World of Wanks Review

logo_wot (1)Yeah, I went there. Not wanting to skirt around the issue or litter with this review with “funny” innuendos about being a tanker, I thought it best just to go balls out in the title and slap you round the face with it from the off. It doesn’t escape me that the title has a side effect of framing World of Tanks in a negative light; like I’m openly mocking the game or casting aspersions as to its quality. On the contrary; I really enjoy wanking. Wanking is actually one of my favourite past times, one that I partake in regularly and, no matter how much I do it, I’m always keen to come back and do it some more. So in that context, I think it’s a very fitting title. Anyway… I digress, and that intro merely served the purpose of getting the wank out in the open, laying it on the table as it were, so we can move past it.

What is misleading about the title is the word “review”. That in itself would hint at an objective process of analysing the game and feeding back a grounded appraisal as to the merits of it. That’s not what this is. What this is – and keeping with the wank theme – is me metaphorically spunking out words of praise, in this fanboy love letter to the glorious World of Tanks.

See, the trouble in reviewing World of Tanks is that, if my understanding is correct, a review is meant to help you decide where to (or more importantly, where not to) spend your hard earned cash. As World of Tanks is generously free to play(F2P), that kind of negates the whole process. What I can do is try to talk it up so much that you can overcome the incredible burden of clicking the download button and give it a go.

So what is World of Tanks, why is it amazing and why should you be playing it right now, instead of that other shite you’re playing? The answers, in order, are; It’s an online 15 vs 15 tank battle game, it offers a uniquely paced (read “slow”), rewarding, tactical approach to the online deathmatch genre and, to top it all off, it’s free to play. If air-raid scale alarm bells are ringing on that last point, fear not, this is not a pay to win game. Actually, this is the game that changed my view on shitty F2P titles – with their crappy pay walls and their fucking gems – to such an extent, that I actually feel like I owe Wargaming (the devs) money.

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You start out with a little sardine can on wheels (well, tracks) that packs a pea shooter for a cannon. As you play you win silver (money) and xp to unlock upgrades and new tanks. You can use gold (via real money) to speed this process up, but as tanks are all tiered and matched, it doesn’t give you an advantage, it just speeds up the process of getting stuff that you can get for free. If anything, they’ve just monetised peoples addictive desire, or should I say impatience, to unlock shit. This is really the ideal F2P situation, as it appears to be enough that people are willing to pay for it and it doesn’t break the game for cheapskates like me.

The first thing that you’ll notice about World of Tanks and how it differs from other shooty games is the pace, or to be more precise, the lack of it. The early tanks are slow, and as you progress, they generally get slower. This is not a halo-jumping, fastest-finger, twitch shooter. This is slow, lumbering, cautious shooter, where armoured behemoths trade blows across the battlefield and when you’re taken out, it’s over – there’s no re-spawning in this game. When a target presents itself, you won’t be pumping away at the trigger either. Turrets move slowly, take time to zero in and need to be painstakingly reloaded between shots. You need to pick not only your target, but also place your shots, aiming for area’s where the armour is weakest.

I appreciate this talk of snail warfare is a hard sell, but honestly, it really is massively rewarding. The action may be slow paced, but it’s also considerate, meaningful and weighted – or to put it another way: everything that other shooters aren’t. This is the thinking (wo)man’s shooter. The slower pace, the tactical map, and the ability to issue commands via a simple radial menu, all lend themselves to accessible tactical gaming. It’s a system that largely avoids the pitfalls and frustrations of other tactical games, where it can feel like you’re trying to herd a bunch of lemmings.

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The game does require a slightly different skill set though. Namely patience and discipline. We all want to be the hero, we all want to be in the middle of the action, but you’ll quickly learn that “Fools rush in” (a term dubbed as “going full retard” in game) is never truer than when playing World of Tanks. Sometimes the best course of action really is to cower behind that rock, or to perform a tactical retreat. Knowing when to press home an advantage, pull back or simply hold your ground is a constantly changing dynamic and it’s this situational awareness that really separates the ace tankers from the n00bs. I consider myself a good player and even I’m not immune to getting lured in by the sight of a damaged target, trying to limp to safety. Too many times have I smelt blood, broken cover to finish off this wounded pray, only to have the jaws of waiting, unseen predictors clamp shut on me, leaving me shaking my head at my own silly mistake as my smouldering wreck litters the battlefield.

This brings me onto the fact that the learning curve can be a little steep as you learn not just the gameplay mechanics, but also build up your “know thy enemy” knowledge. I’m not suggesting you need to be able quote the rear hull armour thickness of a T-34 down the pub in front of your mates, but you’ll certainly have to start to know the capabilities of your own tank in comparison to what you’re facing off against. The game helps you out a bit here with target reticule indicators, but it’s a system than seems to be purposely imprecise, making experience pay off.

Moving on to some more general points about the game; the graphics, especially on the Xbox One, are respectable and packed with a variety of nice touches. Maps for example (of which there are plenty), cycle through both day and night, and different weather effects. These changes have a surprising profound effect on of the look and feel of the map, effecting line of sight and navigation. Environments are semi destructible, so that trusty barn you’re hiding behind one minute can be a pile of rubble the next. Smashing through walls and other assorted bits of scenery also feels nice and tank-like (Shouting “POWER!!!” as you do so is completely optional).

The control of the tanks feels realistically clunky and weighty, with inclines having especially drastic effects of performance. Not that I’ve ever driven a tank, but it feels like they’ve struck the balance between sim-like characteristics, coupled to simple controls. There can certainly be moments of frustration, but these generally come in the “fucking move you piece of crap” form, rather than anything to do with the system itself. Everything feels generally well mapped out on the controller.

Overall, World of Tanks is a brilliant game. It has a unique feel that adds much needed variety to the genre. It’s refreshing and somewhat strange to play a game where winning is decided not by fancy finger work, but by coordination and discipline. Do yourself a favour and download it. Seriously, get it; I need more n00bs out there on the battlefield that I blow the shit out of!