World of Tanks Review: Everything to Know [2020]

Ten years on, World of Tanks continues to prove its lasting appeal in an increasingly crowded niche of the gaming market — simulators. It’s historically done so by appealing to both hardcore war tank buffs as well as the more casual shooter crowd, striking a fine balance between the two extremes that remains compelling even a decade after it first released.

Though World of Tanks has consistently remained one of the most-played games in the world throughout the years, its development history has been far from stagnant, uninspired, or even “safe”. World of Tanks has undergone multiple massive changes that have transformed the game both aesthetically as well as mechanically. In fact, looking back at the low-resolution screenshots from 2010, it’s almost hard to believe this is the same game!

Let’s take a walk through memory lane and review all the major milestones, achievements, setbacks, and scandals that have brought World of Tanks to where it is today.

From Humble Beginnings...

Back in 1995, Victor Kislyi led a small group of college friends in developing the strategy wargame Iron Age. Played via email, Iron Age proved to be a minor hit, garnering a small yet dedicated player base of strategy game fans. The success of Iron Age was enough to inspire Kislyi to found the game development company Wargaming in 1998. From the get-go, it was always Kislyi’s intention that Wargaming would be dedicated to the creation of strategy titles.

For the next 10-odd years leading up to World of Tanks’ release, Wargaming would find moderate success developing and publishing strategy titles. Though none of their games were major hits, they sold enough copies to allow the company to steadily grow.

Pedal to the Metal

In December of 2008, the original concept for World of Tanks was born. It was going to be enormous; a massively multiplayer shooter that would include many of the most notable war tanks throughout many important campaigns in modern human history. The company was ready to aim for the stars, and internal interest proved so high that the game was publicly announced in April of 2009, mere months after it was first conceptualized.

Wargaming would concentrate all of their resources into building World of Tanks; the game would eventually hold the record for the highest budget for a video game project in the CIS region. It didn’t take long for gamers to get a first glimpse at the game-under-construction. By September, a public alpha was already available and playable.

Development continued at a breakneck pace with World of Tanks quickly entering closed beta at the end of January 2010 and finally going gold in August. Originally released in Russian and German, the English version of World of Tanks released January of the following year.

A Worldwide Phenomenon

world of tanks battle 1

World of Tanks first released in Russian-speaking territories and Germany, quickly expanding to English territories and later on the rest of the world. Currently, the backend infrastructure for World of Tanks consists of six server groups in various countries throughout the world: North America, Europe, Asia, Russia, South Korea, and China. The game’s Russian servers are its most populated with more than 1-million peak concurrent users though most other regions regularly attract tens of thousands of players at any given moment. All server groups but the one in China are operated by Wargaming itself (KongZhong manages the Chinese server group).

Rundown of Updates

World of Tanks may have been released 10 years ago, but that doesn’t mean development has slowed at all since launch. Since releasing in 2010, World of Tanks has seen a constant stream of updates and patches. Many updates have been minor performance tweaks or bug fixes, but others have been more ambitious, overhauling the game’s mechanics and even reworking the game’s engine entirely. Here’s a list of the game’s most notable updates over the years (you can find the complete list here):

World of Tank Versions
DateVersionDescription
January 30, 2010
0.1The closed beta begins.
August 12, 2010
0.5.3Game official launches in Germany, CIS, and Russia.
May 11, 20110.6.4Artillery units and new maps added.
September 25, 2012
0.7.0Replay saving feature is added.
October 27, 2012
0.8.0Improved graphics renderer and realistic tank physics.
February 11, 2014
0.8.11Crew Operations, National Battles, new map (Windstorm)
July 31, 2014
0.9.2Stronghold Clan Mode is added, Observer Mode Enabled for team training, tons of map changes.
September 25, 2014
0.9.3Brand-new HD textures are made available.
April 28, 2015
0.9.7BigWorld Engine is upgraded to version 2.8.1. New matchmaking system to separate new players from veterans.
May 27, 2015
0.9.8Dynamic Platoons and Domination Mode are added.
July 15, 2015
0.9.9Steel Hunt and Supply Swarm Events
November 18, 2015
0.9.12Rampage Game Mode is added, revamped tutorial, improvements to the viewing system.
March 10, 2016
0.9.14Improved vehicle movement and revamped (simplified) module research mechanic.
May 31, 2017
0.9.19Ranked Battles are added along with several HD versions of some tank models.
October 27, 2017
0.9.20.1.1Leviathan Halloween Event
March 21, 2018
1.0.0Entirely new graphics engine with optimized performance, HD maps, new music, and the new Glacier map.
December 12, 2018
1.3Tank Customization is now possible. Decals and a new map, Hinterland, are added.
January 8, 2019
1.4 CTWheeled vehicles are added for the first time.
March 4, 2020
1.8Daily Missions replace Reward for Merit.
April 22, 2020
1.9Changes to the tech tree. Collectors’ Vehicles are added to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of World of Tanks.

