When a free-to-play game succeeds on delivering great content why are micro-transactions even considered?
Upon entering World of Tanks, two things immediately brushed past my mind that had the potential to change the way I experience free-to-play games, especially when they appear to marketed as a Triple-A title. While some games manage to nail the free-to-play ethics first time round, and know exactly what they’re doing in the case of micro-transactions, there are others that come to mind which vaguely remind me some are in it just for the money, and the passion for creating games is a second priority.
While those such as the Android phenomenon Angry Birds and PC exclusive Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, have clear intentions on the type of experience they hope to give to the player, and more specifically doing so on that specific platform, there’s always two or three games every year that are scraped out from the back of the kitchen that’s soaked in a candy topping sweetness of dollar sauce, that has you pinching at your purse every other hour in order to taste the maximum amount of content from what the game is hiding under its attractive sugary coating.
Then before you know it…your account balance is pretty much empty and you’re sitting in a crowded forum discussing the frustration you just felt, while at the same time looking forward to a sequel that you’ll inevitably purchase regardless of the included micro-transactions. Games are good, we buy them no matter what, and we put up with these methods of practice because it’s now an established norm.
Take Konami’s most recently released two hour tech-demo for example attainable by retail pricing, but that’s another story for another day. However, with game practices aside and trying to remain open-minded while naturally remaining skeptical I was interested to see just how World of Tanks handled its free-to-play strategy, and just how much this would either limit my playtime with it, or have me enjoy the experience without whispering to my wallet.
" One interesting thing I did come across while browsing this menu was the different classes and names for the tanks, which I assumed would require me to have actual knowledge about these vehicles in order to keep me invested potentially for the long term. "
Right from the on-set of the customization menu which is tightly woven into the main menu, you’re welcomed by what appears to be a progression system, filtered across three different factions as indicated by their world flags. While this is a small detail and means nothing to the game, the whole theme of tanks and war goes hand in hand with this as all online shooters do. In this menu you are able to purchase tanks, use gold coins and what one would presume to be real-life transactions.
One interesting thing I did come across while browsing this menu was the different classes and names for the tanks, which I assumed would required me to have actual knowledge about these vehicles in order to keep me invested potentially for the long term. While it’s easy to see some sort of authenticity in this aspect of the game, the child inside me that just wanted to jump in a tank and blow stuff up was also excited by what the game had to offer at this point.
The game’s main menu itself is easy to navigate and links seamlessly with the other tabs, consisting of stats, store, and daily news. Although I did appreciate the welcoming nature of the game’s menu and the convenience of having my garage as the primary tab, there’s no denying that aside from its friendly nature, World of Tanks looks like one fat mobile game that’s been tightly wedged onto a big screen. This aspect of appearing mobile has nothing to do with its graphical details or the amount of pixels that’s been drawn to the screen.
No, it’s more to do with the message the game sends you, in that it’s being almost ironic in trying to deliver a free-to-play experience while at the same time attempting to look Triple-A. These two aspects, or for lack of a better word “categories”, don’t blend in well together. It’s not like the game is filled with ads or requires you to sign in to one of fifty accounts that you’ll forget about in the next hour or so.
It’s the bloated amount of coins, star count, and purchase elements that are present in almost every aspect of the screen, with the latter hoarding the top right corner. The left side serves as a reminder of your current trial days remaining, and that you should purchase an Xbox Live Gold subscription to claim a “Premium Tank”.
"The element of choice here is great considering you can assign more than one slot into each of these classes. This may aid in prolonging the life of the game seeing how it's an online multiplayer game only, and let's face it, a game based purely on tank warfare with no actual reasoning for doing so can only last so long. "
While I have no real agenda with these elements on something of a mobile platform, because that platform purely knows its purpose in continuously pinching your wallet. These aspects of a console game should have remained fairly discreet when attempting to mold the idea of a free-to-play game that’s also of Triple-A standards.
