Armored Warfare is Obsidian Entertainment’s entry into the arcade tank simulation free to play MMO genre. It is a thoughtfully paced tank shooter with semi-realistic armor mechanics. For those not familiar with the other major entries in this genre, like World of Tanks and War Thunder Ground Forces, Armored Warfare is not a game where your individual twitch skills are the deciding factor. Twitch skills help, but what these games are really about is decision making, understanding game mechanics, map knowledge and map awareness.
If you've played World of Tanks before, Armored Warfare will feel instantly familiar. It has a similar UI, similar game play mechanics and a similar f2p model. However, there are differences, some of which are rather nuanced, and it has a very popular 5 man comp-stomp PvE mode for those of you that are not into the whole PvP thing.
The game’s economy functions off of credits and reputation. Think of reputation as experience, as you play games you earn credits and vehicle reputation, progression up each line of tanks is primarily linear. You play the tier 4 tank to unlock the tier 5 tank. As you progress you earn a minor portion of your overall reputation as global reputation. Global reputation can be applied to any tank line you are currently progressing. Once a tank is fully researched and its reputation bar filled it begins to earn convertible reputation. This overflow of vehicle reputation can be converted to global reputation with gold.
Is this game pay2win? Absolutely not. It is pay2progress faster. It features your pretty standard monetization system for these kinds of game. You can purchase premium time for your account, this speeds up your credit and reputation gain. You can purchase gold, which can be turned into premium time, it can also be used to convert vehicle reputation into global reputation and it can also be used to purchase permanent cosmetic decals and eventually camouflage for your tanks. Gold goes a lot further in this game as well, with 1 gold converting to 125 global reputation. A recent addition are booster packs, think of these as premium-lite packages, they provide a small boost to credit, reputation and crew experience gain. This game does not have premium ammunition. It does however have premium vehicles.
Premium vehicles are purchasable either through the various packs Obsidian has released or will release or with gold. Some of these vehicles are limited edition so if you are an obsessive compulsive collector time may be running out. Regarding the vehicles themselves, most of them are an absolute joy to play without being blatantly over-powered. It remains to be seen what Obsidian or My.com’s position on rebalancing premium vehicles will be. That said, most of these vehicles are just downright fun. This is one area where Armored Warfare has an enormous leg up on the competition. Modern vehicles are fast, fast is fun. Premium vehicles primarily function is to earn credits with a larger credit earning modifier. If you're on a budget and can't afford constant premium time, a premium tank might be the better choice.
So how is Armored Warfare different from the 600 pound gorilla in the genre, World of Tanks? This game doesn't punish you. The f2p model doesn't feel like it is set up to frustrate you into wanting to spend your hard earned global reputation or dollars. My first introduction to the game was during the stress test. I honestly was not expecting much. I played a couple of matches in the first tier vehicles and I wasn't blown away. Luckily the first two tanks, the M-113 and the PT-76 only last a game or two each. Once I hit tier 2, I knew there was a fundamental difference in philosophy going on here between Obsidian and Wargaming.
I've progressed to tier 6 in some lines and tier 5 in most, my experience so far is this, every tank is fun to play. Even the tanks that are performing poorly for whatever reason are still fun and enjoyable. I think the primary reason for this as alluded to earlier is speed. Everything in AW is fast, faster, or ludicrously fast. There are no vehicles in AW that take 5 minutes to get to the fight like that other game. Oh, and there is far less RNG in your shot dispersion, more of that please!
The gameplay while very similar from a mechanical point of view, has differences. The speed of the vehicles changes many of the dynamics. Vehicles can move from one side of the map very rapidly, and tight matches can turn into routes very quickly due to this speed. This game rewards the Rommel inside of you, aggressive moves to advantageous positions can help turn a game. Passive game play will almost always result in your side being outmaneuvered and spotted by an enterprising and dynamic enemy player. Spotting is finicky and I believe still being ironed out, however, one of the most enjoyable differences in this game is how unspotted enemies who are firing actually become visible. They do not get marked by the HUD, but they do become visible to the discerning eye. This allows an attentive player receiving fire from an otherwise unspotted enemy to return fire. A version of this system is applied to artillery as well and that is what we will look at next.
