Have You Played… World of Tanks?

A lonely tank suffers from a deep ennui

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

In my earliest days of video game reporting, I witnessed the absurdity of a tank selling soap. Adult robot male and one-time editor of this website, Jim Rossingnol, thought it would be interesting to our readership if he sent an underprepared junior writer to a tank festival in Dorset, England, where Belarussian developer Wargaming had set up a dark shack full of computers running their free-to-play warfare game World of Tanks [official site]. Two months later, I was in a giant hangar in Kubinka, Russia, wondering what I had done to either merit or deserve the honour or dishonour of being surrounded by decommissioned Soviet war machines.

World of Tanks, the game itself, has always been a slightly-better-than-average arcade multiplayer war game. But it also has an attention to detail and loyalty to these death machines that I’ve long considered simultaneously admirable and unnerving. It also has an audience big enough to warrant large competitions. At one of these competitions I asked a visiting Belarussian citizen about their dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, and if there are ever any protests against him.

“We protest, yes,” said the Belarussian. “But in quiet voice.”

I guess what I’m trying to say, via the respected art form known as the Have You Played, is that World of Tanks, for me, isn’t that interesting, but some things that have happened because of it, have been, leaving me with a weird feeling of gratitude to a middling videogame. Anyway, it’s still free-to-play, if you’re into that sort of thing. Recently, the developers added battles of 30 v 30 tanks which is, let’s be honest, too many tanks.

38 Comments

  1. rgk says:

    The interview is amazingly funny!

  2. Halk says:

    You mean the game where people who pay money deal more damage?

    • Makaze says:

      First of all premium ammo tends to have more penetration, not do more damage. Secondly, not for a very looong time now. HEAT and sabot ammo has been available for silver, for years and years and if you’re decent then you can more than afford to use it situationaly just by playing the game.

      WoT’s not perfect but their monetization was relatively unobtrusive compared to a lot of other F2P games I’ve tried.

      Caveat – I haven’t played in ~2 years, so if it’s gotten worse since then ignore what I said.

      • Kohlrabi says:

        Gold ammo (relatively to standard) gets much better in Tiers 9 and 10. And without an premium account, it’s already hard to break even shooting standard ammo in tiers 9 and 10, but paying silver for premium ammo will make that totally impossible.

        It’s very much pay-to-win, or get broke in 9 and 10.

        • Jane Doe says:

          Its true that half the people seem to fire gold ammo exclusivly in Tier 9 and 10, which is caused by the current superheavy tank meta, but I have yet to meet a single player who actually buys it with real money. They just weave in a couple of lower tier rounds in their premium tanks (many of them have been aquireable via missions over the years, so don’t try the P2W excuse here either).

          Also, ten bucks a month for a premium account is nothing for a game you enjoy. You pay more for a World of Warcraft subscription, or a cinema ticket. Calling that pay-to-win is hilarious.

          World of Tanks has a lot of problems, from the stale meta, the boring map rotation, to the terrible EU support, but pay-to-win is not and never has been one of them.

          • ludde says:

            “Also, ten bucks a month for a premium account is nothing for a game you enjoy.”

            Right, but it is pay-to-win if that is what’s needed to stay competitive. And no, you can’t just weave in a couple of games in lower tiers and then afford to shoot gold rounds. It’s gonna be a lot of lower tier games. A lot. Don’t forget that even those lower tier tanks benefit from shooting gold.

            And then there’s premium consumables, those are so expensive they’re straight up only for people paying real money.

        • plugmonkey says:

          It’s supposed to be hard to break even with tier 9 and 10 tanks. You either pay for premium, thus supporting the game, or you fund your top tiers by playing mid tier games for cash, thus ensuring the player base doesn’t get completely stacked in tiers 9 and 10 and there are always games to be found for mid tier players.

          It’s a really quite clever system if you ask me.

          • ludde says:

            It’s clever if you want to make money. If you care about game balance and fairness, not so much.

            Or do you believe it’s fair that you get to always be top tier only if you pay real money from a competitive standpoint?

          • Cederic says:

            (replying to ludde)

            Your skill can still be top-tier, you’re just driving a lower tier tank against comparable machines.

            That’s actually fun in itself. Anybody that only wants to play tier 10 is missing out on a big chunk of the game.

            I do think the game would be significantly better without the premium ammo though.

    • rollermint says:

      “Premium” ammo can be bought using in-game currency…like ever since Windows 95…

      • ludde says:

        Yeah, but the problem is that you get more of that in-game currency by putting in real money. If you pay, you can afford more premium ammunition.

        It’s fascinating how hard this is to figure out for people in general. Just move where the actual transaction takes place one step and it’s a mystery.

