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Knights of the Old Republic II. Fallout: New Vegas. South Park: The Stick of Truth. Obsidian Entertainment’s pedigree is well-known, stocked with standout single-player RPGs. This, of course, makes it the perfect company to take on a giant in the field of PvP tank warfare.

Wait, what?

Two things were apparent to me during my recent press trip out to California to meet with the Obsidian staff and get an in-depth look at Armored Warfare. One, they’re definitely cognizant of World of Tanks, and while they didn’t say so directly, with arrogant statements like “We want to be #1,” they’re also not going to be content with making a critically acclaimed title with a small but devoted following. And second, it is the right studio for the job, and will use its RPG expertise to go above and beyond simple tank-on-tank warfare.

Taking on the World

So let’s start with the basics: Why is Obsidian doing this? With all due respect to War Thunder, World of Tanks owns this space. Even so, “We felt there was room in the genre,” Project Director Richard Taylor told us in his keynote address. Sure, there are obvious differences between AW and WoT: crisper graphics, more modern tanks, and so on. But, to take an obvious example, shinier and more sophisticated MMORPGs have emerged since World of Warcraft, and none of them have come close to approaching Blizzard’s juggernaut.

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Obsidian’s not just looking to dazzle people with pretty graphics. There’s a team of a hundred people, the largest under the developer’s roof, working on tuning and refining the game and making it something that can turn this thing into a two-tank race.

And if racing is the key, then Obsidian’s got the edge. Vehicles in Armored Warfare are understandably swifter than their WWII-era equivalents, and that’s one way the gameplay is made to feel different from WoT. Obsidian doesn’t want players sitting around, camping spots behind rocks and occasionally poking their heads out to take a shot. You’ll do some of that in AW, sure, but increased mobility leads to more strategic and unpredictable combat. There’s nothing quite like maneuvering your light tank in behind a big bruiser, firing a few shells into their rear, and then absconding before they even know you’re there. Well, apart from the sore butt.

It’s not unfair to compare Armored Warfare to World of Tanks; that’s the impression you’ll get if all you do is play a few PvP battles. The controls are meant to feel familiar, and several employees I spoke to weren’t shy about admitting the similarities. As they generally put it, they’re taking the core experience of World of Tanks and improving upon it.

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Admittedly, I’m no expert in either game, and my First Look makes many of those same, simplistic comparisons. It’s also based on an early build of the game, but the game has apparently changed a lot since then. I shared a ride from the airport with, and spent much of the trip picking the brain of, YouTuber Captain Canada, who has over 13,000 battles logged in WoT, and he was suitably impressed by the changes Obsidian’s made in the game since its early stages. He told me that Obsidian’s done more to improve Armored Warfare in four months than Wargaming’s done with World of Tanks in four years. A few examples of things currently in the game or coming in the next update:

  • A warning to let you know when an artillery shell is coming your way and counter-artillery fire, making self-propelled guns “less broken,” as someone described it.
  • A huge map, Operation Reactor, coming in the next update. It’s 1.4 km square, 200% bigger than original maps.
  • Custom/private matches.
  • Better physics.
  • Simpler and more intuitive crew skill system.
  • Battle replays.
  • An enhanced narrative and PvE elements, which I’ll cover in more detail in the next section.
  • I know we hear a lot of promises about what game companies will do, and at least half of them never bear fruit, but, if Captain Canada’s assessment is correct – and even from my relatively untrained eye, it seems to be – Obsidian’s shown that it’s just as good at delivering content, on a timely basis, as it is at promising it.

    RPG roots

    Several of the employees I talked to had experience with New Vegas or Stick of Truth and loved their new jobs, different as they were from the single-player RPGs they were used to. They’ve found ways to incorporate that experience into Armored Warfare in a number of ways.

    The first, as previously mentioned, is PvE matches. This was something else I only got a chance to sample in a beta a few months ago, but it’s proven extremely popular with players who want the tank-battling experience but are intimidated by PvP. Each match has a few objectives but your primary goal is to eliminate the opposition – and, as in any good RPG, there are “boss” tanks that your team will need to approach and deal with carefully. There are over 20 PvE maps in development, and the team is always looking to innovate, such as by having “runs” of three matches with the same five-player team, meant to simulate an MMO dungeon experience.

    Another major innovation borrows a little from both single-player games and from MMOs. During development, the team was looking to give smaller tanks an edge against their bigger opponents, so they came up with the idea of designating a target. Scout vehicles could activate a special ability to “mark” an enemy, which would then receive more damage from allied vehicles. It proved so popular that the team decided to implement special abilities for all classes of vehicles, giving you that extra edge in combat and making you feel more like you were… well, playing a role, rather than just being another armored hulk with a big gun.

