Everything is the same but different in World of Tanks 1.0

World of Tanks 1.0

It was only when someone from Wargaming closed the door between the demo and interview areas that I realised everyone could hear me swearing at tanks. Loudly. World of Tanks, which hits version 1.0 today, is the sort of game that makes you forget what’s going on around you. Taking your eye off the ball for even a second guarantees that someone will put a hole in your pretty war machine.

Paying attention is a challenge when you’re a magpie like myself and attracted to shiny things. With 1.0, Wargaming have completely overhauled World of Tanks’ art, graphics and audio, and more than once I found myself oohing and ahhing at dynamic tread marks on the snow, or the way that mud on your tank dries more slowly in the nooks and crannies than it does on the surfaces hit by the sun. It’s a slightly absurd attention to detail, and every time I took a moment to appreciate it, my tank would be turned into a flaming wreck.

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This isn’t an overhaul in the same way as World of Warplanes 2.0 was, which changed the game’s fundamentals in an attempt to save a struggling game. Everything you know about the maps will remain relevant, all the tanks in your garage will feel the same and the strategies that worked before will continue to do so. It’s still a game of maths, geometry specifically, and parsing a huge amount of stats more than a game about explosions.

Not that there aren’t plenty of explosions, and huge tank scrums as metal behemoths smash into each other like charging animals. That’s the sugary treat that makes devouring stats and thinking about armour penetration and angles a little less dry. And it works, because World of Tanks is, at times, genuinely thrilling. It always has been, but more so now with this fancy new graphics engine and the inclusion of Havok Destruction for smaller buildings and objects.

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There’s a tremendous din with every hit and every tank collision, and there’s an almost tangible weight behind behind them, making these big metal bastards a hoot to smash together. Especially if they have to plough through some walls and abandoned vehicles to reach each other.

World of Tanks’ roster includes nippy little light tanks, burly tank destroyers, and even artillery if you like to stay far away from the chaos of the front lines, so depending on the tank you pick, you might not see as many of these savage, close-range tank brawls. From trailers, it would be easy to assume that it’s a fast-paced action romp, but you might spend just as much time hiding in bushes and sneaking around, trying to get a bead on the enemy.

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When you’re making that cautious approach, desperately trying to line up a shot before the enemy tank spots you, it becomes almost indistinguishable from a stealth game, apart from the fact that you’re in a rather large gun on treads. You’d be surprised how well a massive warmachine blends into a hedge.

When I was bravely hiding in some shrubbery, trying to take out a tank that was hanging out below a lovely big castle, I had one of those perfect moments where, just as I fired, the turret turned around, my enemy staring right at me, milliseconds before a shell penetrated its armour. As satisfying as striking from stealth can be, nothing beats the feeling of roaring out of a hiding spot, treads kicking up mud, and charging right at a wounded tank. The tank’s crew must have been stunned, because when I came hurtling out of the bushes, it barely reacted, right up until the moment we collided. There wasn’t much more to do after that.

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I find the open areas full of unexpected hidey holes a lot less stressful than the cities with their blind corners and obstacle-laden streets. Earlier, a developer went into quite a lot of detail about how much they’ve improved the quality of the buildings and their materials so that they’re more realistic and diverse. I won’t pretend I noticed any of that on the one city map I played on, as I spent most of the match in a mild state of panic.

I was already trying to deal with two tanks dead ahead, at the end of the rubble-strewn street, when yet another trundled over. I didn’t clock it until it had come round the corner, announcing itself by firing on me. Out of my depth, I tried to escape, but got stuck on some crates. Then two more tanks appeared from a different corner. And that was the last thing I saw. Probably for the best.

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According to Wargaming, players have cooled on city maps a bit, so as well as the 29 maps that have been rebuilt for 1.0, there’s also a brand new battlefield: Glacier. It’s a large, blindingly-white map, where tanks can duke it out in snow drifts and on top of a frozen bay. Even after being told, several times, that the ice can handle the weight of a tank, I remain unconvinced. I did not dally.

The threat of hypothermia and drowning aside, Glacier is definitely more my cup of tank fuel. There’s a lot of open space in the centre for light tanks to run circles around their slow foes, but there are also a few places for tanks to hide nearby, waiting for a bold light tank to show up looking for prey, turning the tables on them. There are some concealed areas far from the centre that are perfect for artillery, and there’s the frozen aircraft carrier in the north west that not only provides some excellent cover, it’s also just a striking place to chill out near. It’s not the only ship stuck in the ice, either.

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With an overhaul of this scale and a new graphics engine, you’d expect some new system requirements. That’s the case for the ultra preset, for which a 1060 or equivalent will be plenty, but the minimum requirements, surprisingly, are unchanged. If you can play Half-Life 2, you can probably play World of Tanks 1.0 on the lowest settings, and it will still be an improvement.

