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Friday, May 23, 2014

War Thunder Ground Forces vs World of Tanks

A not so complimentary player perspective
by Silentstalker

Okay… where to begin. As you can imagine, I received literally dozens of e-mails over last couple of months, inviting me to try War Thunder (not only Ground Forces, just War Thunder in general). I resisted for quite some time, but about a month ago, I was like… well, I should try it after all – and I got to try it today.

Trying it is one thing, writing about it another matter. I really wasn’t sure, whether to do it or not. I still am not, but what the hell, right? Anyway, my reluctance obviously comes from my position. This is a World of Tanks blog. If I bash War Thunder, I’ll get the “OMG SS WARGAMING STOOGE!” reactions – as I did before. If I praise it, I will get “OMG SS HATES WARGAMING FFS WT SUX!” – also happened before.

But I’m gonna write it nonetheless. I will try to express my feelings and compare these games regardless of my alleged affiliation. If it’s good, I’m gonna praise it. If not… well… the bashing will at least be honest.

And yes, I am completely aware that this is the closed beta stage, there is no need to remind me of that.


I approached War Thunder as a complete newbie, who turns the game on for the first time. I did not read any manuals or anything about it on the web, apart from the “standard” stuff on War Thunder page. I did not read any guides, because I believe that a good and successful game has to be intuitive and easy to grasp (I am sure you already see where this is going and why I mentioned this specifically – if not, well… you’ll find out).

Installing War Thunder

Installation was very easy and user friendly. The game is not a “hog”, it has 8 gigs or so, not bad. There was however a mess, when I (based on some March WT post) installed something called “nightly client” or something like that – should have been specifically a closed beta client for tanks, but apparently this was cancelled earlier, the tank testing was moved to regular client and so I had to install the entire game twice. This has left me… annoyed. Another annoyance (this time caused by myself) was that I logged with wrong account (not the CBT one) and spend an entire afternoon figuring out why the fuck can’t I access tanks, when I realized I registered another e-mail for the CBT. Thanks for everyone who tried to help me by the way (especially Ronineter) and sorry for this, mea maxima culpa.

Anyway back to point one – when I ran the launcher, it detected the graphic settings for me and it was apparently very optimistic, setting everything on “high”. Not sure whether that means “high settings” or “you better be high before you try it”, but what the hell… I can lower them anytime, right? Turned out I had to lower them, but not by much.

So, anyway, logged in successfully. Here, I would like to note that the War Thunder soundtrack is GREAT, I love the theme – and the strings that came after that, it’s a really known composition, can’t remember how it’s called. Anyway, excellent, excellent background music, very well fitting.

That account on the screenie is the non-CBT account, so after messing around a bit with the interface, I finally tried two or three battles with rplanes. Here, I would like to state two things:

- War Thunder planes are, hands down, better than World of Warplanes, in practically everything, when it comes to battle. Perfectly responsive controls, intuitive plane handling. And NO LAGS – imagine that!
- what runs with 25-30 FPS on low-medium details in WoWp, runs at 60 FPS on high details in War Thunder. The difference is simply stunning and I must say that unlike the horrible WoWp experience, I actually enjoyed the planes. I don’t like planes in general, so I won’t be playing it, but yea, this is some pretty good stuff. At least when it comes to battle.

At this point, I was actually really pleasantly surprised and very hopeful for the GF.

Ground Forces

Anyway, after the unfortunate episode with the account, I managed to log on to the correct one and started to look around, looking for… tanks. No big shiny “TEST TANKS HERE” button anywhere, yea, well – back to the forums then. Luckily, some guys on FTR FB pages were again very helpful, suggesting that I should test via the “Events” button. Okay, simple enough, right?

No, not really. At this point, it gets really blurry tbh – I opened the tank research window and started randomly clicking everywhere, because I couldn’t see any available tanks for the battles.

