I sat down with some of the Wargaming guys and attempted to play the new 360 version. I struggled a bit with the console controls, but that had more to do with a lack of familiarity than anything else. As I played, we discussed how Wargaming has rebuilt WoT from the ground up for the console market.
A close relationship with Microsoft
One thing that really struck me as different was simply that World of Tanks is being pushed for XBox 360. Microsoft is somewhat well-known for being difficult to deal with for online developers, but Wargaming has taken the steps to ensure that it will be able to sell microtransactions and patch the game on the 360.
However, the devs explained to me that Microsoft is very interested in the F2P gaming space and liked what Wargaming had to offer. Wargaming wanted to release a version of World of Tanks with more appeal to console players, so rather than merely port the game, it opted for something a little more radical.
Because Wargaming hasn't had any experience in the console market, it acquired Day 1 Studios (creator of MechAssault and the console versions of F.E.A.R.), which became Wargaming West. The new addition of developers to the stable allowed the studio to begin the enormous task of building a completely new version of World of Tanks for the 360.
It plays substantially different from the PC game, but it's still very recognizable as World of Tanks. The same functions are all there, including chassis lock-on and zoom aim, and the basic feel of the game is very similar. All the same vehicle classes are present as well, and I used my heavy tank to wall off our east side while a lone scout ran recon for me. He was ambushed by three enemy tanks, and I was able to pin them down and absorb much of the incoming enemy fire while my allied tanks and SPGs laid down the pain. All in all, it felt like World of Tanks should feel, just a little bit faster-paced.
Although I felt a little clumsy with the console controls, that was partly because I'm simply not used to the big burly heavy tanks like the T29 I was driving. I am more of a scout or medium tank driver, so it's only natural that driving the T29 felt a little awkward. The UI is also completely different, although I think it's probably better than the PC version, and it might be nice to see some of the elements of the 360 version's UI implemented on PC.
Progression in the 360 version of World of Tanks will be a bit faster than in the PC version. In fact, I was told it would be "about 20% faster," but since the game is completely revamped, I'm not sure how that will play out. Because the price and EXP cost of unlocking tanks are probably totally different and the tech trees are different, it's hard to say exactly how fast it is.
Like everything else, the maps are completely new as well, so there will be new areas and new strategies for those maps. I was completely unfamiliar with the terrain of the map I was playing on and ended up shooting cover a little more often than I would like. Still, my bucketload of HP kept my tank going while my allies -- 360 beta players who knew the map a little better -- circled around and finished my foes off.
Another thing that I learned at the Wargaming booth is that accounts will be linked for both Tanks and Warplanes. This means that when Warplanes goes live, players will be able to purchase premium time and play both games with premium rewards. Also, credits and free XP earned will be shared between both games, so you'll be able to spend rewards you earn playing Warplanes on Tanks and vice versa. I think that's a really neat strategy to keep people playing, since you can progress one game by playing the other.
Overall, the 360 version looked really promising. I'm not a big console gamer, and I'll probably stick to the PC version, but the 360 port actually seemed better in terms of playability. It was a lot easier to drive an unfamiliar tank with unfamiliar controls in the 360 port than my first games of WoT for PC, and with faster progression, I think that it will be a golden choice for 360 players interested in feeling the tank power.
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