When World of Tanks comes to PlayStation 4, you’ll have several tank types to choose from. The choice is important, because the tank you select makes a dramatic difference on what your battlefield experience will be like.
In my hands-on time with the PS4 open beta, I’ve spent time with each of World of Tanks’ 5 tank classes to get a feeling for each style. It can’t be understated how different some of these machines can be, but embracing and understanding that difference will help you stand out from the pack in your early hours with Wargaming’s Free2Play mainstay.
Here’s a look at each tank class–Light, Medium, Heavy, Tank Destroyer, and Artillery–along with a few notes about what it’s like to play and how you can succeed in the driver’s seat.
There’s scouting roles, and then there’s scouting roles, in which you have virtually no offensive capabilities but are faster than anything on the battlefield. Light tanks, like the United States’ M22 Locust and the USSR’s T-26, aren’t quite powerless, but firepower isn’t the point. In a light tank, you compensate for thin armor and vulnerability to ramming for speed and agility. You can turn faster than other tanks, reach top speed in a matter of seconds, and stay hidden behind smaller obstructions.
In World of Tanks, light tanks are indeed the prototypical scout, and it’s important to embrace that role fully. It’s easy to get ahead of your team’s front line and get behind enemy lines to spot opponents, and you’ll earn XP and currency for any damage inflicted upon enemy tanks that you’ve spotted. Because of the light tank’s agility, I found I was able to flit between buildings and natural obstructions pretty quickly, so even though the enemy team tends to watch for light tanks on their flanks, I could move between cover with a pretty good chance of escaping back to my team’s front even after being spotted myself.
Because of this ability to quickly traverse side routes, you can also read the movement of enemy forces and react accordingly for a quick flank, inflicting surprise damage from the side or behind. With enough of a jump start, you even stand a chance taking down medium tanks and disrupting heavy tanks. Plus, it’s a simple matter to reach artillery players, who stand little chance of destroying a moving light tank. Taking offensive action as a light tank is a dice roll, but if you’re trying to go the extra mile for your time, it’s the next action after scouting enemy positions.
As the offensive and defensive compromise between light tanks and heavy tanks, medium tanks are an interesting breed. As you might expect, medium tanks are fast enough to outrun heavy tanks and powerful enough to outgun light tanks, but medium tanks aren’t as good at scouting or dealing damage as either. For that reason, selecting a USSR T-28 or USA’s M3 Lee is making the conscious decision to play whatever role your team needs in that moment. When the offensive line needs bolstering, you’ve got the firepower to stand your ground against heavy tanks, and in a pinch, you could show up at the flank and make yourself hard to hit.
Because medium tanks don’t excel at either the scouting or shooting roles, it’s important to approach each match without a preconceived notion of your job in that match. When I set off on my own at the start to scout enemy positions, I sometimes found that our dedicated scouts did most of the spotting before I could get into position. Similarly, those scouts were already in prime flanking position from the start, ready to strike from the sides and back. Instead, try supporting the main offensive line. Your team’s imposing heavy tanks are likely to draw fire while you strike from more advantageous positions, so if a good opportunity presents itself, you can move to flank while the heavy gunners are distracted.
Heavy tank might be the epitome of the slow, measured play that can differentiate World of Tanks from other multiplayer games. The slowest available tank class, heavy tanks make up for it with bombastic firepower, so sitting down in the driver’s seat of a USA T6 or Germany’s Tiger I means taking a serious offensive responsibility. Heavy tanks can inflict huge amounts of damage on anything they can hit, but they aim slowly and move even slower.
There’s another disadvantage to balance a heavy tank’s intense firepower. Heavy tanks have some of the worst camouflage values in the game, so when enemy tanks in range have a clear line of sight, there’s little chance a heavy tank will stay hidden. For this reason, and because of their lack of agility, heavy tanks need to rely on environmental cover and forward-facing corridors as much as possible. As the skirmish proceeds and enemy tanks move about the map, it will be harder and harder for a heavy tank to dictate points of conflict, so it’s important to charge forth and inflict as much damage as possible.
In my experience, this is easier said than done. Not every map is conducive to heavy tank travel. On one map, the hills and mountains near our base were steep enough to make all that terrain unusable, so I was forced to take up a defensive position instead. In that way, players should be open to adapt while using a heavy tank and not to try to force themselves onto terrain that limits their mobility even further. Instead, I found the most success hiding behind large buildings to surprise and devastate passing enemies. But supporting the offensive line in corridors and drawing fire so lighter tanks can approach from other angles helps the team while netting you XP from dealing damage.
Tank destroyers have interesting restrictions in exchange for enough firepower to reliably take down heavy tanks. Because many tank destroyers mount their guns within the hull, instead of on an exterior turret, their guns have a limited range of motion and require physically turning the tank to aim past a certain point. With powerful, long-range weaponry, tank destroyers make great snipers, but most are poorly armored on the sides and rear. Others have front-facing armor that make for effective close-range defense, but fragility in other areas make tank destroyers poorly suited to defend themselves. They have high camouflage values to compensate, so if you can find a hiding spot with good foliage, you can avoid conflict even when enemy tanks come looking for the source of that sniping round.
Because of their long view range and fragility, I found playing defense to be the easiest tank destroyer role to jump into. From elevated positions near our base, I could usually see enough of the battlefield to fire some shots at would-be flankers before they got close enough to surprise us. In the moments between, I could sometimes fire at the frontline attackers my teammates were battling or earn XP by spotting other snipers. Your distance and camouflage are natural advantages over other classes, so don’t let enemy snipers outsmart you. Look to the furthest edge of your view range for other tank destroyers and try to make camouflage part of your sniping points.
In a game with unique roles and mechanics, artillery (or, self-propelled guns) might be the most unique. Unlike other tanks, artillery vehicles fire airborne rounds over massive distances. In other tank types, holding L2 simply zooms. In artillery, holding L2 jumps to an airborne view for a birds-eye perspective of the battlefield. You still have to worry about the terrain and environment, as shots can be obstructed by trees, mountains, and buildings, but you can strike with rounds capable of insta-killing from massive distance without ever getting involved in heated conflict.
There are trade-offs, of course. Artillery’s dispersion circle (the area in which a shot could randomly land) is massive to start. As you hold your reticle over an enemy and wait, the dispersion circle will start to narrow, eventually narrowing enough to make hitting the enemy a sure thing. In the meantime, they could move, turning invisible when they’re no longer “spotted” or forcing your dispersion circle to reset as you track them. I felt an anxious intensity as I watched my circle slowly tighten and hoped against hope that my opponent would stay put.
For all of their nuance, artillery tanks may be the most complex to play. Incredibly fragile and largely unable to defend itself if spotted or caught unaware, artillery has to set up camp in the perfect spot: shielded from enemy sight, relatively free of obstructions. Across the artillery line, you have different shell velocities and trajectories, as well as a variance in how quickly the targeting field narrows and just how narrow it can become. Artillery can be extremely rewarding to play as you deal game-changing blows from on high. But it requires patience, knowledge of your chosen tank’s quirks, and an eye for great perch spots.
Choose Your Tank
What tank type are you most excited to play in World of Tanks when it launches on PS4? Let us know in the comments, check out how World of Tanks is welcoming to newcomers, and watch PSU for more World of Tanks info leading up to our review.