  3. Someoldguy says:

    I’ve enjoyed the game in a casual way and got to tier VII/VIII in most nationalities, but I’ll never grind my way up to tier X. The last time I played the new(er) interface really put me off, so I suspect I won’t be going back.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      This was my experience too — World of Tanks is great fun up until Tier V or so, because you’re never stuck with one tank long enough for it to become boring. It’s like a whirlwind tour. But then you reach the middle tiers and suddenly there’s no way to keep moving up without doing a lot of grinding — unless you’re willing to pay real money, of course.

      I should note that I’m not particularly averse to paying real money; devs who make good games deserve to get paid. I paid for a monthly subscription to WoT for a few months for precisely that reason — I’d had enough fun at the lower levels to make it feel worth paying for. But then I found myself grinding even with the XP bonuses you get with a paid membership, and that’s when I was more or less out.

  4. Cinek says:

    IMHO the worst part of WoT is its community. Game’s fine, but devs being dicks (case point: SerB) and absurd elitism from XvM (case point: I’m late green, but some dude’s 5 points more than me so he feels entitled to bash everyone around like there’s no tomorrow) and absurd racism are the real cancers in WoT. Not to mention absurd stuff like ramming, pushing, blocking, getting in LoS, etc. etc… ~_~ I got tired of WoT, for good.

    Seriously – from all the PC games I played WoT community is the most riddled with racist dickheads of all.

    • mpk says:

      I played in the very early days of WoT, and had a whale of a time.

      Then it became apparent how much grinding was going to be involved to get to the top tiers of tanks. I am not a fan of grinding.

      Then it became apparent that much of the WoT community was just the worst. Like, on par with League of Legends the worst.

      Then I stopped playing.

      • Fataleer says:

        I used to play it too way back in the beginning. I used to think that the game can be made much better by simply disabling chat.

        Nonetheless, till T4 it was quite fun. Then the true grind begins and it is the moment when many people are hooked (you played some 100-400 battles to get here anyway) and buy premium account.

        Then you can get to T8-9-10 and meet your whales the top of acidic freemium community.

        Anyway. It is years back. (like 2011/2012?) It might be different now. Then my gaming time got slashed so no nonsensical MP games.

        • battles_atlas says:

          Still pretty awful, but chat with the enemy team was disabled a couple of years ago, which helped a lot. The complaints system seems ineffective but there is definitely less racism than there used to be, so perhaps it had some effect.

  5. Eightball says:

    I spent too much time on WoT a few years back (got into blue range, so I wasn’t a total shitter). I think a lot of the problems in the game stem from the developers basing their decisions on their most populated server cluster (Russian) and applying those decisions to the other servers (speaking specifically about NA East where I played). It’s understandable that that’s what they do, since that’s their native server and sees the most players(*), but it hurts the other servers, which never had the same player counts and it seems to be declining.

    Specifically the tier system is balanced around the Russian server population, while NA doesn’t have the player counts necessary to make good balanced matches at the most popular tiers (6 and 8) which get stomped on by higher tiers (8 and 10 respectively).

    *Despite being lower population the NA servers apparently generated at least as much money if not more than the RU servers (no surprise to see self-defeating running dog American capitalists hanged by the rope they sold to wargaming.)

  6. Lito says:

    If we are comparing dicks here, I was dark purple when I played. Played a bit of the e-sports scene too, but damn, randoms without a buddy for support was a pain in the ass, cause of the attitude and the toxicity of the main game player base killed it for me. Sold my account and I am a happy camper now.

  7. BaronKreight says:

    One of the greatest success stories in the history of gaming. Unknown studio created a game and then turned into a worldwide multi million dollar company.

  8. James says:

    I mainly know it as that game that has pay-to-win ammo.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Then you don’t know it.

      At least, not for the last four years or so.

      • ludde says:

        I’ve seen the argument that premium ammo actually got worse when they changed it to being purchasable with in-game money.

        Reason being, before the change, pretty much everyone just fired the standard ammo, making the playing field level with rare exception. After the change, premium ammo has become widely used: some fire a lot, some none and the rest somewhere in-between. In other words, the playing field is now uneven.

  9. Lord of Beer says:

    War Thunder is significantly better. You get 3-4 vehicles to use per mission, so it is less campy unlike WoT. Secondly damage is based on knocking out crew members and tank components, unlike the silly HP system of WoT.

    WoT is an arcade pay-to-win. War Thunder sadly though has a terrible grind even with a premium account.

    • latedave says:

      I’d second this, I prefer war thunders damage model and overall play style but the grind for both is horrendous once you get to a certain stage.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Oh, did War Thunder stop their selling their magic radar missions then?

  10. Stromko says:

    When I played World of Tanks a few years back, I believe all the tanks were models from WWII as you might expect, except one of the premium tanks available was a Chinese Cold War-era main battle tank. A lot of people would be playing it in each match since it was superior in every way.