Gameplay Mechanics

world of tanks aim

World of Tanks is a massively multiplayer online tank-based shooter where players take control of a massive war tank. Players are thrown onto a battlefield with several dozen other players and must navigate the maps and aid their teammates in completing certain objectives, all the while attempting to prevent the other team from completing their own objectives.

There are currently six different Game Modes, each with their own victory conditions.

Game Modes

Random Battle

Random Battle is the default match type option when you first fire up World of Tanks. Random Battle itself isn’t exactly a game mode, but rather a match-finding filter that randomly throws you into one of three different game modes: Standard Battle, Assault, or Encounter.

Standard Battle

Standard Battle is considered the “base” game mode in World of Tanks. Players are divided up into two teams with their respective bases. The goal of Standard Battle is to completely destroy the opposing team or to capture their base. Each match lasts exactly 15 minutes; if the timer runs out before either of the win conditions is fulfilled, the match ends in a draw.

Assault

In Assault Mode, players are divided into two teams: Attackers and Defenders. Unlike in Standard Battle, only the Defenders have a base, and it’s the Attackers job to capture the Defender base or completely eliminate their tanks. The Defenders can win if they successfully destroy all of the Attackers’ tanks or they succeed in defending their base for the duration of the match. Assault Mode matches are only 10 minutes each and the current map pool is far more limited than the other game modes.

Encounter

There is only one base in Encounter Mode and initially neither team has control of it. The base is located at the center of the map and both teams spawn at opposite sides of it. The teams both battle for control over this one base. A team wins if they successfully capture the base or destroy all of the enemy team’s tanks. If the timer runs out, the match ends in a draw. Encounter Mode matches are 15 minutes long.

Grand Battle

Grand Battle is game mode that’s restricted to high-tier tanks only. Grand Battle maps are much larger than standard World of Tanks maps and can hold up to 60 players at once in epic 30-versus-30 tank warfare.

Frontline

Frontline is a special monthly event that takes place for a whole week every month. In this game mode, two teams of 30 players engage in multi-phased combat with respawns.

Matches are broken up into three phases across multiple fronts. Each of the phases is scored based on phase-specific objectives. Each map has its own phases with their own unique objectives.

Just like Grand Battle, Frontline is only available to veteran players with Tier VIII tanks, though players without a Tier VIII tank in their garage can also rent tanks that allow them to take part in Frontline.

Ranked Battle

Ranked Battles allow players to earn matchmaking rank points and medals that signify their skills on the battlefield. Ranked Battles are currently only available to players with Tier X vehicles in their garage, so if you’re new to the game you won’t be joining Ranked Battles for quite some time. The medals earned from Ranked Battles are seasonal, meaning they reset at the start of each season.

Team Training

Team Training is the sandbox mode that allows you to create your own rooms that other players can jump into. Team Training rooms can be open to the public or they can be set as invitation only. Serious players take advantage of the freedom of team training to test out new game mechanics or acclimate themselves to the physics of a new weapon or tank. Clans also use this mode to learn new maps or practice movement and strategies.

You should note that no experience points or credits are gained in Team Training and any vehicle damage is repaired for free. However, any shells spent or consumables used are not refilled and must be purchased.

