I’ve always enjoyed tank games, but I never got into World of Tanks until a few months ago. And that’s coming from someone whose experience with tank games goes back to Combat and Battlezone on the Atari 2600 – the latter of which I thought was the pinnacle of videogame graphics back in the day. Yet…. I never once tried today’s biggest tank game, World of Tanks – here’s what changed that.
I’ve always been fascinated with war-based games – so not just tank games – and because of that I used to mainly play games on a PC. In recent years, however, I’ve also gotten into console gaming again, and even invested in a Playstation VR headset just so that I could play my childhood favorite Battlezone in virtual reality.
But World of Tanks? No, and mainly because the MMO genre generally doesn’t gel with me. I heard all about World of Warcraft early on, watched a friend play – didn’t get it. It just felt like randomly walking around, spending a disproportionate amount of time typing messages to (and receiving them from) strangers – at least to me – and very little in the way of actual gameplay. I absolutely adore cooperative play, but give me some fast-paced couch coop any day over having to stop and converse when there’s little else to do.
A few years later, I did dabble a bit in Lord of the Rings Online, and enjoyed it while it lasted. It felt more objective-driven and story-oriented, at least for a while. I realize now that a lot of that was probably that I wasn’t the one playing WoW myself and most likely missed any interesting story bits, but oh well. My main point is that, even with Lord of the Rings Online, things turned into aimlessly wandering around and doing seemingly meaningless quests after the main content had been completed. No clear objectives, so no real incentive for me to play.
I like objective-based games, and those can either have something to do with world domination (Civilization) or with a narrative that’s interwoven with the action. The latter is what drew me to Lord of the Rings Online, but I was never interested in something like World of Tanks because it didn’t have anything like it. And then…. War Stories came along, my perfect “sure, I’ll try it then” excuse.
War Stories is, as far as I know, a console exclusive for World of Tanks – so my switch back to console gaming certainly helped. They’re four short campaigns that are historically inspired (as opposed to historically accurate), featuring alternate timelines to actual events and venues. The introductory campaign, Brothers in Armor, sees you joining forces with a Soviet unit that has to learn how to operate tanks. The second campaign is a variation on the famous Berlin Air Lift scenario, and the last two revolve around a successful invasion of Great Britain by the German forces and the Cuban missile crisis.
What made these campaigns fun to play for me is not just that they’re linked to history, it’s that they’re objective-based – which can range from basic things like getting to a certain checkpoint to capturing strategic points on the map, or defending them. It’s fairly straightforward and even arcade-like at times, but most of my favorite tank games have been that way. Best of all – it never got boring.
But World of Tanks, at its core, is still an MMO game. So why did I end up playing battles on the regular months after completing my last war story? I think it’s probably the fact that I ended up tackling Kennedy’s War (the fourth/Cuban scenario, in case you hadn’t already guessed) alongside a friend – as the War Stories can all be played cooperatively as well.
These days, that’s kind of how I play all of my World of Tanks sessions – alongside a buddy who’s always happy to set up an objective with me and go after it together. So as a gamer who’s been playing single player games almost exclusively since the eighties, now I’m suddenly logging into an MMO several times a week. So why do none of those MMO RPGs interest me then? No clue… maybe it’s just that I really dig tanks, and this allows me endless rounds of Battlezone-filled nostalgia.
And just when the experience started to feel a bit “same-y”, Wargaming launched the Mercenaries update just a few months ago – another story-driven experience that adds more narrative depth to the base experience. And their tagline, “be your own hero”, couldn’t have said it better – for this old tank enthusiast, World of Tanks is a single player game. Or at least one that managed to draw in a die hard single player gamer.