War Thunder and World of Tanks have been out for 8 and 10 years respectively but the debate over which is the superior game is still going strong. Read on for a detailed explanation of both games, what they each do well, and what they need to work on. If you’re on the fence about which of the two multiplayer vehicle combat games to sink your teeth into, hopefully you’ll be able to make a decision by the end of this article.
Tanks and Planes
The biggest and most obvious distinction between the two games has to do with the types of vehicles available to the player.
War Thunder began as a flight combat simulator and tanks were added in a later patch. War Thunder also has combined arms — tanks and planes fight in the same battlefield!
World of Tanks has always been about just tanks from release. If you want planes in World of Tanks, you’ll have to play the aptly named World of Warplanes. World of Tanks may only do tanks, but it does them very, very well. There are hundreds of different tanks to choose from, each handles differently from the others.
Although it might not technically be as realistic as War Thunder, the diversity of tanks and play styles allow for a battle to play out in a hundred thousand different ways. Certainly, some vehicles are stronger than others, but every loss feels like it could have been turned around with better positioning or smarter timing.
Realistic Sim or Arcade Shooter?
You don’t have to spend much time playing War Thunder and World of Tanks to know that they both feel completely different.
War Thunder, though not a full on simulator, puts a greater emphasis on realism than World of Tanks. Meanwhile, World of Tanks is a pacier, more arcade-y experience.
This is most evident in the way the two games control.
War Thunder’s tanks are slow, but every artillery round that finds its mark is guaranteed to do real damage.
The tanks in World of Tanks, though feel like corvettes in comparison. They’re quick to change directions and easy to maneuver.
Tanks also have “armor” in World of Tanks, which act as the vehicle equivalent of health points. Instead of rounds being essentially 1-hit kills, like in War Thunder, you have to chip your opponent’s armor down to zero if you want to take them out.
In War Thunder, wherever your barrel is pointing is where your round is launched. There’s accurate drop-off due to gravity that makes aiming intuitive and easy to understand, though actually hitting your target is incredibly difficult.
World of Tanks doesn’t have this kind of predictable accuracy. To encourage close-range combat, the HUD has a circle around your crosshair that indicates where your round might go. The longer you aim, the smaller the circle becomes, but there’s no way for you to be 100% certain of where your shot will go.
So if you’re a fan of tough but rewarding sim gameplay, War Thunder is your go to. If you want a skill-based tank fighter where skill isn’t as likely to be outshined by sheer luck, World of Tanks is the game for you.
How Do They Look?
There was a time when War Thunder was clearly the better looking game, but several graphic overhauls over the years have allowed World of Tanks to give War Thunder a run for its money. The real difference lies in the visual style.
The game that comes out on top in this discussion is the one that appeals to your personal preference. World of Tanks, in fitting with its more arcade-like action, is slightly more cartoonish in its designs and animations. For War Thunder, it’s the tiny details that really help build immersion. Things like the way mud sticks to your tank as the battle progresses — and you can wash it off by wading into a river!
As we’ve established, World of Tanks is essentially a tank-themed arena deathmatch. For this reason, the maps are designed to allow teams to quickly meet. When you spawn into a game of World of Tanks, you know a firefight is just a short distance away.
War Thunder’s maps are necessarily much larger because they must account for the speed of airplanes. The map sizes have been a topic of much discussion in the War Thunder community. Tank players have complained that the focus on aerial combat has left them with a subpar experience.
The large map sizes mean face-to-face combat is much less likely and tank battles become like sniping duels where the combatants fire at one another from distance. To cater to their tank players, War Thunder’s developers have also added smaller Ground Forces maps. These are tank only affairs, so you’re losing out on the thrill and danger of a potential aerial fly-by.
War Thunder lets you jump into the cockpit of a fighter or tank and start blasting enemies left and right. The different plane and tank models are only marginally different, and the one you choose to take into a firefight is the one you’re most comfortable with. It doesn’t matter how poorly you do, zipping around in a fighter jet or rolling around in a tank is always fun.
This contrasts greatly with the World of Tanks progression model. The lower tiers where new players begin is a nightmare. The power curve is unforgiving and the difference in skill between advanced and new players is significant. New players will find themselves being destroyed again and again by better players for dozens of matches in a row.
It’s not often you find a community that hates its developers as much as the War Thunder community hates theirs.
Gaijin, the team behind War Thunder, has become known for being unwelcome of criticism. They’ve issued DMCA take-downs of community-created gameplay videos, sued YouTubers for uploading content that criticizes them, and blacklisted players from their official forums for reporting bugs in their game.
As far as customer service teams go, Gaijin definitely has one of the worst. World of Tanks players have what can be described as your standard love-hate relationship with its community. Players complain about balance changes and new maps, the devs respond to feedback, and the cycle goes on.
So, which is the better game?
The one that you prefer.
If you tend to appreciate realism, War Thunder might be right up your alley. Players who prefer fast-paced, reflex-based arena shooters will enjoy the tempo of World of Tanks. You should give both games their fair shake.