Stronghold Battle

Stronghold Battles are a special game mode that members of clans with a Level V Stronghold can participate in. Stronghold Battles play out similarly to Assault Mode matches, but the structure and layout of the map depends on how the Defending Clan has laid out their Stronghold. Any structures a Clan has built in their Stronghold can be attacked by the Attackers and the Defenders must fend off the assault, either by eliminating the attacking team’s tanks or successfully defending their base until the timer runs out.

Types of Tanks

world of tanks types

The vehicles in World of Tanks fall under five rough categories: Light Tanks, Medium Tanks, Heavy Tanks, Tank Destroyers, and Artillery. A tanks category influences the general role it is expected to fill in a match, though many tanks are designed to be able to fill multiple roles. Of course, you could always just ignore recommended playstyles entirely and play however you want — have fun with it!

Light Tanks - Speed Demons

Light tanks are quick as lightning, capable of traversing large distances much faster than the other tank types. Naturally, this speed comes at the cost of reduced armor, meaning every shot that hits you hurts that much more. They’re not built for sustained combat — or any real combat at all — and typically fulfill the role of Scout or Flanker.

Scouts have one job: get vital intelligence about enemy locations and numbers. When you play as a Light Tank, you’ll want to weave and dodge your way through the battlefield, informing your teammates of potential threats.

Although Light Tanks can’t typically take on heavier vehicles in one-on-one combat, they can prove a thorn in the side of the bigger, slower tank variants. If you play as a Flanker, your job is to become a nuisance to the other team, attacking them at unexpected angles and drawing their attention until the big boys can get in position to take them out.

Medium Tanks - General Purpose Fighters

Medium tanks are your jack-of-all-trade warriors. They don’t specialize in any one task, but they can fulfill any role in a pinch, from scouting to flanking to squaring up against enemy units. Well-balanced and always ready for action, Medium Tanks can get into firing positions much quicker than Heavy tanks, and they can both dish out and take more damage than Light Tanks.

As General Purpose Fighters, Medium Tanks can adjust to the team’s needs on the fly. Need information on enemy positions? You can scout. Is your team preparing for an assault on the enemy base? Roll on over to prepare for the attack. Has one of your bases been attacked by a surprise force of enemy reinforcements? Get into the fray and make use of your armor to absorb some of their fire. Where a Light or a Heavy tank would only be viable for some of those scenarios, the arrival of a Medium Tank is appreciated in any situation.

Heavy Tanks - Big, Bad Brawlers

The timely arrival of a Heavy Tank can turn the tide of battle, transforming a certain loss into an unexpected victory. Their incredible firepower and thick armor means not only can they tear enemy tanks apart, they can also shrug off blasts that would leave lighter tanks crippled.

Their biggest issue is maneuverability. Not only are heavy tanks slow to get revved up, their max speeds are pathetic in comparison to Medium and Light tanks. On top of this, they take forever to turn; get caught in a corner or take a wrong turn and you’re probably late to the firefight.

When you’re in the seat of a Heavy Tank, the slow speeds and poor turn rates makes slight errors incredibly costly. A single missed shot or poorly chosen movement path can lead to your enemy gaining precious seconds to position themselves for an attack.

Tank Destroyers - Death from Distance

Tank Destroyers are the World of Tanks’ Sniper class. These glass cannons are designed to deal death from afar, avoiding close-range engagements whenever possible. You need a steady hand and a skilled crew if you want to be effective with a Tank Destroyer.

Tank Destroyers are lightly armored and aren’t particularly maneuverable, making them a liability in melee brawls. However, their powerful guns and unparalleled accuracy at range allow Tank Destroyers to wreak havoc and deal massive damage from distance.

Artillery

Artillery, or the self-propelled gun, can make World of Tanks feel like an entirely different game altogether. They have the most powerful arsenals in the entire game and are capable of raining down complete destruction from the skies. However, landing your shots is much harder than with any other vehicle type.

