You’d think that having a user-base of 85,000,000 registered players would keep the folks at Wargaming.net happy, but it doesn’t. That’s just PC gamers, and there’s another world out there in the form of mobile gamers. They know this in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, where World of Tanks Blitz had its soft launch six weeks ago. And on June 26th, American iOS gamers will be getting their draft notices as well.
At E3 2014, I was able to sit down with Wargaming.net to play through a quick battle of World of Tanks Blitz. My battle lasted about 10 minutes (of which I was an active participant for maybe about two), but the average play time is around 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, which is outstanding for an iOS device, of course. And I can see from my demo how you could sink a lot of hours into the game.
First of all, World of Tanks Blitz looks fantastic. It’ll look familiar to fans of World of Tanks on the PC, keeping the tech trees, the crew skills and other elements of the computer version, but it’s optimized for streamlined gameplay on iOS (and eventually Android) devices. The tech trees aren’t quite as deep, and the UI is easier to work through.
Gameplay is also optimized for the touchscreen device. For instance, as you move your thumb around the screen, the virtual D-pad moves with you. This way, you’ll never find yourself getting hit by enemy fire because your thumb wasn’t sitting in the right place. You can even change the way the virtual joystick looks on the screen, and you can swap left/right controls. And what about support for MFi controllers? Producer Gareth Luke explains, “We want the game to be portable, and we want it to work on the [touchscreen] device better than anything. So, we’re concentrating on getting it right with the sole intention that you can pick it up play Tanks anywhere. I don’t see a serious uptake in [MFi] devices yet, but when players start asking for it we’ve got the technology and have been developing it.”
When World of Tanks Blitz launches on the 26th, it’ll include 96 tanks from three different nations: America, Germany and the Soviet Union. Eight maps have been built from scratch for the iOS version, making them smaller than on the PC, where the gameplay sessions are also longer and where you can have more tanks on the field at one time than on an iPad (World of Tanks Blitz is limited to 7 on 7 battles).
I mentioned earlier that the game looks great, and driving across the landscapes is quite simple; you move with your left thumb, and control the camera with your right (or vice versa). There are a lot of options for repairs, crew, armor, etc., but I’m afraid I didn’t dig that deep in my session to use them much (which may explain why I was eliminated so quickly…or perhaps it was just the battle prowess of my Nordic adversaries).
Speaking of dying, you get two options when that happens. You can return to the garage and wait until the battle is over, or you can view the battle in spectator mode to see how your teammates are doing or, more importantly, to pick up on some strategies you can utilize in your next battle.
Because of variances between the hardware and the way the game is played on the different platforms, there will be no iOS/PC/Xbox economy sharing. You can, however, share achievements across your accounts, and talk to your friends through the network. In the future, you may be able to send gifts across your account. And when the Android version launches, iOS players will be able to battle Android players. Until then, the iOS version does offer Game Center support, social network sharing, voice chat, and in-game streaming for video channels.
World or Tanks Blitz will be free to play, with in-app purchases available. The IAPs will focus on customizing your tank and progressing through research lines more quickly. You can’t buy your way to the top, Gareth and PR Coordinator Jaime King assure me, and there’s no technical advantage to paying real money; the IAPs just help you leap past grinding.
We’ll have more information on World of Tanks Blitz upon launch. Until then, visit wotblitz.com for more information.