Obsidian’s Armored Warfare Preview: World of Tanks, with PvE?

Oh hey look it’s a new free-to-play tank MMO. Despite appearances, though, Obsidian doesn’t seem to be using Armored Warfare to take aim at World of Tanks, as if all tank games could just be considered interchangeable or competing in the exact same space. To put it simply, Armored Warfare looks to be a more involved experience than World of Tanks, and in my play session with the game at E3 I did something I can’t in Wargaming’s massive hit: PvE.

What I experienced was a round of four human players (in tanks) attacking an oil refinery held by computer-controlled tanks. The goal: take out all the bad guys, blow up the train in the corner of the map before it leaves if possible, and take control of the area. The rules: if you die, you’re done for the session.

The tanks are class-based. You have the quick scout tanks — I chose one of these — the very slow artillery tanks that pack a hell of a wallop and the regular all-around battle tanks. The concepts are simple to understand, but of course a bit of a challenge to execute if you aren’t an experienced tank fighter. And without a tutorial of any kind, there were some hiccups.

Starting out with my scout tank, I took it upon myself to scoot around the map quickly to sight for the artillery, but this was a struggle for me because I made the mistake of shooting as I went — a rookie error, I felt, and it got me killed pretty quickly though I was helpful even so as the enemies I’d stirred up were eradicated not long after I was. The lesson is, as is the case with every video game class called “scout,” you’ll never win a straight-up fight. Duh. Got it.

Because one of my cooperative partners was an Obsidian staffer, he gave up his seat in an artillery tank and I gave that one a shot. The artillery I found a bit more interesting, because it’s essentially the sniper class. It has a mega range, but unlike what I normally think of as artillery you aren’t going to be able to shoot over everything at your target. Your shells will arc, yes, but tall oil tanks will get in the way. Controlling the artillery becomes a bit of a chess match, then.

Sure, the whole game is “a bit of a chess match” but that concept goes triple for artillery, which is far too slow to be able to escape danger without shooting its way out. And by the time I was controlling the artillery, another player had been eliminated and it was just me and another journalist against the computer. So I had to skulk around the fringes of the battlefield, hoping I wouldn’t be seen by the enemy even as I took potshots at them.

We managed to pull off the victory, but it was tough. The artillery relies strictly on line of sight and foes will disappear off the minimap a few seconds after to leave your line, and without the full complement of allies, keeping track of the bad guys required some guesswork. Fortunately (?), decades of participating in warfare had prepared me for this situation.

I imagine that Armored Warfare will be something that can be enjoyed casually, but the learning curve felt a little bit steep in my first session — acknowledging, yes, that I didn’t play a tutorial. At the same time, it does feel squarely like a game aimed at the dedicated PC gamer set, which was slightly refreshing because there isn’t much of that at E3. One match doesn’t say a whole lot about Armored Warfare’s overall quality, though, but it having strictly PvE missions like that one I played means I’ll almost certainly give it a bit more credit than I do the strictly competitive World of Tanks.

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