I have two problems with World of Tanks.
The first is that, when it comes to the game, I am pretty much a dilettante.
Despite the fact that the icon on my desktop says “World of Tanks closed beta,” indicating that I have been playing the game for about as long as it has been actually playable, I really have not put that much time into it.
I can go for weeks and weeks and not play. And when I do play, it is often for just two or three matches. The game has been live for 18 months now, and I have just over 300 matches in. That is about 16 a month. That isn’t enough to hone killer reflexes. That is barely enough to remember where the controls are and what they do.
Still, I persist now and again because I like the game. It is fun for me in a way that most first person shooters… and it really is just a vehicular first person shooter… are not these days.
My second problem is that I don’t know which tank I want to drive.
Well, actually, the problem is I want to try them all. And there are a lot of choices.
So I end up entertaining brief fits of enthusiasm.
I got enthusiastic about working up the line of Russian self-propelled guns. Then I was big on German light tanks. And then they introduced the French tank tree and I headed off to that.
And you get sucked right in because the first couple of upgrades come quickly. And then, somewhere around tier III to V, the hill starts to get steeper. It is no longer an hour to the next new toy, but a day, or a couple of days, or a few weeks. And the mid-tier tanks can have the same effect on me that mid-tier levels do in most MMOs. They can feel like the bridge between where I was having fun and where I might have fun again. But on the bridge itself… not so much fun.
Which leads me back to my favorite tank, which is the Chinese Type-59. No longer available in game, I have more fun playing it that just about anything else. (Though I enjoy my Luchs too, and probably should have not bothered to advance to the Leopard.)
But even the Type-59, which I like because it gets me into upper tier battles, which I tend to find more interesting, can only keep me going for so long. And so I lapse and stop playing for a while. At least until something new shows up.
Recently, they released patch 8 for World of Tanks, which had a few things I wanted to see, the key being a change to physics an terrain.
In the original versions, there were basically invisible walls that would prevent you from driving off of anything that might damage your vehicle. This included all the really high cliffs, but also included some comically short drops. I had the nack for finding those short drops, which would leave my tank stopped and dangling in the air, a perfect target.
So I patched and jumped in to the game.
And once I figured out where everything was again… and got the graphics settings toned down a bit… things were good. There were just enough tanks attempting to fly off of high places to be worthwhile, and I was no longer getting hung up on three foot drops.
Keen to try things out, I played all of my tanks. But when I was down in the lower tiers, I started to see a pattern. I seemed to be getting smacked time and time again by a single vehicle, the Hetzer tank destroyer.
That set me on my goal for the weekend. I was going to get a Hetzer of my own.
Long and boring details culminating in an actual battle after the cut.
Hide tank destroyer to ambush here.
Fortunately, the Hetzer is only a tier IV vehicle, so it seemed within reach. Also, since one of the changes was to vehicle camouflage, any gold spent on that in the past was refunded. So I had enough of that currency sitting around to buy 24 hours or premium service (50% bonus to exp and coin) with enough left over to buy garage slots and a few additional upgrades.
The first vehicle in line was the Panzerjäger I, which I used to figure out the whole tank destroyer thing. You are lightly armored, often slow, but carry a bigger gun than most of the tanks around you. So you have to lay in ambush and hit people before they become aware of your presence.
It only took a few matches before I had earned enough for the upgrade to the Marder II. I dumped the Panzerjäger I and bought the upgrade. I figured I might be playing this one for a while, so I also dumped a big of my gold (the premium currency) and a chunk of my silver (the in-game repairs and supplies currency) on upgrades. With gold I bought the visible camo upgrades… mostly because it looked cool and was cheap enough.
And then I spent a load of silver on the camouflage netting upgrade, which reduces detection when still by 25%. Since sitting still and staying undetected in the name of the game, I thought it was a worthwhile investment. Plus I had a lot of silver sitting around from my time with the Type-59. It is a silver generating machine.
I did well enough with the Marder II, at least relative to my own poor standard of play. It suited me because I play alone as opposed to in a platoon on voice coms. And, intellectually at least, I understand the tactics of concealment and planned alternate firing positions, so I was able to work on putting that into practice.
One of the things I did as well was turn my mouse sensitivity way down. That actually helped a lot with precision shooting.
I did that Saturday afternoon and evening, when I found the time. That got me in position to get the Hetzer after a little more work on Sunday. Since I figured I would be hunkering down with the Hetzer for a long time, I went for the same upgrades as I did with the Marder II along with spending the extra bit of gold for a fully trained crew.
After a couple of matches I really started to like the Hetzer. First, it has a nice gun for its size. But it also sort of straddles tiers in an odd way, so I usually end up either as the biggest tank in a match, up at the top of the list, or at the very bottom. For whatever reason, I like being at one extreme or the other rather than mid pack.
But what really sealed the deal was that only a half a dozen matches in, I had my best match ever.
It was a standard battle on the Westfield map. We were at the southern end and I decided to stay back and find a nice perch above our base and defend. We had to SPG guns back with me, but everybody else went forward.
As the battle raged, I managed to knock out a pair of light tanks as they came around one flank in search of the SPGs. They had both been damaged on the way, so they were both one-shot kills.
Meanwhile, the battle in the center of the map was going badly for us. I moved to a concealed spot above our base and waited for the inevitable onslaught.
In a rush to get the SPGs, the enemy started showing up in ones or twos and were totally focused on them. The three of us started picking off bad guys as they showed up. But the SPGs were down next to the base and eventually were taken out while I was still facing five guys. Two light tanks, a medium, and two SPGs.
I was able to pot the two light tanks before anybody spotted me, but the M3 medium knew where I was. However, he chose to come straight at me firing as he went. He hit once without damage and then missed while I put several rounds straight into him. My second shot actually hit his track and brought him to a stop, so it was aim and shoot at that point.
By that point people were starting to comment on the public channel. Even the opposition was complimenting me. But now I had to hunt down the two SPGs.
I hate SPGs and feel great joy in killing them, as they inevitably rain down destruction on me when I have been spotted. Now I had to go find a pair of them. Since I had not been shelled up to that point, I figured that they were back in their base defending the way our SPGs had been. So I got on the road and headed that way.
As it turned out, they were heading towards our base and I met the first of them about mid map. They were both up on the hill while I was down on the road. However, they were spread out, so I found them one at a time.
I spotted the first one when he took a shot at me and missed. I turned and race up the hill at him… well, clambered slowly up the hill… until I had a clear shot. I hit him, he hit me. But I was still alive and knew I would reload faster. Pop, he was dead. One left.
For some reason, I went back down to the road to continue forward and replayed almost the same encounter.
This time we saw each other at the same time. I turned and headed up the hill while he turned to shoot. Another minor hit on my but before I could get a clear shot he decided to head down the hill past me. I rotated as he went past just ahead of my gun, but before he got down to the road, we were aligned and I took my shot.
I hit him hard and busted a track. He was immobile on the road, fully in the open, and facing away from me, making him about the easiest target in the game. My second shot put him out of his misery. The match was over, we had won.
And it was literally my best match ever. A pity my 24 hours of premium ended just before it started.
Details page here if you are interested.
I will probably never do that well in a match again. I certainly did not do as well, or even close, for the rest of the day, bagging at most 2-4 kills and getting blown up without kills a couple of times. (Damn SPGs!)
But that match certainly sold me on the potential of tank destroyers. I will stick with my Hetzer for now and try to climb the German tank destroyer tree. I still have quite a ways to go for the next setp on the ladder, which is the Stug III.