If you are a WWII buff or have any interest in tanks, you’ve probably heard about World of Tanks and War Thunder. Both are popular war games that include massive multiplayer tank warfare and both are based on a free-to-play model which includes microtransactions.
If you looking to enter the tank MMO arena, chances are you are considering these two games. While both games seem to offer a way to scratch your tank itch, they are intended for very different audiences. So before you sink hours only to realize that the game is not for you, read away…
Both are (cough…) Free-to-Play
Let’s start with the biggest negative, one they almost share. While both games are free-to-play, it often feels they are pay-to-win to not paying players. Sure, if you are patient and don’t mind the grind, you can be a free player. But many players will just give up after 100 or so hours and either leave the game or open their wallet. The good side is that you do get a decent amount of time to decide if you like the game enough to pay.
The publishers of both games are called out for their shady business practices, absurd fees, not listening to their player base, increasing the grind to force players to reach for their wallets, and just generally trying to outdo EA. To be fair, the situation is slightly worse in War Thunder with Russian publisher Gaijin. They have a more dedicated audience, which they can abuse to a higher extent without the players actually throwing the towel.
What is Different?
Both games are often excellent and get many things right. However, in concept, they are different war games. War Thunder tries to be a simulation of real-world warfare with real historical vehicles, while World of Tanks has more of an arcade style that focuses on the action. One offers players a place to lose oneself researching tank armor, propulsion and ballistics, while the other promises fun and fast combat in a world you can easily jump in and out of.
This difference in game concepts bring about the most significant difference between the two – the damage model. War Thunder has a complex and quite realistic damage modelling, simulating the inside of a tank and trying to calculate the damage shrapnel and explosion do to tank and crew.
World of Tanks model is far less complex and very much arcade style. Each tank has a pool of hit points and each shell is a single mass. While there is a rudimentary model of tank internals, destroying a target is a case of whittling down a hit points bar. Sure, the model is unrealistic, but fixed HP is a proven formula in video games and means one unlucky shot doesn’t kill you.
To compensate this, there is a lives system in War Thunder, where you can take three tanks in an arcade battle, so one unfortunate shot isn’t match-ruining.
Artillery vs Aircraft
The other notable difference is the use of artillery in World of Tanks vs aircraft and ships in War Thunder. War Thunder is a much bigger game in that it allows for air and sea battles besides tanks. You have supersonic fighter-bombers, interceptors, helicopters, air-to-air missiles and more. World of Tanks is a more streamlined game that focuses on ground battles, specifically tanks and artillery.
However, that doesn’t mean that World of Tanks is the better pure-tank game. When comparing tank battles specifically, for me artillery affects matches much more than aircraft do. You also find much more people complaining about it in the forums.
Which One is For You?
Both can be excellent games and it depends on what you are looking for in a game. World of Tanks offers ease of use and a more tolerant gameplay mechanics, but can feel like a peak-a-boo shoot-first arcade. If you want realism, War Thunder is unquestionably the better simulator, however that is also its flaw – it can be less accessible than World of Tanks.
World of Tanks is for you IF:
- you don’t try to save all NPCs in your RPGs;
- you are not looking to commit a significant portion of your time to a game;
- you find the constant need to pay attention to be any good overwhelming;
- you are simply looking for fun, 10-15-minute tank death-matches in a WWII theme.
War Thunder is for you IF:
- you are reading every book in your RPGs;
- you know every tank and general in WWII;
- you are looking forward to spend HOURS finding documents, conducting research and learning about the intricacies of tank warfare;
- you are looking for longer battles where you constantly look all around, in and out of binoculars, considering, worrying…
Unfortunately, there is no other game on the market besides War Thunder that offers such a mix of realistic war game with tanks, aircraft and ships. I say unfortunately, because some competition would put Gaijin in check and make the game even better.