Despite the plethora of changes great and subtle, they’re not the sort of things that are likely to seduce anyone who wasn’t interested a month ago. As a lapsed player, however, they hold a little bit more sway over me. Playing on the maps I recall from several years back, when I played consistently, was a bizarre experience. Slowly it would dawn on me that I was driving past places I’d been killed or a cliff I’d been rammed off, but they might as well have been new maps. Even though every boulder and tree has been recreated, the broader art and engine changes have had a transformative effect. It’s inspired me to catch up on what I’ve missed.

World of Tanks 1.0 is out today.

15 Comments

  1. Bel says:

    I’m considering giving it another try – here’s hoping the Lee is not still a burned-out roadblock it was for me in the past.

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      wsjudd says:

      The Lee is pretty fun, if you get into the habit of sticking its side gun out around a corner. And the tree from there on out is pretty solid, I’ve been enjoying it. Persevere!

    • Pendent says:

      It’s still pretty bad from what I’ve seen, but once you’re past it the game starts getting better.

      New players are best off grinding up the Soviet heavy line with the KV-1 and ending with IS-7. It’s relatively easy to play and does a good job of teaching the fundamentals.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      This was my experience of WoT too — the game stayed fun in the early tiers because you were regularly getting new tanks to play with, but then you’d reach tier 4 or so and the grind required to move up to the next level would get so long as to suck the fun out of it.

      (That was a few years ago, though — maybe they’ve better tuned the progression by now? Dunno.)

  2. Evan_ says:

    Could someone who played a lot of War Thunder (with tanks) and WoT compare the two? Both got graphics update recently, both has an egregious business model, but the damage mechanics felt considerably better in WT. So I didn’t spend much time in WoT to form a strong opinion.

    • Gurrah says:

      With close to 14k battles under my belt in WOT and merely ~60 or so hours in WT you can probably guess where my allegiance lies, but WAIT!

      WOT just had the advantage of coming into being before WT arrived on the scene, specifically the ground battles part of WT. I still prefer WOT for its ease of use and more tolerant gameplay mechanics but WT is hands down the better simulator, which comes with a bag full of frustration unfortunately. Sure, people will say I haven’t spent enough time with WT and that’s absolutely true but I find WT less accessible than WOT.

      Both have their merits and I still load them up from time to time but nowadays I spend most of my gaming time in World of Warships.

    • DarkFenix says:

      I spent 4 years playing WoT, and have a few thousand battles playing WT on-off.

      The damage model is the most fundamental difference between the two, WT has a detailed and quite realistic damage modelling, actually simulating the inside of the tank and the damage shrapnel and explosions do in there. WoT is far less detailed, each tank has a pool of hp, each shell is a single mass. There’s a rudimentary internal model of each tank, but killing someone is a case of whittling down an hp bar rather than causing sufficient internal damage.

      WT has a lives system to compensate for this, you can take three tanks in an arcade battle, so one unlucky shot isn’t match-ruining.

      I suppose the other notable difference is artillery vs aircraft. WT gives you fighter-bombers and such, WoT has artillery. Artillery affects the way matches are played a lot more than aircraft. You’ll find whiners about both on the respective forums.

      Oh and WoT is far more willing to go into fantasy tanks, even things that never existed as more than drawings or wooden mock-ups. WT tends to stay somewhat grounded in reality, even tanks that had a working prototype are usually introduced as premium tanks, though there’s been something of a move away from this more recently (there simply aren’t enough production tanks to fill all nations’ trees).

      My personal preference is WT, I like the more realistic damage modelling and the ability to take out multiple vehicles. Though it could be simply that WoT burned me out, playing competitively for several years will do that.

      • Daemoroth says:

        One other major difference:

        In WoT, in order to unlock more tanks, you have to play the one prior (i.e. you’re forced into certain tanks to open up subsequent ones).

        In WT you can earn research points towards any researchable (e.g. next to unlocked) tank using any other tank(s) you prefer. You’re never forced into a particular tank to progress.

    • Jodomar says:

      Played both from beta, and the one I currently still play is War Thunder. War Thunder is just more realistic and a better experience for me. Things that turn me off about World of Tanks, is there sight system (tanks disappearing and such), Hubble space telescope artillery, health pool, unrealistic Armour penetration models, and pay to win gold ammo. Now I haven’t played WOT in at least two years so I’m not sure what has change, and I doubt it has changed enough for me to go back. I do still play World of Warhips though, that is pretty fun.

      I think War thunder can be overwhelming for some, because of how much you need to pay attention to be good at the game. Constantly looking all around, in and out of binoculars. I like that that feeling, and battles can last a lot longer than a WOT match. I think if you’re looking for a quick arcadey type game and you don’t care about realism then go give WOT a try. Otherwise stick with War Thunder, it will be your happy place.

  3. Rince says:

    I would love a single player campaign mode for WoT. Like the one that the consoles version has.

    • AthanSpod says:

      I’d like a single player, with some dumb bots, any tier mode to make testing new mod setups, not to mention getting to know the maps without dragging someone else into Training mode. Before 1.0 they had this, for Tiers 1 and 2, but even that is gone now.

  4. Disillusion3D says:

    1) Is it still pay to win?
    2) Can you transfer from one region to another or do you still have to start over if you move from one server to another?

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