I’ve been closed beta testing World Of Tanks on and off for about 8 months and kept quiet about it as I wasn’t sure how much I could talk about. Today (12th April) the Russian made Tank mmo goes lives in Europe and the US. The servers are all being wiped and reset in preparation for the big launch and all we really know at this point is that the servers went down at 4:00am UTC and they will be down for up to 18 hours, when they do come back up they will be open for play and all progress will I assume be permanent from then on.

It’s quite a good game actually, the premise is that you progress through a chosen tank country currently Russian, German or American with plans for French and British at a later date although a smattering of british tanks are available within the special premium tanks you can buy with in game gold (bought with real money). You can also subscribe to the game giving you greater xp rewards per battle among other incentives but the game can be played free albeit with slower progression. While premium customers can use gold to buy specific tanks in each tree and they can buy upgrades such as special ammo the benefit is only about 1% more damage or armour penetration so it’s not a major problem if you want to play for free, you can still buy regular ammo which includes armour piercing or high explosive shots that will be effective vs equally classed tank opponents.

You join a multiplayer match with whatever tank and upgrades you have unlocked by scoring points in various ways such as spotting and reporting enemy positions, doing damage to enemies or getting kills etc and with the experience and money rewards you repair your tanks and upgrade various parts of each tank such as the turret, gun barrel, engine, tracks as well as buying temporary one match only upgrades like chocolate or high octane fuel which give minor advantages in certain situations. Your tank crew also gains experience in their various roles were a more experienced gunner is more accurate, a loader reloads or fights fires faster and the commander spots at a slightly greater range, it’s all very mmo like with plenty of options to progress and build your vehicle garage with different crews and tanks to suit your play style.

The options include Light tanks which are fast-moving, effective scouts. Medium tanks which are a mix of speed and armour, heavy tanks which generally dominate any up close fire fight by sheer firepower and armour, tank destroyers with fixed forward guns that are best used stationary hidden behind bushes and artillary which has gone through various changes trying to balance its superior firepower and ungodly long range targetting.

There were problems originaly with matchmaking either unbalancing the teams or with certain vehicles being far too powerful, there are times when it’s just a lesson in futility to be driving along trying to have a tank battle when an invisible artillery piece takes you out in one shot from the other side of the map. The common argument is that if you are moving the artillery can’t hit you as easily but you’re still driving a multi ton tank so you can’t exactly strafe about, the momment you hit a slope, slow down to aim or try to turn you grind to a halt and become an easy kill for artillery. I have to say I was very much an advocate for getting rid of artillery in some battles but it remains a constant presence. The other issue is that because tanks are tiered for progression you can often come face to face with an enemy tank which your gun simply isn’t capable of damaging. The uniquely interesting thing about armour in this game is that your shots can bounce or glance off enemy tanks if their armour is significantly thicker than your gun can penetrate.

You can get some success aiming for the tracks of a superior tank immobilizing it and possibly making it an easier target for friendly allies or you could try loading high explosive shells, which do very little damage but affect tank systems such as reload speed, turret traverse etc and the other benefit of high explosive is that it doesn’t require armour penetration to cause incremental damage. Unfortunately while these are strategies that get you some extra points you are unlikely to be able to survive an encounter with a higher tier enemy tank alone and while it’s a necessary evil to have progression in an mmo to keep its players playing I feel perhaps more needed to be done to make light or even some early medium tanks effective in battles where they have no other choice but to engage heavier enemies such as making all tanks more vulnerable from the rear to all smaller tanks, some of the heavier tanks have rear armour thicker than light tank front armour which can sometimes make any opportunity or effort to outflank them hopeless.

Still the matchmaking has steadily improved during beta testing and the tier bands you can find yourself matched against are much narrower now for example if you are tier 3 you should only find yourself fighting in tiered matches of around 2-4, you’ll still come across tanks that you struggle to damage but in theory you should also come across tanks that you can beat more often especially as you progress. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because the tanks are historically accurate to look at the game is a tank simulation because it isn’t.  It is essentially an arcade game with a few elements of  realism and the addition of some crew and tank stat variables to facilitate the progression.

Overall it’s a decent game which looks good, and has some satisfying sound effects, I haven’t been involved with the clan campaigns yet but they have improved the selection of maps to play multiplayer battles on lately and to good effect and with the playing field being leveled today I would recommend it for any would-be tank heads.