About a month ago I discovered a “freemium” game (free to play, with optional features you can pay for) called World of Tanks. This Russian-made, multiplayer, online game is easily one of the best games I’ve ever come across.
The game itself is relatively simple. It’s a WWII tank fighting game where you control a tank in a fifteen on fifteen match.
Every player has a garage where he keeps track of his tanks, their equipment, the upgrades, their crew, etc. From the garage, players can buy new tanks, sell their tanks (not to each other), research new upgrades for each tank (using research points earned in battles), select the ammunition for each tank, buy consumables (these give temporary boosts to various gameplay aspects for one battle), buy extra equipment (like camouflage nets), and manage the crew for each tank.
From the garage, the player can select a tank with which to do battle and enter the queue for the next random battle. Within a few seconds, the matchmaker system will put you into a team of fifteen tanks who will be squaring off against an opposing team of fifteen other tanks in one of two dozen maps. The goal of each battle is to either wipe out all opposing tanks or to capture their base, which is done by sitting your tank in the enemy’s “base capture zone” for a long enough period of time.
Tanks controls are simple: WASD to move, mouse-look/aim, left click to shoot, right-click-and-hold to lock turret position. That’s basically it.
But there is an underlying complexity to the game that really makes it engaging. Many things are taken into account with each shot. The tank’s specs, the gunner’s skill, the location of the hit on the target, the thickness of the armor at the impact point, the angle of the hit, and the type of shell used all play a role in whether your shot misses, ricochets, or does damage to either the hull, a crew member, or a particular part of the tank. A well placed shot can sometimes “track” a tank, that is, knock the tread off the wheels and temporarily prevent the tank from moving (making it a delicious target for artillery).
There are several different classes of tank, all designed to fulfill a specific role on the battlefield:
- Light Tanks act as scouts on the battlefield due to their speed (and general lack of firepower)
- Medium Tanks support heavy tanks and are best used in flanking operations
- Heavy Tanks, with their thick armor, are the primary assault force, pushing forward to engage the enemy and sucking up enemy fire
- Tank Destroyers with their (often frontally fixed) heavy guns excel at ambushes, sniping, and supporting heavy tanks
- Self-Propelled Guns provide death from above, but they are very fragile and need to hide and be defended
Tanks are arranged into “tiers”; the higher the tier, the more powerful the tanks in that tier. Individual tanks also have various upgrades that can be researched with experience points gained from battles: stronger turrets, better tracks, and larger, more powerful cannons.
Your tank’s crew members gain experience as you play, making them better at their jobs (which, in turn, affects how the tank handles in the player’s hands). Commanders, gunners, loaders, and radio operators are all a crucial part of your tank, and performance suffers when they are injured or killed during battle.
There are a few minor quibbles here and there (especially with the broken “matchmaker” system which, for some reason, insists on pitting wildly outmatched tanks against each other), but, overall, this game is one of the best games I’ve ever played.