Going in-depth with the main tab, by the name of Garage this is where you store your tanks. All sorted vertically by classes of light, medium, heavy, and so on. The element of choice here is great considering you can assign more than one slot into each of these classes. This may aid in prolonging the life of the game seeing how it’s an online multiplayer game only, and let’s face it, a game based purely on tank warfare with no actual reasoning for doing so can only last so long. The good thing here however is that there’s no other game doing it, or one that comes to mind that’s actually as popular as World of Tanks.
World of Tanks serves its gameplay to you that’s best described as thrown into the abyss. After selecting my vehicle from the reasonable choices available and being informed to roll out I had no say in what match-type I would be playing. After taking part in three matches of capturing and holding the enemy base, I was introduced to the second of three game modes which the game had to offer. This was something I found to be frustrating and unwelcoming to players who may have not fully looked into the game before getting involved in, but hey least it’s free.
The other two modes available consist of defending your base from the opposing team, and taking control of a neutral base which you fight over against the opposing team. While the matches don’t outstay their welcome and in my case ended fairly quickly due to the nature of its gameplay, the reward system for taking part that follows shortly after, presents itself as nothing but a kick-in-the-teeth for the enjoyability that you had while playing for free.
Greeted in celebration by “Battle Awards” this giant show-stopper informs you on the amount of points you’ve racked up during the battle, while at the same time telling you how much more you would have earned had you been playing on a premium account, and with a Silver premium account. To topple this approach of introducing account types and game purchases, it doesn’t do a good job in explaining how exactly to do so and what real rewards you reap from it, other than being granted additional XP and gold which you can use to purchase Premium tanks and gain a leg up on your status for bragging rights.
" That being said however, it's easy to see that those not generally interested in tanks, although being interested in other online shooters may not take to World of Tanks, regardless of it being a free-to-play game."
In my first two hours in of playtime it was fairly easy to see just how far the game will take you in terms of enjoyability and grinding for better rankings and tanks. The implementation of micro-transactions in the game feels ultimately useless. World of Tanks is an enjoyable game, and anybody who fantasized as a kid about blowing stuff with miniature models and tank toy replicas can finally have some degree of excitement, by experiencing it through the big screen.
That being said however, it’s easy to see that those not generally interested in tanks, although being interested in other online shooters may not take to World of Tanks, regardless of it being a free-to-play game. It’s safe to say that one may have to have a real interest in fantasy tank warfare, or general curiosity before picking it up. One thing I do consider however is the longevity of the game as a whole and how long the player base will last, asw ell as the approach that Wargaming.net the studio behind the game, will fair in keeping it fresh and relevant via the use of new game modes.
On a visual scale World of Tanks is fairly acceptable in what many would consider attractive. There’s no eye-strain, no screen tearing, and there’s no performance issues present at this point. While the game is no eye-pleaser and doesn’t attempt to triumph over any other games, it’s not ugly. I feel it’s safe to say that at this point in the Xbox 360s eight year life span games are looking as good as they’ll ever get and the limits with this system have been reached.
There’s nothing to write home about regarding the amount of details or objects present on the game’s maps, but the scale is acceptable and works well with the amount of distance that can be covered with tank warfare. The flat textures and jagged trees prove noticeable from far as is the low pixel count. But as I stated previously, as long as the game isn’t ugly and doesn’t brake the player’s sense of immersion or enjoyability, then judging the game’s visual aspects at this point in the console’s life span is pointless.
Although World of Tanks is a game that appears to be skeptical on the surface it proves to be an enjoyable experience once you give the chance. I stand by my word when say I question the longevity of the game , but it’s certainly worth the experience regardless. The micro-transactions here fall flat in their purpose as the gameplay stomps the need to actually considerate it. World of Tanks isn’t authentic in gameplay nor does it try to be. It blends arcade gameplay with a touch of realism that’s just about enough to keep the player entertained and playing strategic enough to make the most of what it has to offer.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Micro-transactions prove useless due to the nature of the game.
Worrying longevity of the game due to game mode variety and interest from the player.
World of Tanks on the Xbox 360 is off to a great start however it will be a while before it catches up to the heavily updated PC version.