This was the time I started to be annoyed again. I literally have no idea, how the research works in this game – the way I guess it, you “focus” on “researching” something, you get some research points AKA XP after the battle? No idea. And this is not good, this stuff is supposed to be comprehensive. In this, World of Tanks is clearly superior (I assume this goes for the warplane version as well), I have a feeling here that the main point of the research system in War Thunder is “we have to make it different from WoT at all costs”. Anyway, as I said, I have no clue about this (and no, no need to explain, quite honestly at this point I don’t care much – by the way, is it my impression only, or is the reasearch very, very slow?) – I clicked something and the tank appeared on the bar below, along with some other planes.

This is by the way something I don’t get either – I won a plane battle earlier and a window popped up, saying that I recieved a personal plane of some fighter ace. Does that mean I got a new plane skin? Or a new premium plane? Decals? I have no idea.

Anyway, back to GF. As I said, I started clicking stuff and finally managed to join an “arcade” event mode. Starting with Germans, my “tier 1″ tank is Panzer II Ausf.F – meh, okay, can’t start with a Tiger, can we? Anyway, arcade battle, pressing battle, some briefing screen, I am supposed to uhhhhh conquer something? No idea. I am here to shoot stuff. I noted that the maps are actually “historical”, sort of – that’s kinda nice, I like the idea.

Sooo… map loading. It looks bigger than WoT and loads for half that time. Nice!

Oh. Same details as in planes. 10 FPS. Yea, okay, down to the ground. After setting everything on medium/low (included client restart), I managed to get it working at 40 FPS. And the game doesn’t look THAT bad either!

In fact, the game actually looks very pretty. On the same computer and same FPS, it looks prettier than World of Tanks. Nice! Rubbing my hands together with joy, I pressed the W key.

And that’s when everything got totally f*d up.

I don’t even know where to start to describe how bad this game actually is. Let’s start with the tank driving experience. If you have that “feel” about how tanks in WoT move – well, GF is nothing like that. Basically the tank is a race car on a wet asphalt strip. It goes easily into drift, it sways to the side and so on. I am quite sure the tanks don’t “stick to the ground” as much as in WoT, but they sure as hell don’t drift around like this either. And that’s not all. Crashing into objects damages you, which might be realistic, but it’s annoying as HELL. Oh, look, a tree? Let’s bring it down, I wanna see some action! Oh. Yea. Uhm. Okay, who needs engine anyway…

The movement just feels… I don’t know. More “action”, but less “steel behemoth” – maybe that’s just the fast Panzer II, but it’s quite different from World of Tanks, as I mentioned. What I noticed is that for some reason, water acts like a glue – you rush into a very shallow water stream at full speed, only to be immediately slowed down by it for no apparent reason. Odd.

And then there’s the physics. Think realistic “turning on your side” and such stuff is a good idea? Check this out:

…..and that’s how I spent three minutes trying to get out, until someone killed me. As far as I can tell, there is no “unstuck” button or anything – if you get stuck somewhere, you’re dead. Think this is fun? Wait till you see the ramming. Basically, I tried to ram a Panzer III at full speed. In real life, the impact would be devastating for both vehicles. But in War Thunder?

shot 2014.04.30 21.45.19
What happened here is that the Panzer II, instead of ramming the Panzer III, “climbed” its side (!), made a somersault (!!) and ended on its roof, completely helpless. Needless to say, Panzer III just laughed and (apparently undamaged) killed me. Very realistic.

Tank Combat

Anyway, the movement and physics, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed within the closed beta stage. The combat mechanics, that’s something else. Right off the bat, Ground Forces feel like “World of Tanks hardcore mode” – you know, the mode players sometimes request (less and less lately, thanks god).

- no silhouettes
- no hitpoints
- oneshots
- large maps

And couple of other “neat” features, like slow turret turning. As a result, the game is a lot more “realistic” and lot less “fun” than WoT. The combat… well, let me start by showing you this:

Yes, this is something you won’t see in World of Tanks. It looks actually beautiful, just being able to ride off like that. From one end of this (“tropical”) map to another, it took me like, I don’t know, three minutes? Doesn’t sound much, but in game terms, it’s a LOT – I am actually not sure how big the map really is, but definitely feels bigger than anything in World of Tanks. So imagine the joy, when you traverse this map, spend several minutes getting there and then in a space of one second, you get oneshotted by an enemy that you had no idea was there. And that’s arcade mode, I can very well imagine “simulator” mode being for masochists only.

