Tuesday, February 5, 2013

World of Tanks: Steel Addiction

My Russian T-26 is tucked into a bush next to a tree on a slope overlooking the inlet of the small bay below.  The green leaves of the bush combined with the broken siteline from the narrow tree form a natural camouflage that give my light tank some concealment from enemy armor that may be lurking to the north and east.  I'm below the hillock enough so my right flank is completely covered.  From my vantage point I can easily see the islands in the inlet as well as the beaches on my side of the bay and the small beach on the other side where I know the enemy base is located.  The 37mm ZiS-19 turret gun is loaded with standard armor-piercing rounds capable of penetrating up to 73mm of tank armor dealing 30 to 50 points of damage on the average impact.  Facing a similar tank as mine, that should take out my target in 3 to 4 direct hits.  I loaded up with 140 rounds before deploying...70 armor-piercing UBR-160 bis rounds...48 high-explosive UO-160A rounds...and 12 AB Composite-Rigid UBR-160A rounds.  I have the capability to take out all fifteen enemy tanks of my opponent's team if it comes to that, though sometimes just getting a hit or two on enemy armor before being blasted into a smoking carcass of blackened twisted steel is a successful battle; in over 150 battles I have had only two that I was lucky enough to score 5 kills in...making me an ace in those battles.

My tank crew for the T-26 have been with me since I began perfecting and improving this tank.  Mladshiy Serzhant Vitaliy Adamovich, my tank commander, plays the main role of spotter, peering through binoculars to spot enemy tanks at a distance and give targets to my gunner, Efreitor Yakov Stepanov.  The more experience Yakov gets peering down the sights of my turret, the quicker he can rotate and aim the turret gun.  Efreitor Fedor Golopuzov is my driver, the better he is the faster my tank can maneuver and minimize (hopefully) damage from enemy fire.  Each battle I enter, the more experience my crew getsand the better they perform their jobs.  Seconds count, and everything from spotting enemy armor to aiming my turret gun to quickly getting into and out of position can mean scoring a penetrating hit on my opponent, or feeling an enemy shell explode against my hull.

Two of my team members are on the larger island across the inlet - one in a U.S. T1E6 light tank facing west in a hull down position on a small hillock and the other in a British Vickers Mark I medium tank between a large boulder and a tree.  One of them has spotted a German PzKpfw rolling up the beach on the other side of the island and the Vickers has fired on it, scoring a direct hit which penetrates the Panzer's armor and may have either hit its engine or knocked a track out of true as its speed has slowed dramatically.  Taking advantage of the wounded tank I drop into sniper mode to get a better shot at the Panzer in the distance.  I center on the German tank's silhouette and wait as my gunner zeroes the target reticule, and then hit the trigger and a 37mm shell rips out of my turret and explodes against the hull of the Panzer.  My gunner calls out "punched right through his armor!"  The wounded Panzer seems flustered with three enemy targets to contend with and then erupts into flames as T1E6 scores the kill shot.

I grin as I start to scan from my point on the hill for the next target and notice on my map that other team members are rolling up the right flank of the enemy base.  We may be able to capture the base and score a victory early...plus we've killed five tanks vs. losing only two so far.  Suddenly I see two new targets come rolling up on the island - a Soviet Tetrach and an American t-18 tank destroyer.  Immediately my teammate in the T1E6 is in trouble and suddenly becomes pile of smoking steel as the two new enemy tanks use really effective coordinated fire.  I get off another penetration shot on the weaker side armor of the T18 but not enough for a kill.  Then my tank is rocked by a huge explosion seemingly out of nowhere, killing my driver, damaging my engine, and knocking me down to a third of my hit points.  Enemy artillery has found me, probably as I was spotted by one or both of the new enemy tanks and my position was radioed to their arty units.  My tank commander Vitaliy leaps into the driver position and I slam my tank into reverse, hoping to get out of sight to avoid another artillery hit.  The Soviet tanks gets off a shot in my direction that misses but sends dirt showering over my injured tank.  My engine has taken a beating and my tank is slowly crawling backward up the hillock.  The killing arty shot hits me and my T-26 is now a smoking wreck of twisted steel.  I'm out of this game...now, do I hang out to see how this battle goes, then repair my T-26 to take her back out, or do I head back to my tank garage now and take another tank out - maybe my new T-46 I just bought?

