so, as I announced earlier, I was offered a chance to be amongst the first 500 in the first public (pre)alpha test of Armored Warfare, the upcoming tank game by Obsidian Entertainment. Naturally, I grabbed it, curious how this game would turn out.
A little explanation first however. Experienced game developers know that when you make a game, the first thing you can (and should) release is not even alpha – it’s the proof of concept of sorts, a minimalistic version of what you intend the game to be – and let people critisize it. It’s not closed beta, it’s not even real alpha, it’s just a small version of the world your game will bring to the PC screens, one day. As such, a lot of features are missing, as the client gets cut to its core, not to distract the testers by any immediately unnecessary features. This is called “minimum viable product” and you can see more about this concept in this video.
That’s exactly what this pre-alpha was and that’s how I approached it. There was a developer warning that some stuff will be bugged and testers are encouraged to report the issues. The test took place yesterday and took 4 hours.
As many of you know, Gaijin based its tank part of War Thunder on one point: “it’s different that World of Tanks” – and that was it. Same tanks, different methods – some like War Thunder tanks, I don’t, I think it’s a major clusterfuck and it sucks. Obsidian on the other hand went a different way. Their basic idea is that whatever we might think of Wargaming and World of Tanks issues (disappearing tanks, arty, RNG etc.), the game concept is actually very good (just look at the massive success of World of Tanks) – so why not use it, build upon it and improve it?
And so, Armoured Warfare begun as a pure WoT clone with modern tanks. But is it still one? Let’s have a look at it.
First thing you will notice after logging in (the installation was fairly okay and fast) is the garage, which is very familiar. Basically it looks like a WoT hangar, but better. You can immediately see that a lot of features are missing, you can’t upgrade the tanks and such for example and there’s no real money system yet, all you can is actually… play, with tanks. And some tanks they are.
In the test, there were several pieces of hardware, from an advanced MBT (T-90) over a light tank (Stingray II), scout (Weasel), tank destroyer (wheeled Stryker) to artillery (Akatsiya). The level of details on these tanks is very high – especially the T-90 model is of higher quality than Wargaming HD models. Very pleasing to look at. Naturally, I selected it first and pressed the “battle” button immediately. The garage UI is pretty sleek by the way and and the background music I really liked for some reason.
So, the battle then.
The graphics, as you can imagine, especially on one map (the Graveyard, an old overgrown airport with various wrecks) are very, VERY good. Even in this poor unoptimized engine iteration (testers were specifically warned by developers that this client is not optimized and has significantly higher requirements than the final product will have), the map looks stunning. Sounds of gunfire, planes flying overhead, stuff exploding… I really liked it. And then there’s the night. And rain. The terrain looks very natural, not like an artificial gameplay arena in WoT. The price for this look is that you have to pay more attention to your surroundings, but that’s okay, it is really, really pretty. And you can turn on the tank headlights, imagine that! Took me a while before I discovered. The next thing I discovered was this not being a good idea – yep, doing that will make you a big fat attractive target. But it’s pretty.
Second map is like a city and it kinda resembles Himmelsdorf, only without all that dark filter shit. The city looks bright and has this mediterranean and modern flair. Not bad, but a bit bland. Ah well, no matter. The tanks look very pretty all of them, especially on highest details. And how fast is this thing going? Well, as fast as World of Tanks apparently. On a solid computer (no bleeding edge, but solid), 50-60 FPS, depending on situation and map. Drops to 40 in worst situations, but that’s max details and rain, smoke, explosions, tanks and shit flying everywhere. Not bad for a pre-alpha – even this build beats WoT to pieces – WG will not be able to match it anytime soon, not without HD maps and, knowing WG, that’s like two years of work from now. So yea, the Cryengine works.
Then there’s the fun part, the tanks. The tanks feel like tanks, not like electric toys on tracks. The movement can be compared to WoT (thanks god – no WT sliding), but it’s smoother and overall very, very good. The tanks also feel FAST – much faster than their speed would suggest, rushing forward in a Stryker is quite an experience. Even the T-90 is no slouch. You hear the engine roaring (better than WoT’s “droning” engine noise) and the steal beast belches smoke and fire, as you move forward – and it’s quite a fire. The explosions, gunfire and fire effects are simply beautiful, miles ahead of anything WG has ever shown. Pressing that fire button and watching an enemy tank exploding really does feel good.
Generally, the basic gameplay really impressed me. With proper development (again, pre-alpha stage!), this game will resemble Battlefield more than it does World of Tanks and yes, that is a good thing. At the same time, most of the things in the game are really easy to figure out and intuitive, which is extremely important for new players.
The battles were very fast paced. No camping. I assume it is the nature of the vehicles as well – AW will mostly lack “really slow stuff” like the T95 or Maus, simply because these dinosaurs died out right after the war and 10 years later, there were no such vehicles in service anymore. The game is definitely somewhat faster than World of Tanks in almost every respect. And there are some pretty original things too, like the light tank deploying smoke grenades, that cover you for a very short while (not eating shells, just a vision obstacle). Extremely useful!
But of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There were a number of issues, I’ll run over them quick.
- the test was EXTREMELY laggy (despite solid latency of cca 50ms), probably caused by the server itself not being ready or something, practically all players reported these issues
- the UI is very cluttered with unnecessery stuff – basically it’s like full XVM, newbies will be lost in it
- ramming is very unsatisfactory, the vehicles feel like they have little weight when you ram, they just stop from one another
- some objects destruction effects are not implemented, they just switch to their destroyed model
- artillery works just like in WoT and given the nature of the battle, it’s either OP as fuck (it can fire guided missiles, so you can imagine the joy), or (much more common) completely useless, you won’t hit anything (a lot of RNG).
The last point however was mentioned by the AW developers to be reworked to a completely new model – hopefully it’ll be something more competitive, but quite frankly, given how fast the vehicles are and how easy it is to flank someone, I think the game could do even without arty altogether. Considering the above, I have no idea why it was even included in the test.
Considering this is even a pre-alpha stage, I was very satisfied. Yes, the engine needs serious tuning. Yes, the server needs fixing as well, the lags were sometimes like WTF level. Yes, there were only five tanks. But I do have a good feeling about this (and I rarely do about a game). So, the question that is on some people’s mind is… will it be a WoT killer?
No, of course not. At this point World of Tanks is in the same position World of Warcraft is, the defining element of its genre.
But, I think it will bite off a chunk from the playerbase – specifically the playerbase that pays most per capita. And no, that’s not the Russian one…