NVIDIA Free-to-Play ReviewGuest_Jim_* - February 17, 2013
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NVIDIA Free to Play: World of Tanks
Unsurprisingly, you spend most of your time in a tank in World of Tanks. When you first sign-in you are given six different tanks from six different nations: USA; United Kingdom; France; Germany; USSR; and China. While you start with one medium and five light tanks, the game also has heavy tanks and SPGs or self-propelled guns that act as artillery. Your goal is to work with your team, using these different vehicles, to win games by either knocking out the other team or capturing your opponent's base.
Now we come to my first 'major' criticism of this game. I put 'major' in single quotes because some may disagree with me, but regardless of severity, this is an important criticism to make. The information contained in that first paragraph is actually more information than you are presented with when you first sign-in to the game, save details such as what specific tanks you have and the graphics. From what I have found, there is no in-game tutorial experience or assisted comparison system to even let you know what sets the tanks apart. The stats of each tank can be seen by mousing over them, but you'll have to remember or write them down to compare one tank to another. This also holds true for the upgrade system.
Of course if all you want to do is play the game, comparing the tanks does not matter; you will likely just pick the tank that looks best or the country you like the most. The lack of any tutorial experience though is a larger issue because it means you enter a game with players of various levels of experience, with no idea of how the game works, assuming you have not researched the game before. The two most important pieces of information I would have liked to know are if the shells are affected by gravity and the respawn situation. There are no respawns in this game. When you die, you are out of the battle. That is the kind of information that is good to know going in, because that will greatly affect your strategy.
Shells are affected by gravity, and the game compensates for that automatically, but that is a blessing and a curse. Blessing because that means you do not need to aim above a target to hit it at range. Curse because if you are trying to shoot ahead of a moving tank, the gravity compensation may send it flying past the tank, and on a longer trajectory than a shot aimed directly at the tank. Compound that with a difficulty seeing the shells you fire, and it becomes very difficult to hit a moving target.
That's right, at least for me, I cannot see my shell until it has traveled practically half way across the map. Any closer and I have no idea of the path it takes. Now, this is does not appear to be the case if the camera is in third person view, instead of the zoomed-in sniper view, but I find myself sniping most of the time to make the most of my shots. Regardless of range though, you don't always know if you hit or miss your target. Damage indicators appear whenever a shell hits a tank, regardless of where it came from, and if you miss, you may not be able to see just how much you missed by. The SPGs do not have these problems though, thanks to their overhead artillery view, which ensures you see where impacts are. Also the two dimensional nature of the overhead view removes any issues with gravity compensation.
Another issue I have with this game is its game options. I am playing it solo and I do not know of any friends playing it, so I cannot make or join a team. The game, however, seems to be completely designed around teamplay as only 'Team Training' and 'Random Battle' appear to allow you to do anything without knowing other players. The training lets you visit any map, but you gain no experience for what you do there, and Random Battles are random. Until the map starts to load, you don't know what map you are on. That may seem trivial, but perhaps there are some maps I like to play on and others I don't like. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the server lists of other games, but it still would be nice to know what I'm getting into before I get into it.
Another piece of information I would like to have explained in the game is the crew. Each tank requires so many crew members and it appears they gain experience as you play; they become better at operating the tank. Exactly what this translates into, I don't know. I also don't know the purpose of the barracks that you can send them to. Another tidbit I am mystified by concerns tank radios. According to the tech tree, you're able to upgrade them for better range, but I don't understand what the purpose of the added range is. I am going to guess that friendly tanks use their radios to transmit enemy locations, so greater ranges mean you can send and receive more enemy information, but I can only guess without researching it outside of the game.
Going back a few paragraphs, I mentioned that you don't respawn in this game, so when your tank explodes, there is nothing left to do… in that battle. Remember how you have six tanks to start? You are able to exit an ongoing battle you have died in and enter another with a different tank, so depending on how long each battle lasts and how quickly you die, you could be dead in six battles at the same time. Leaving battles like this does not cut you out of experience though. The report of the battle still comes through, but as a message you have to click on to view the details of.
The best way I can think of to describe the graphics is dated. Considering the game was first released in Russia in 2008 though, that's not altogether surprising. While it is certainly possible for a team of developers to improve the graphics in that amount of time, there are many other, more important things to spend their time on. Besides, it's gameplay and not graphics that should determine what you spend your time playing.
So far I have spent a decent amount of time telling you what annoys me about this game and what I wish was different. Now I'm going to tell you what I think about the game, beyond all of that: it's actually quite fun and I find myself still playing it. The gameplay is fun as you sneak around trying to find good places to hide and shoot. Once you are in a good spot you then peer around to spot enemy tanks… sort of. You don't actually see tanks across the map, unless another player is close to them. The tank upgrades are somewhat lost on me as I don't readily see what benefit some of them offer, but it's always fun trying to work to the next tank level, as the next tank is typically bigger and just more fun looking.
Basically what it boils down to is this: there is a definite learning curve to the game and you have to figure it out on your own either by playing or by out-game research. The gameplay itself is enjoyable and with its active player base, there are always battles to join. So long as you can climb the curve or just ignore it, there's a decent chance you'll enjoy the game.
It also appears that this game should not be described as Pay-to-Win. At least in my limited experience, I have not seen anyone in my battles with a high level tank. That could simply be because of the matchmaking system, which would be good because the lowliest tier one light tank should not be in the same battle as a massive tier ten heavy tank. Also, if this is the case, I'm not sure if buying better tanks is necessarily a good idea, because if you skip to the higher level tanks, you also skip to opponents with similar tanks and potentially more experience than you. You may be able to accelerate your progress in the game, but that will not make a poor player better.