 This is World of Tanks, an online game of one thing...tanks.  The rolling thunder of steel armor and turreted cannons hurling armor-piercing shells at each other.  In many ways it's similar to a lot of massive multiplayer online games...tech trees, experience points, hit points, guilds (platoons and clans in the case of WoT), even what could be considered crafting - as WoT allows you to customize your tanks with different turrets, guns, ammunition, radios, treads, engines, etc.  What's different playing WoT from most MMO's is that there's really no role-playing, no persistent world, and, at least as of this writing, very few 12 year olds without the slightest amount of fuzz on their scrotum and have been holed up in their suburban basements eating cheetos playing the game for the past 39 hours and telling you they had sexual relations with your mother last night after they blew up your tank during a ridiculous suicide run that had zero tactical thought to it in the first place. (Don't get me wrong, you run into one now and then, and for the most part they are the exception rather than the rule.)  In fact, every battle has a few chats between players on both sides, regular comments of "nice shot," "good game," and regularly as the timer to start a battle counts down, invariably someone sends out a "good luck and have fun" to everyone.

The closest thing I can compare WoT to is EVE Online.  You don't play a character, rather you play a tank (like a ship in EVE).  You have a tank crew, but the crew is just a element of the tank that you can customize and improve like other equipment.  That's really where the comparison ends, andwhile I love EVE's dark, gritty and often heartless gameplay, there's none of that on WoT.  You don't spend four months grinding to get that ship you wanted to only have it blown to smithereens by that pubic hairless pre-teen 5 minutes after you take it out for a spin.  In fact, you blow up your tank, and you just get it back for the next battle (granted, you have to pay to repair and reload it, but that's not a problem).

In my opinion the coolest aspect of WoT (other than tank customization) is that battles have a timer of 15 minutes with 15 tanks on each side.  In very many ways the game is reminiscent of a game of paintball...just using tanks...in fact the basic game is Capture the Flag.  Few games go the full 15 minutes, most are settled either by one side being completely wiped out, or one team capturing the other team's flag.  And you can have any tank of any available nationality you wish to play with; it's not uncommon for you to be driving a Soviet tank and have a German, American, Chinese, and British tank on your team at the same time.  Keep in mind too that the enemy tank you just talked smack to may very well end up on your team the next battle (which again IMHO keeps the trolls in line).  You also get to choose a rather large variety of tanks to customize to your liking as you make your way up the various tech trees.  For instance, my current tank of choice is the Soviet T-26 light tank, which I had to work up the tech tree from the T-18 to get to.  Since then I've chosen to max out my T-26 tree, which gives 'Elite' status to that tank when you do so allowing you to direct battle experience directly to your tank crew, and primarily use my T-26 in most battles.  The better my tank became, the quicker my gunner aims, the faster my turret turns, the better my tank handles, the faster my shells load, etc.  I can also start adding things like better camouflage, specific crew skills, and so on.

World of Tanks is free to play, and it really is.  I played for a gadzillion hours completely free and have had a ball.  You truly don't have to ever pay a dime if you don't want to, and you'll get a great experience out of the game if you never do.  There are a few reasons you might choose to plunk down real world money if you wish, but even that isn't much.  I paid like $6 so I could accelerate some crew training and trick out my T-26 by adding some exterior customization like camo paint and some inscriptions ('Merciless Hunter' in Russian :)  Most stuff however can be purchased with in-game money earned through gameplay.

My current U.S.S.R. T-26 'Merciless Hunter' with 149 kills to date

You can also spend in game money (or real world money) on consumable things like better ammo, repair kits, removing speed governors, crew rations, camouflage netting, spall liners, better ventilation, coated optics, and so on, all of which have beneficial effects on your tank.

There's also the ability to platoon up with buddies and play together on the same side, as well as joining a clan to participate in Clan Wars, a more campaign style of play I have yet to experience.

Overall...it's one of the best, most enjoyable, and most addicting MMO I've played in a very long time, and right now I can't get enough.  I love that I can pop in and play a quick game in 10 minutes, or stay and get in 10 games in and hour and a half.  And whether you score an ace with 5 kills or more in a game (which I've done twice now) or get blown to scrap in the first 30 seconds, you learn to be a better tanker with everytime you drop the hatch.

So dowload the client, hop into your first tank and roll some steel.  There's something satisfying about firing off a shell and raining thunder down on your opponent.  Just watch your flank...I prefer to play sniper.



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