    I think they stopped selling that particular tank, but it was enough to convince me that the developers didn’t really care about an even playing field. Therefore part of their legacy is that the games industry proved that you could have a game that was 100% about competitive game play, have paid content that provided a huge advantage, and still be successful.

    • plugmonkey says:

      The Type 59? Yeah, that was a bit annoying, so the devs removed it from sale and quietly nerfed it. I don’t think I’ve even seen one in the game for about four years.

    • Landiss says:

      What? The game has lots of post WW2 or imaginary (never produced) tanks and it had them for as long as I can remember. I’m guessing everything more or less from tier VIII.

  11. Montavious says:

    They lost me when they sold the M6A2E1 tank to the public. It was meant to be a beta player only tank that you got with a preorder. Lost all respect for them after that, they are a very greedy lot.

  12. TotallyUseless says:

    I used to play WoT back on my College days. Played up to 6,000 games with a decent 55% WR. Didn’t looked back tho.

    The Russian bias is pretty stronk on this game. The most armored tanks, the fastest tanks, the hardest hitting tanks are all Russian. If you want to win, play Russian tanks all the time. Only the most hardcore masochistic players would endure playing German tanks since WG practically bullied the branch lol.

  13. plugmonkey says:

    It’s much better than “slightly better than average” or “middling”. What a weird retrospective.

  14. shyguybadman says:

    I have indeed played WoT…30000 games deep in fact. But have stopped and will probably never go back. It was definitely a love affair and some girls you just gotta let go.

    The game is great fun, easy to pickup and play from any skill level and has some real highs and lows of excitement and adrenaline pushing gameplay. But to be really good at this game you need a lot of knowledge that you can transfer into skills and a lot of time to grind it out.

    I played from open beta up until World of Warships came out…. am very glad now that WoWs is now out.

    Playing with a non premium account is acceptable all the way to the top tier, tier 10, but is very hard to use tier nine and ten vehicles regularly without a premium account.

    This game has totally changed the f2p landscape and the game itself has developed/changed a lot. The amount of money Wargaming has made is insane and to be fair I think the game deserved it but it has also been their undoing and the game has now reached a point of no return.

    The game I loved has disappeared. The pace of the game changed quite considerably with the introduction of the french tree/high tier tanks and autoloaders (a long time ago). This wasn’t a bad move for the game but has just set the pace for the change that came afterwards. Game pace just kept on creeping up and the high impact use of autoloaders and the increase in speed led it to be more of a CoD wannabe.
    The continual wish to bring in the console gamer or younger generations with new gimmicks and modes as well as the constant push for power creep premium tanks was, in my opinion, the wrong direction for the game.

    Gold ammo… I think Gold ammo was better when you had to pay real money for it. At least only rich ******** could pay for it and use it then. Since it has become readily available it has been a scourge on the game. It has totally got rid of the point of armour which was the point of tanks in the first place.

    I could talk about this game for far too long… but…

    Anyway…yes… I have played World of Tanks…and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    • Montavious says:

      Yes a good point on the autoloaders. That threw me off too. If they would have kept it strictly a French tank thing, I think I would have been fine. But of course they went crazy with it.

  15. dashausdiefrau says:

    Really great game, one of the best F2P games I played. Up till tier 6 it was fun without gold ammo, and even with gold, it needs the skills, and it needs the practice, and it needs the teamwork to win a game.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Also, for me, tiers 4 to 6 are the most varied and fun to play.

  16. cosmitz says:

    I’ve played World of Tanks for a little over 20k games. That means I have played a /lot/ of World of Tanks. Currently i’m sworn off ‘just for fun’ MP games but if you’re looking for a multiplayer game to enjoy yourself for half an hour or an evening, you absolutely cannot go wrong with it.

    You could pick up any MP game, but you will not find any that is as developed, far-along and well produced as World of Tanks. It’s the grand-daddy of the multiplayer-arena games in the same class as World of Warcraft spawned a zillion MMO clones. So why play a lesser model?

    If you like these types of games you will end up seeing nuances and maybe choosing a different theme (post-apoc cars or spaceships) but in the end you will end up playing the same core experience, just shaded or tinted differently.

    And World of Tanks really is the best ‘core’ game of its genre, with War Thunder niche-ing itself in as the ‘more realistic World of Tanks’. Anything else falls short or is not in the state that WoT currently is.

  17. Cederic says:

    WoT was a lot of fun, and also a lot of stress.
    They never delivered game balance, they built in far too much grind, and they had a serious afk/bot issue due to players trying to avoid the grind.

    If they’d given everybody standard crews, standard tanks, the same options around guns, consumables and other components, the same ammo and thus given everybody a level playing field they’d have earned just as much on camo, flags, decals, crew portraits and other cosmetics.

    They’d also have a far more fun and possibly less toxic playerbase. I’d go back and play a lot more.

    It’s a shame, but hey, they built a successful company doing it their way, must’ve got something right.