Review: World of Tanks Generals17 Dec 2015 0
One could be forgiven for thinking World of Tanks Generals is a vapid card-battler at first glance. It has several of the hallmarks: multiple currencies, complex upgrades, a constrained battle map, art-heavy chards, and, most damning of all, the ubiquitous “tutorial cheesecake,” pushing her breasts together between her folded arms and smiling for the camera. Thankfully, under the hood of Wargaming.net’s latest free-to-play title is a carefully-balanced CCG (Collectable Card Game) that plays more like Hearthstone than Rage of Bahamut.
So, is World of Tanks Generals the historical answer to Hearthstone that tank fanciers have been dreaming of? That may depend on what you’re looking for in your CCG. To begin with, World of Tanks Generals continues Wargaming.net’s tradition of not making wargames. I’m not saying that card game can’t be a wargame: games like Battle for Hill 218 and Nuts! Battle of the Bulge do just fine without hexmaps and NATO symbols.
When I say that World of Tanks Generals is not a wargame, I mean that it is not the least bit interested in historical authenticity. This is a game where teams of American, German, and Russian tanks and mobile artillery work together to defeat… other teams of American, German, and Russian armor. All battles take place on the same 3x5 grid, there is no such thing as “terrain,” and one of the keys to victory is to have your HQ directly attack your opponent’s HQ every turn, if possible.
If you can get past the historical incoherence, the basic setup of the game is very sensible: Light Tanks have the best movement options, Tank Destroyers get “first strike,” and SPGs (Self-Propelled Guns) can attack at range, but you have to spot enemy units first. Moreover, World of Tanks Generals is impressively well-balanced. “Blowout” games are rare, and battles tend to have a distinct ebb and flow. If one player is fast out of the gate, it’s almost certain they’ll get pushed back later: the question is whether the blitzing player can finish off the enemy HQ while being pushed back (HQs and SPGs can target the enemy HQ without a spotter).
That finely-honed balance is one of World of Tanks Generals’ weaknesses, as well as a great strength. As you research and purchase new cards, each one will have a deploy cost (cost to play in game) and a card value. You will only ever face decks whose total value is close to your own. This is a bit like the matchmaking in other Wargaming.net games, where players who have played and/or spent more get access to heavier tanks (etc.), but play against opponents of their own “weight class.”
Newly-unlocked cards are often objectively better than the ones you already have, except that they carry a much higher card value. Achieving balance this way creates homogeneity in play. You will face the same limited set of decks over and over again, at each tier of cards, as those decks are the only ones you can be matched against. Eventually, a new metagame emerges in which lowering one’s total card value by mixing top-tier cards with basic ones is a viable strategy, but it feels oddly underhanded, as the bulk of the players you encounter this way are just progressing through the game “naturally,” and don’t have access to your trumps.
It’s more fair than playing your way up a CCG ladder until you hit players who could afford to shell out for all the rarest cards. On the other hand, there is literally no way to show that you can compete with the big dogs using “common” cards, and there isn’t (yet) any way for the most skilled players to challenge each other.
At times, the spectre of the card battler looms, as some matches feel predetermined from the moment the HQs are revealed. For example, if you’re planning to swarm the enemy with light tanks and you’re matched against the American 2nd Armored, you are almost certainly going to lose: their HQ heals a HP every time a unit – yours or theirs – is destroyed.
You can unlock almost everything in the game with Credits and Experience – both of which are earned at a reasonable rate through play – so far there are only a few special units that can only be purchased with Gold (IAP currency). The monetization is driven in large part by a push to upgrade to a premium account, which increases your Credit and Experience earnings by 50% for a limited time. This is in keeping with the way that World of Tanks Generals mostly eschews “pay to win” monetization, but still pesters you for access to your pocketbook. From having to pay to repair your HQ after a loss to paying twice for new cards (XP to “research,” then credits for each copy you want to play with), the distinctive chintziness of the freemium experience creeps in.
In the end, if you’re in the market for Hearthstone with tanks, or just looking for a new deck-builder, World of Tanks Generals is worth a try. It’s a worthy addition to Wargaming.net’s stable, and gives every player a shot at victory, but you’ll never forget that it’s a FTP title. World of Tanks Generals is not a premium game retrofitted for microtransactions. World of Tanks Generals leverages its FTP DNA to create an engaging deckbuilding and dueling experience, but never reaches the depth of strategy or consistency of feel that characterize the best CCGs.
Played on an iPad Mini.