streamlined, essentially boiling down to drive, aim and shoot. This ease of access runs over the whole ethos of the game, and you can see why. F2P games are ten a penny at the minute, and so getting people through that first hurdle is absolutely key to making an established and profitable game. What keeps the players coming back however, is the depth of the gameplay itself, and these are the initially hidden layers that keep World of Tanks significant player base coming back.
Combat is a 15v15 team event, with fairly straight deathmatch/capture point objectives for victory and given the immense power we associate with tanks, first time players will surely find themselves charging in head first to blow everything up as they would in Battlefield or the like. Over time though, the greater subtlety of the World of Tanks gameplay comes to the fore.
Bizarrely in some ways, the stealth approach is one of the most successful ones to take, and every step forward will need to be carefully considered. Tactics are essential to success in real-life war and the same is true here. Communication and co-ordination with your team are essential here, and those who embrace this most fully will get the most out of combat. After a while smaller details like tank type, armour placement and angling become more important and you wonder how you ever got along with out them.
On top of this each class of tank comes along with its own playstyle, ranging from scout to heavy and artillery. Then once you’ve got a handle on this, there’s all the backstage work in the ‘garage’ including upgraded to equipment and ammo, crew members and even a full on research tree. It will take you a long time to master of all of this, and this is part of the depth that gives World of Tanks such a huge draw.
The detail on each tank is incredible and you can see this has been a key are of consideration for the developers. The battlefields are similarly well-respected, and this shows a remarkable care and consideration for depth against a traditional FPS which simply has a functioning tank mode added in. The maps are impressively detailed and verging on beautiful especially considering that this is a F2P game.
There is however a not insignificant element of the slow grind to the unlocking of new items and progression up the levels. To an extent this is an important part of the game, a celebratory tick box for the victories you have achieved, and is a key element of all MMOs. The issue is that the experience of upgrading to achieve better results is hard to do and not very well signposted. It’s not that you have to pay to win, quite the opposite in fact as World of Tanks is easily playable without spending a penny of real money.
Progression is slow though as getting a feel how the tanks and weapons work is difficult when you’re getting blown up every five seconds. Still it’s an important system, and one that keeps players coming back in the “just one more” mindset that works so well for MOBAs and Overwatch. If you want to spend your money on the high-end unlocks this will set you back a fair chunk of change, but as long as you don’t want those exclusives you’ll get by fine without.
World of Tanks has a lot to offer for those who haven’t yet experienced its joys. The age old cliche of “easy to pick up, difficult to master” is very true, and the depth and quality on show here is impressive, especially considering its F2P nature. It may take you a while to really establish yourself against the stronger players and their powerful machines, but there’s a strong collecting theme to the tanks and upgrades which is at times the main driver through the experience. Some may be put off by the setting, but the numbers don’t lie, war games are popular, and World of Tanks is a great example of one.