Tuesday, May 10, 2011

World of Tanks - Upgrades

Although I'm still hesitant to call World of Tanks an MMORPG, it does have one aspect that is clearly borrowed from the genre - multifaceted advancement.  You improve in the game through your personal skills as a player, by purchasing better tanks, by researching upgrades for those tanks, and by increasing the skill levels and special skills of your crew.

My Newest Toy (Historical Reference)
Each aspect of development has a distinct effect on your efficacy on the battlefied, from the obvious (switching to a heavy tank from a medium tank) to the subtle (increasing your gunner's skill from 50% to 60%), but nothing seems to be as game changing as the upgrades you can research for each individual vehicle.  Four times now I have gone from despising a tank to loving it while moving from a stock build to an upgraded one.  The most recent example is my latest acquisition, the M7 Medium Tank.

The stock build of this tank is terrible.  It looks odd and is armed with a pitiful pop-gun that can barely penetrate the rear armor of most other tanks in its tier.  Sitting behind a tier 4 medium tank, shooting it's weakest armor and having the opponent almost completely ignore you is fairly demoralizing.  The fact that the M7 is a tier 5 medium tank just makes it worse.  This was compounded by the fact that I suffered loss after loss and so failed to gain enough xp to upgrade much of anything.  Eventually though, I had a few lucky breaks and made enough xp to upgrade the suspension, put on a new turret, and replace the gun.  I ended up with enough left over to upgrade the engine too.  My first match in the upgraded version and the battle was a win, I had two kills, and didn't even get my paint scratched.  Suddenly I like this tank after all.

That experience is hardly unique either.  I had the same thing happen with the M3 Medium Tank which went from nearly useless as a stock build to the only vehicle I've gotten the Top Gun award with once it had a howitzer on it.  The M5 Stuart had a similar experience.  Same with the Panzer III.  This is not a bad thing overall, as it makes developing many of the tanks very fun (in contrast, a stock T1 Heavy barely seems different from a fully upgraded one) but really takes some getting used to.  When you've spent days earning xp and saving credits to purchase the next tank up from your current choice you kind of expect an upgrade, yet in many cases your new tank will be inferior to the old one (in performance if not raw stats) until you upgrade the darn thing.

It keeps me playing though, as upgrading the tank makes gameplay more enjoyable, which in turn makes upgrading the tank easier, and so on.  I have a couple of tanks I plan to just sit on even though they're elite (fully upgraded) because playing them is fun even when I have nothing left to gain.  That, to me, is the sign of a good design and for all it's flaws World of Tanks is proving itself to be a game designed around fun.

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