By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
Last week I was given the chance the first dibs on testing out one of the best looking online tank fighters ever to hit the free to play market. It was only available for two days this last weekend, but hundreds of people including me hopped into the servers to find out what Armored Warfare is all about. Armored Warfare is a free-to-play up and coming game by the publishers My.com. In Armored Warfare you and your crew take control of a tank, and duke it out with other players as well as quality AI in PvE missions. If you are familiar with World of Tanks, Armored Warfare captures a similar theme with a bit more of a modern twist in the armaments.
It’s hard not mentioning World of Tanks in this article as both share incredibly similar controls and mechanics. However while one is tested and true with hundreds of thousands of players, the other is jumping into the game a bit late. What scares me Armored Warfare is, that over the last few years I have played many games trying to muscle Wargaming for the same playerbase, but nearly all fall flat on their faces in the execution. Its a rather niche market with a much older and wiser playerbase than most MMO genres, and the tank hype is on a bit of decline to make things worse.
In Armored Warfare when you first get into the game you are given a couple of tanks that start you out in the first tier of beginner friendly vehicles. Your choices basically come down to an all around average medium tank, or a light tank that will keep you alive a bit longer, but take your overall impact in a battle down a notch. Within minutes of game time, Armored Warfare confirmed it was not a spray and pray shooter. Like World of Tanks, gameplay is focused on team efforts, distractions, and tactical positioning, with advanced play coming down to knowing reload times and weapon vs tank strengths. If you play with any other mentality, you will be the initial rubble smoldering in the middle of the battleground before the real tankers do battle. Patience and map awareness are the name of the game. For an impatient action gamer like myself, even with so much previous online tank fighter experiences, I still found this a difficult lesson to learn, perhaps because the moments in which one faces down their cannon in a duel to the death are both exhilarating and graphically astounding.
In most shooters I’m not the type of guy that sits still, and camps at a set location. I’m the type of guy that picks a sniper rifle, or a very slow artillery tank in this case and tries to predict my opponent’s moves to stay one hill ahead of them at all times. Armored Warfare punished my severely as a result. I suffered five humiliating defeats before I landed my first confirmed kill, and even that was a steal from another player that put in the majority of the work. While the game seems to reward the player that hides in the dark waiting for someone as dumb as me to pass, that’s a far too simplistic look at the gameplay overall.
For one, the modern tanks match the far faster gameplay present here versus other online tank shooters. Camping will mean nothing for you if you can’t react appropriately to a well timed rush on your location from the opposing team. Having a steady hand and solid eagle eye isn’t enough. Knowing where a tank’s armor is thick and thin can mean everything in these life and death confrontations. In a blink of an eye, you need to identify what tank is coming at you, where it’s weak, and where you’re weak so you can try to outmaneuver them before they strafe to your own faulty armor wall.
This isn’t a preference that offers a slight advantage. You HAVE to do this to succeed. Even when I got the jump on someone, I often dealt absolutely no damage as my low tier shells ricocheted off the opponent’s heavier armor. One negative I can say is shooting another tank simply doesn’t feel as satisfying as competitor games on the market. I’m not sure if it’s still in the works but right now shell impacts are all but satisfying. When you are fighting with modern armors packing some of the greatest firepower ever known to man, you want to feel that satisfying feeling when one of your shells smashes into the armor of an enemy tank, but right now I felt like every tank was using some sort of a pea shooter that went at lightning speed, but didn’t have any impact whatsoever. This was lacking both visually and in terms of satisfying sound effects.
Controls and Customization
Controlling your tank is easy, you can easily drive around in any type of tank you have as long as you remember that most tanks don’t corner near as well as a car. The ways that tanks move, turn and are used are done brilliantly and realistically. Tank upgrades were noticeable and offered a nice adrenaline rush when you felt the difference in combat. Tank classes are well distinguished and balanced teams perform best on the battlefield. Heavy tanks will find chasing light tanks around the outskirts of a map to be a frustrating exercise. Likewise, light tanks storming a base on the front lines will find their match over before their first reload. Even a first tier tank can find a purpose on the battlefield if you upgrade yourself to fit into a certain strategic niche.
Your crew also takes on an important role. While you control everything, there are three crew members that each serve a purpose. If one of these die, chances are that you lose control somewhere, be it radar related, driving, firepower, etc. As you level though, these squishy soldiers can become powerful commanders with three skill points per level available to customize several statistics. These statistics help you with many things, like radar distance, accuracy, and the likes of all of that. Again this is nothing new to the genre, but still implemented well.
The game itself is absolutely astonishing at pulling you into a believable war zone. From the landscapes and structures to the ambiance of overhead helicopters and jets, these battles feel like modern conflicts between super powers. Clearly this game still isn’t in beta to improve the overall visuals, as every area and tank is polished to AAA quality. Of all the games I have played in this genre, Armored Warfare really does give you the feeling that you are actually in a war, and not just fighting in an arena styled battlefield existing in a vacuum. Maps look torn up from the start, as if you’re just one of many battles taking place in the region. Of course there is usually enough clean and pretty structures to let you leave your devastating mark on the map in longer matches.
It is difficult to say what I think about the game in a few words. The game looks absolutely beautiful, and the controls work really well. There’s still plenty of balance and special effects polishing needed though, as well as a larger playerbase to get some more fair matchmaking to take. Since we were given the chance to only play 6 hours over the whole weekend, only a select amount of people logged in and more tiers were matched into the same game to get everything up and going. As a tier 1 tank, you never want to run into tier 4 rank tanks or higher since the power curve is downright overwhelming. You do absolutely no damage to them at all. I’m not sure if this is planned but every time I faced a quality tank, I felt like David against Goliath, without my sling handy. As someone who has become a bit jaded with the genre, getting slammed by this power gap right off the bat can hurt my want to keep playing.
The game obviously has clearly been watching the genre closely and learned what works well over the years. They’ll have to prove this to the competitive niche in their initial open beta release though to establish themselves in a genre perhaps even more competitive than mobas. As such they need the gameplay to be enjoyable to a large field of players that doesn’t leave them wanting after being lured in by the pretty graphics. It is a tough market to get into, and hopefully their heavier focus on the PvE aspects and RPG progression is enough to help Armored Warfare stand out. That remains to be seen in the next beta test though, when more time is given for players to get their treads wet. Overall Armored Warfare lives up to the hype, and those following news on it can rest easy knowing a fun title is on the way.