Like the Tank Destroyer class, Artillery is most effective at long distances, far away from the main battle. At that range, you can’t dependably rely on your own crew’s Spotting capabilities, so a high-level Radio Operator is vital to successful operation of an Artillery vehicle. You’ll be spending much of your time in matches finding a safe place to fire from while depending on your scouts to provide you with intelligence on enemy locations.

Your Crew

world of tanks crew

Tanks aren’t one-man armored war machines, in fact each tank is manned by an entire crew of experts. The size of your crew will depend on which vehicle you take into battle and can range from small, two-man duos to large six-person teams. In World of Tanks, the qualifications of your crew members directly affect how your tank performs on the field of battle. Crew members accumulate experience points for every battle they’re a part of which improves their Proficiency over time. There are five Major Qualifications (roles) a crew member can fill in your vehicle: Commander, Driver, Radio Operator, Gunner, and Loader.

Commander

The Commander is tasked with spotting any hostile vehicles in the area. The Proficiency of your Commander affects their View Range — how far away they can spot enemies. The Commander also provides a 10% boost to all other crew members based on their Major Qualification.

Driver

The driver is the person in charge of controlling your vehicle’s movements. Their level of Proficiency affects the vehicle’s acceleration, top speed, and overall maneuverability. The higher the Driver’s Proficiency, the easier it is to maneuver your vehicle.

Radio Operator

The Radio Operator’s job is to facilitate communication with your allies. Their Proficiency affects the Signal Range of the vehicle. Signal Range is the maximum distance of communication between you and allied vehicles. All vehicles that you spot will appear on the mini-maps of allied vehicles that are within your Signal Range, meaning you can share vital intelligence with allies more easily.

Gunner

The Gunner handles your vehicle’s guns. The Gunner’s proficiency affects Aiming Speed, Accuracy, and Turret Rotation speed. As your Gunner’s proficiency increases, your vehicle’s ability to aim and fire accurate shots improves.

Loader

The Loader reloads your main gun’s rounds. After firing a shell, your tank needs time to reload the barrel before firing the next shot. Your Loader’s Proficiency affects how quickly you can reload between shots.

Clans

world of tanks clans

Clans are essentially player-run sub-communities where players can make new friends or find other people to play World of Tanks with. The Clan interface is browser-based and separate from the main World of Tanks client. You can find a clan to join from the World of Tanks website or create your own clan by spending 850 Gold.

Although the main purpose of Clans is to help World of Tanks fans communicate and engage with one another outside of battle, it also has its own Grand Strategy mini-game which exists outside of the main World of Tanks client.

Strongholds

The clan’s Commander must construct the Stronghold before it is available to clan members. The Stronghold acts as the clan’s base of operations and initially contains only one zone, though this can be expanded to up to four zones by growing your clan’s member totals.

The Commander can construct a variety of structures on these zones, each with their own unique modifying effect that influences gameplay in the World of Tanks primary client. For instance, a structure may create new special missions for clan members or boost their experience for a set period of time.

Once a clan’s Stronghold has reached Level V, the clan can participate in Stronghold Battles. Any defensive structures that the clan has built will also appear in Stronghold Battles, bolstering defenses.

Clan Wars and the Global Map

Unlike the tank shooter gameplay in the main World of Tanks client, Clan Wars is a grand strategy browser-based game where clans compete against one another for control over the Global Map. The Global Map is a single shared map where clans battle for territorial dominance.

The Global Map consists of a number of fronts. Each of these fronts is made up of several provinces and clans compete with one another for control over them. Your clan earns a regular income of Gold for each province it controls.

Invite and Bonus Codes

world of tanks redeem

A unique and cool part of World of Tanks are the invite and bonus codes that you can redeem to get free tanks, premium time, gold, and experience. These can help you get into the game quicker and are pretty much a shortcut to get better gear and more wins since you have more resources to use.

Dan Alder
Dan Alder
Dan's logged far too many hours in CS 1.6 and reminisces about LAN parties back in the good ol' days. He's also an engineer that's interested in anything to do with tech.
Dan Alder
Dan Alder
Dan's logged far too many hours in CS 1.6 and reminisces about LAN parties back in the good ol' days. He's also an engineer that's interested in anything to do with tech.

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