To keep a burgeoning community of 45 million registered users happy, the developers behind World of Tanks know to keep the content coming. After the overhauled graphics, physics, and sounds brought about by patch 8.0 last September, we're already on the cusp of version 8.3. It's out tomorrow, and that means 17 new tanks for the as-of-now-underserved Chinese tech tree.
"The Chinese are a middle-of-the-road tree," says Paul Hobbs, content manager with Wargaming.net. "They don't excel in any one attribute. They have high firepower, a fair amount of maneuverability, and decent armor and aim speed."
Gallery: World of Tanks 8.3 Update Chinese Tanks | 29 Photos
That well-roundedness only strengthens the fact that, for WoT veterans, 8.3 doesn't really change the game so much as add a new team to it. 17 tanks across all 10 tiers will give players a new tree to max out. That takes roughly 750,000 experience points in all.
8.3 also brings tweaks to the game's artillery. In short, the artillery is being nerfed a little: "All we did was bring them back into balance with the rest of the tanks. [Until 8.3] they were influencing the outcome of every battle far too much," says Hobbs. "After analyzing all the stats, we decided to play up their weaknesses a little more. We didn't touch their advantages."
"Arties" will keep their unparalleled range and power, while being forced to rely on teammates for defense a little more. "That was the original intent when developing artillery," Hobbs adds.
But let's get back to the beasts from the East (press release's terms of endearment, not mine!). Since they're a well-rounded bunch, one could argue that they provide the best reflection of the World of Tanks experience. Rolling out with the Type 62, I was reminded of the inherent distinction of a third-person shooter that fields tanks instead of humanoids (aside from the MMO characteristic of resources consistently tracked from one battle to the next, that's basically what WoT is, right?).
It's not just the relatively low pace. It's the fact that the point you're looking at isn't necessarily the one at which you can fire a shell. You've got to wait a few precious seconds for your gun barrel to catch up, and then another few seconds for the reticle to narrow down. Sure, modern shooters feature crosshairs that bounce as you run and jump along, but not in a way that impacts your every move.
Unlike some of the American tanks, the Chinese ones don't boast much gun depression (the measure of how far down you can point your barrel). Without much leeway to aim below the horizon, I found myself wary of approaching enemies from over-hill. Nothing says "shoot me" like presenting your belly to opponents who might confuse you for an awkward seesaw that hasn't quite tipped yet.
In the greater scheme of things, the stable of Chinese tanks expand the stretch of time covered by World of Tanks a little bit. The most modern one, the Type 62, dates back to 1964. It's a long way from the tier one (i.e. low level) World War I tanks, which begs the question: are 21st century vehicles that far off?
"Everybody wants to see the Abrams," says Hobbs. "But that would have to happen after we expand the tiers to, let's say arbitrarily, tier XV. Currently, an Abrams would smoke everything in our tier X."
If Wargaming.net keeps to an even march from distant past to recent past, there are a few decades to cover before an M1 Abrams would make its appearance (they first served in 1980). Next in line, Wargaming.net seems intent on filling out the new Chinese tech tree as well as the British one introduced last November.
Nothing's certain. "We've got a production list, but all the dates are really sketchy," says Caleb Fox, head of eSports on World of Tanks. Somewhere on that list is bringing the in-game voice chat up to speed with popular software like Ventrilo and TeamSpeak.
But the company is kept busy, of course, with the upcoming World of Warplanes. Compared to World of Tanks, they're "simplifying it quite a bit, making it easier to understand, more intuitive. There will be just as many parameters, the same amount of surfaces, but it won't matter as much simply because the action is a lot faster paced." But that's a different story.
Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?