I didn’t want to keep making comparisons between War Thunder’s Ground Forces expansion and World of Tanks, but it was impossible not to. World of Warplanes and the base War Thunder game came out at nearly the same time, so I formed my opinions about both simultaneously. But after two years and a thousand World of Tanks battles under my belt, I’ve already got a preformed notion of how a tank game plays, and that’s hard to shake. Plus, I figured you’re in the same boat – no, wait, boats come later! – so I figured I’d just give in to temptation.
It should be noted I played most of my matches in arcade mode, which plays like a faster, looser World of Tanks. The tanks themselves are quicker and more maneuverable – so much so that you’ll find yourself spinning out or even flipping your 20-ton death machine if you’re not careful. Maybe that’s just the case with the lower-tier, light tanks I was playing, but I don’t recall WoT’s light tanks as being quite so squirrelly. The added mobility and greater lethality make for a faster game overall, and with a respawn mechanic, you have tanks to spare and can afford to take greater risks than you would normally.
The tanks also seem somewhat more fragile than their WoT counterparts, but that’s probably due in part to the “weak point targeting” system found in arcade mode. When you line up a shot on an enemy tank, you’ll get either a red, yellow, or green cross. Red means you’re unlikely to damage the tank with your round, yellow means a fair chance of damage, and green means SHOOT HERE NOW. Aiming for specific weak points is a major high-level strategy in World of Tanks, but you have to know where those weak points are, often through research on outside sites.
In realistic and simulation mode, you don’t get that targeting help, and enemy tanks themselves aren’t identified on the map by name. In simulation mode, your view is even heavily restricted and you have no visual references to aid you in identifying the enemy, which might be proper for a tank – which probably doesn’t have the best visibility – but it seemed taken to an unenjoyable extreme, in my opinion. There are still some respawns, but these advanced modes feel a little more WoT-like in their need for strategy and what seemed like slightly slower, less maneuverable machines. They might be more suitable to people wanting a more true-to-life tank fighting experience.
Still, with arcade mode drawing in the larger number of players – and shorter queue times to match – it seems like Gaijin Entertainment is going for the masses who want a more “shoot-’em-up” kind of game, while Wargaming is content with a more tactical and strategic feel for its tank battles. Both approaches have their merits and will probably appeal to different audiences.
As with its predecessor, Gaijin does itself no favors with the localization for Ground Forces. Mission descriptions are humorously Engrish, and the descriptions of tanks and their weaponry, while detailed, don’t give you much of an indication of their in-game capabilities, short of an overall battle efficiency statistic. This is one case where World of Tanks and World of Warplanes are undeniably more user-friendly, offering both the detailed analysis for enthusiasts but also boiling down combat capabilities to a few easy-to-understand numbers, like hit points, firepower, speed, and so on.
Once in battle, you’ll also get relatively undetailed information about your vehicle, and it can be a little confusing at times to know what’s wrong with your tank and what, if anything, you can do to fix it. At one point, I got the message that my transmission was damaged, which meant I could barely move. I spent the rest of the battle virtually immobile, crawling back and forth at about 1 mph, with no option to do anything about it. (Yes, I had a repair kit, but it was unusable.) Another time, I got stuck in a ditch and spent over a minute working my way out of it. And then there are those flipped tanks, which are nearly impossible to right. I can “suicide” out of a damage vehicle, but I’d at least like to know why I’m doing so.
Ground Forces is in open beta, and so you might think these could be addressed (as well as more map variety, such as urban landscapes). But if you’ve played War Thunder, you know that user-friendliness and better battle feedback isn’t exactly their forte. Still, maybe that suits the game just fine. I play War Thunder not to feel like a master tactician but just to go out and shoot some stuff and have fun. As long as I can move and shoot my guns, I’m fairly happy, even if I don’t have a nuanced grasp of every part of the game, like how to best assign my crew skill points or what modules to research. It can work on that level, and, if you’re willing to put the effort forth, you can probably take yourself to an even higher level. No matter which way you slice it, it’s a lot of fun and will definitely pull some people away from its more established counterpart.
By Jason Winter