Artillery, sky-cancer, insert pejorative here. Artillery is almost universally loathed in World of Tanks. It is so despised that a strong case could be made for Obsidian to exclude it entirely and have a successful game marketing Armored Warfare as "No Artillery Allowed!!!111". World of Tanks refugees by the thousands would surely flock to the game just for that reason alone. However, Obsidian has chosen to include artillery and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. As a World of Tanks player, I hate artillery. I thought I would hate artillery here. I don't and here is why.
If artillery in World of Tanks is a bolt of lightning from the sky, in Armored Warfare it is death by a thousand cuts. In AW it is higher rate of fire, more accurate with, low, low, low damage per minute. It is far less RNG and there is a built in counter battery system. Every time artillery fires, the artillery from the other team see a ping on the map where the shot came from. Each subsequent shot without moving makes the ping more accurate. In addition artillery can spot each other for a few seconds after each shot just by looking for each other. These changes create a more dynamic, higher skilled environment. It is also less frustrating for the recipient of artillery fire, and the changes don't end there. When you are under fire from artillery you are given a warning indicator telling you you're about to get shelled. This allows you to take evasive action and minimize the small incoming damage even more. Lastly, higher tier artillery comes with two secondary rounds. Short duration illumination rounds for spotting and slightly longer duration smoke rounds for breaking line of sight.
Armored Warfare is a lot of fun. The design philosophy feels less punitive. You are not being punished for playing certain tanks. The stock tank grind is far less punishing as well, not only due to stock tanks being much closer in power to their fully upgraded versions, but the matchmaking is kinder. With fully populated tiers, you will primarily only see equal tier vehicles. The matchmaker is also designed for +1 MM, this means tier 4s will typically only see tier 4 or tier 5 matches, tier 3s will see tier 3 or tier 4 matches. You get the picture. With smaller power gaps between stock and fully upgraded vehicles and a matchmaker designed for a +1 tiers at most, you will almost never go into a match and feel like you're absolutely useless. It can happen due to under populated higher tiers but as the population grows and people get to higher tiers this should go away. Then there is always PvE which are 5 man cooperate objective based missions.
Is this a World of Tanks killer? I don't think that is the question to ask. I think the question is, will Armored Warfare make World of Tanks better and vice versa? To that I say yes. I think healthy competition between these games will benefit us, the players more than anything. Obsidian has a long road ahead of it. There are some issues they need to work out. Shot responsiveness, collision damage, armor issues with some tanks. The big question is their end game. When is some sort of competitive clan play coming? I don't know. It isn't announced as of yet. If anything can derail Armored Warfare, a lack of enjoyable end-game content would be it. Armored Warfare has a similar situation that challengers to World of Warcraft faced. World of Tanks has years of development, content and polish behind their product. Armored Warfare will undoubtedly be judged by that standard, fairly or not.
Gameplay – 8 The game is extremely playable, and if driving around virtual tanks blowing things up tickles your fancy, the game is also extremely fun. That said there are a few things that hold this score back ever so slightly.
Visuals and Sound – 7 The game is beautiful, it isn't latest greatest cutting edge, but it looks pretty darn good. Sound is where the game needs some work. First, I personally really like the muted gun fire as though I were inside the tank, and the whirring of the gun as it is reloaded.
Longevity - 9 If Obsidian can work out a few bugs and insert a PvP or possibly even enjoyable PvE endgame, I see no reason why Armored Warfare can't also enjoy a long successful run.
Polish – 6 I feel like AW is reasonably well polished, but at the same time polish is one area were the game is actually reflecting that it's the new kid on the block. The collision system in the game is still rudimentary and they are playing with the values on a patch by patch basis, one patch too much damage, the next not enough. Simply put, the game needs some polish.
Value – 8 I think AW represents incredible value for money. If you like this genre of games or are open to the prospect of playing it, the game is absolutely free to play and it offers hundreds of hours of progression just to unlock all of the tanks in the game.