While the Xbox 360 might be on its way out, there’s still one last great hurrah from the console with World of Tanks promising a full-featured and in-depth combat experience that is both free to play, and long lasting.
In lives up to its promise, generally speaking. Get going with World of Tanks and you do indeed have a game that will last you for weeks, if not months. This game has the reputation of being one of the finest examples of free-to-play games, too, with a fair system that encourages players to invest some real money, but giving those that don’t want to play the ability to be very competitive by simply putting in the hard yards.
That said, you do need to have the patience of a saint to get to the very top while playing the game for free. Advanced unlocks come slowly from the free resources available by doing well at battles. It doesn’t necessarily feel like grinding because the unlocks do come at a steady rate, but in practice when I, as a purely “free” player, look at just how long I’ve been playing for what I’ve achieved and unlocked, then yes, I’ve got to be realistic and say it was a grind.
But it’s the kind of grind that I don’t mind too much. For a start, the battlefields themselves look like something right out of my childhood where I would play with plastic army men and create grand conflicts in my mind. Battlefields are meticulously built, and from edge to edge packed with interesting opportunities to out manoeuvre opponents. One battlefield has a small island that is difficult to get to courtesy of the tank needing to drive slowly through water to reach it, but once there it’s a killer opportunity for flanking, with great sight across much of the battlefield. Other battlefields have dense forest, high mountains, or villages and cities to play games of cat and mouse with anyone that is nearby.
Because there are rewards for being able to sneak up on the enemy (attacks from behind do more damage) then there’s plenty of incentive in World of Tanks to use clever team tactics. Send the fast tanks out to either scout or flank. Use the heavy hitters to weather the storm of enemy attacks. Make good use of artillery to reach opponents that are trying to hide or behind cover. Unfortunately it has to be said that for the most part, like every other online game out there, most people engage in a free-for-all, and if anyone is inclined to get on the mic and talk with you, it’s to question your sexuality. There was so much opportunity here to World of Tanks to be a intensely strategic game, and in fairness to the developers, they’ve done everything they can to enable it, it’s just unfortunate that so many people playing the game are not team players.
Battles themselves last for around 15 minutes, though if your tank is destroyed in the first few seconds, then that’s it – you can either watch the rest of the battle play out from the eyes of other players, or you can exit to the lobby and play a game with a different tank while you wait for your first one to become available again. It’s easy enough to keep a cycle of favourite tanks going, so as long as you’ve got three or four, then you’ll never need to sit there with nothing to do. Any free-to-play game that doesn’t feature countdown timers gets a thumbs up to me.
The action itself works well on the Xbox controller, too. Tanks are a nice and slow to drive around, so players who want a military-style game but aren’t great at twitch reactions will enjoy this one, as it will suit their play style.
I guess the great question here is “if this was a premium game without microtransactions, would I spend $100 Australian or whatever for it?” I’d say no. This isn’t my kind of genre at the best of times, and I don’t think it’s the finest example of the genre, not as long as its core potential – to offer strategic combat – is ruined by obnoxious players. But I do think this is a well-crafted game and it’s a fair call to say it’s the finest attempt at a serious, “hardcore”, free-to-play experience out there is probably justified.
– Matt S.
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