As I mentioned, noone has any hitpoints, tanks can oneshot each other like in real life and there are no silhouettes. This leads to the obvious tactic: total and utter campfest. You go hulldown behind a rock with turrets sticking outand wait for someone to appear. The problem is, the other side does the same damn thing and the battles just feel really static in some cases.

Another “awesome” thing is the utter impotence of the 20mm autocannon of the Panzer II. I have no idea, whether it’s bugged, but in GF, it CANNOT PENETRATE THE SIDES of an early Panzer III at 100 meters. No shit. To top it all, the penetrations are really random (once I withstood two 37mm shells without any damage, while normally you get oneshotted easily). If you think WoT is random, wait till you see GF. It’s a RNG fest to the max.

The main issue with the battles (apart from them being static at points) is that they are chaotic. It’s hard to orient, you don’t have nearly as much info on the battle as you do in World of Tanks, it’s much more “hardcore”, but that’s not a good thing in my opinion – you can’t see shit over various foliage either (which there is plenty of everywhere). And of course, then there is the “planes and tanks on one map” part, where you get blasted apart by a plane you had no idea was there (that must also be fun).

And the sounds. They are just weird. Engine sound is okay I guess, but when I drive forward, there is this weird “burping” sound, as if the sound of the game was lagging. Is it a bug? Shifting gears? I don’t know, but it sounds very, very annoying.

Oh yes and the spotting system – how does it work? Like, you can see only stuff your commander really sees? How far? Several times, I basically just ran into enemy tanks hidden behind some boulder without having a clue they are there, that also kinda supports camping.

Versus World of Tanks

Despite all the issues named above, I am sure WT:GF will find its audience – very limited amount of audience I assume, because this game is NOT intuitive and it is NOT easy. It’s more “realistic” than WoT, but then again, you have to ask yourself, what is realistic on controlling a virtual tank with four buttons and a mouse? The entire advertising of “realism” in connection with War Thunder GF is an odd thing anyway. The game was allegedly claiming that the vehicles in it would be historical and all that, but the Panzer II for example is a total unhistorical mess and that’s only one blatant case. Tiger II with 105mm also never existed other than on the paper and so on and so forth.

It is my impression that currently, Ground Forces are what World of Tanks “hardcore mode” would be and I am deeply thankful Wargaming scrapped that idea. Oneshots are not fun. Having no clue what is going on is not fun. Having no clue what your shells will do is not fun. On the side note, I really, really hope Wargaming changes their mind about implementing the tanks turning over on their roof, for newbie players, it will be a total disaster, it looks weird and it gives you grief.
But… maybe some of you enjoy this sort of gameplay. I don’t, but I do understand at least some do. I do think, as I mentioned before, that the Ground Forces will draw only very limited amount of people and I also think it is not a good game, simply because it is not fun. That’s what games should be, fun, right? Sure, Wargaming has its own screwups and you know I will be the first person to admit that and write about it, but the entire concept of WoT is very good.
Here, the concept itself is flawed and that is IMHO the game’s biggest weakness. Bugs can be fixed (as I am sure they will), but the concept weakness, that’s something else. Gaijin will have a very hard time competing with World of Tanks. All those, who think Ground Forces will be much better than WoT, or even a “WoT killer” – no, they won’t. Ever. If you like realism, you can and probably will try it when it goes out, but if you are waiting for open beta only because “OMG WARGAYMING SUX I HAET SERB!!!1111″, I do believe that you will be disappointed, even if you never admit that.

WT hits a player high

On May the 16th, over 100 000 concurrent players were playing War Thunder.

Sometimes the devs quote player numbers in the millions, which is clearly an overclaim - certainly they may have that many downloads, or registrations, but not active players.

This number seems closer to the truth and still shows a very healthy community - bigger than for any other online flight game?