    Obsid_3

    Obsidian’s also making room for a more complex story, because what RPG would be complete without one? There’s already the barest outline of a story embedded – deeply embedded, and easy to miss – in the game, with players serving as independent mercenaries who purchase their fighting vehicles from totally-trustworthy-and-not-at-all-shady dealers, but Obsidian wants to add more, including an “endgame” of sorts. They promise, however, there will not be any “tank-on-tank romance,” a line that got a good laugh from the assembled crowd. “My, what a big autocannon you have there…”

    Then there’s the base system, which gives you a feeling of personalized account progression, similar to what you’ll find in most RPGs. (It’s already something they’re revising and looking to improve upon.) Loot rewards are also something they’d like to add, and there’s a revised new player experience in the works.

    A new challenger

    More than anything, the Obsidian team believes it can do it. Development on Armored Warfare started in 2012 and, as Obsidian President Feargus Urquhart put it, it “wasn’t so happy” but “we’re in a different place now.” Developers obviously put on a happy face for press, but I didn’t get that sense of uneasy tension lurking just under the surface that I get from a lot of places I visit. They’re working hard, no doubt, but it seems to be a focused team that knows what it’s trying to accomplish and how to get there. Later this week, I’ll clue readers in on some of what makes those goals come to light.

    At the evening party near the end of my visit, I overheard a few Obsidian and My.com employees talking about World of Tanks and some of the updates and fixes Wargaming has announced. One of them said with a smirk, “They’re noticing us.” Whether Wargaming is making those changes directly as a result of what they’re hearing about Armored Warfare or not, it’s good for gamers that there is another legitimate entry into the field, and that the innovation brought on by one will spur innovation by the other.

    the author

    Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

    6 Readers Commented

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    1. davorin3068 on November 1, 2015

      gud plai

    2. Apoth on October 28, 2015

      Could never get this game started. Downloaded, installed, but everytime you try to run it it just crashes. Searched forums/google for assistance but only found topics with 1 post of the same issue I had. Devs need to get their game to work properly before releasing it.

      • Tio_Z on October 29, 2015

        I understand and can relate to the frustration, but unfortunately you are in the minority. I noticed you didn’t open a ticket with support, only went for the general crowd for help, maybe that can yield better results as it is probably a particular mix of things stopping your client from working, which you’ll find no studio ever has been able to predict them all.

    3. PandaStick on October 27, 2015

      This game is a massive disappointment, they never delivered any of the promise or make any change compare to WoT. Sadly, they tried so hard to differentiate them-self but end up being an almost carbon copy of the game. After 5 difference EA phase, all they did is put in new tank and non of the innovation they so proudly announce.

      • Tio_Z on October 29, 2015

        Perception is perception I guess. I had almost 15k battles in WoT, been there since beta (NA server, account is “frealms”) and I gotta say AW has hooked me away.
        The decisions (and some lack of) that Wargaming has taken for the game were already pushing me away, was on the fence about renewing my premium time at the end of the year already, and AW really got me by the balls so far.

        Sure, the core of the game feels the same, you’d expect that from a genre, but it’s the subtleties that make it so enticing.
        The grind is fun and not punitive as a stock vehicle doesn’t feel punishing, neither does a new crew, and the modules you unlock add to the experience. The retrofits are a leap forward from the equipment system as it allows you to tailor the machine more to your playstyle and not just deliver a cookie cutter experience (like the mandatory gun rammer and vertical stabilizer in any vehicle that can fit them. It’s not a choice, it’s either use those or suffer).
        Not having a module unlock as a detriment to your progress? That’s godly! You can unlock things in the vehicle without having to worry about how many days of grind that will set you back for what could end up being a mild bonus if any at all.
        And don’t get me started on how much of an improved monetary model they have. Your money feels like it has value, much to the same WoT felt before. Now Wargaming seems to just want to milk it’s player-base dry while catering mostly to it’s RU server.

        Like I said, maybe it is a matter of perception. Maybe I have played WoT for far too long, far too much and this minor (though I wouldn’t call them “minor” myself) changes are not enough to make it to the eyes of many. But after you have sunk some reasonable time in either title, they shine so much it’s like a sun.

    4. svnhddbst on October 26, 2015

      i have a couple hundred hours in WoT (not new, but nowhere near skilled), and equal that in AW, AW feels like it’s really trying to make a fun, fair game, but WoT always felt like they were trying to make the game people would want to pay for, if you know what i mean.

      AW feels better already, for me, but i still haven’t made it to the high tiers, so i can’t know how balanced those are.

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