One nation, under artillery shells
In the post-apocalyptic game world of Tank Nation, the rising countries are all at war once again (I guess they didn’t learn their lesson from destroying the world in the first place). But this time around, they’ve all come to an agreement to use tanks to solve their problems, as opposed to the old go-to, nuclear warfare. And so sets the stage for the vibrant and enjoyably explosive game that follows: as players hop in a tank and travel across the sprawling world landscape to compete in the Tank Nation Tournament, and you know, maybe blow a few things up along the way. It may be the first ever release from newly-formed studio Wormhole Games, but it’s certainly an epic one.
Tank Nation utilizes a number of quirky and familiar character types that players will be able to control and interact with throughout the course of the game, and their disparaging backgrounds, from Road Warrior to U.S. Military, add that extra edge of variety that is only accentuated by the wonderfully rich environments that these characters come from. The graphics, though stemmed from an overall cartoonish design, are unbelievably sharp, and the animations are amazingly smooth. Panning around the iPad’s large screen and watching the multilayered backgrounds adjust to the angles is an especially nice touch, and everything in the distance has a painted, almost ethereal quality to it when compared to the bleak and destructive environments that you’ll be blasting away in the foreground.
But it’s the actual gameplay that makes Tank Nation such a smashing success. On the surface, the game might seem like a simple turn-based strategy affair: your tank is placed on a 2D plane against various waves of enemy tanks of increasing difficulty, and you’ll need to blow them all up in order to make the next batch of foes miraculously appear on the battlefield. What sets Tank Nation apart from other turn-based strategy games, however, is that you’ll actually get to partake in the action yourself through simple and familiar touchscreen gestures. You’ll draw and pull back on the screen with your finger to line up your shot and let the bullets fly, similar to the slingshot effect of Angry Birds. Moving your tank into position is as simple as dragging your finger to where you want your war machine to relocate, and away it goes.
The tactical strategy component of these tank battles comes into play by means of Tank Nation‘s energy system, which restricts how many things you can do in a single turn before your enemies get a chance to return the favor. You’ll start the game out with three sections of this energy bar, and each one corresponds to your different available actions. For instance, firing a basic weapon will only use up one energy section, while moving greater distances or employing some of your special abilities like the Metal Barrier shield will set you back two. So theoretically, you could choose to use all three sections on a full-fledged assault for your entire turn, or you could always use two energy bars to move further out of enemy range, before spending that last remaining section to send a small batch of bullets raining back on them.
If I had to make a comparison, I’d say that Tank Nation is most similar to Team17’s Worms series, although the action here is much more in-your-face and streamlined, and the tactical decisions you’ll need to make before every move will always leave you on your toes. The game boasts a massive campaign with over 50 different missions and epic boss fights in different locations as the player works their way towards the Tank Nation Tournament. If you somehow get your fill of all that, you can always hop into the multiplayer arena and engage in some PvP battles with other players for a chance at earning some better parts to add to your tank. Both the single player and multiplayer components work in perfect harmony with one another in the overall package, and jumping back and forth between the two is both fun and rewarding.
Customizing your tank is just as easy, too, thanks to Tank Nation‘s incredibly smooth and user-friendly interface. You’ll be able to swap out different items like your driver, the tank body, and your special weapons and abilities. You can even shell out some additional bolts to upgrade each of your favorite items individuality, so that they’ll pack a bigger and deadlier punch in the long run. All of this becomes incredibly important before long, as you begin to encounter different elemental types of tanks like Acid or Fire that have their own corresponding elemental weaknesses that you’ll need to take advantage of to make scrap metal out of them nice and quickly.
If there is one criticism I do have of Tank Nation, though, it’s that the game’s extreme difficulty spikes play right into its less-than generous freemium model. You’re constantly restricted by a dreaded energy system, which only lets you get in a few tank battles before you’re forced to either wait for it to recharge or pay up out of your own wallet. And given that you’ll need to constantly replay a lot of the earlier levels in order to gain more experience and bolts to strengthen up your tank so that you stand a chance in the later ones, you’ll be looking at a lot of wait time right off the bat. I thought it was pretty generous that the game started me out with around 150 gems’ worth of the game’s premium currency. But then I found out that it costs a hefty 40+ gems to do everything from refilling your energy bar to continuing on in a level if you get prematurely smashed to pieces.
But in the end, I found myself not really being too bothered by the excessive wait times or the accompanying difficulty spikes, as Tank Nation is just an incredibly fun game to play, and the amount of blood, sweat, and artillery shells that went into the making of this title can be felt around every bend in the destructible terrain. It’s almost hard to believe that this is the very first release from a brand new company, as the amount of polish here in Tank Nation is even greater than most seasoned studios’ third or even fourth games. But then again, once you blow up all the competition with your exhilarating war tanks, there’s really not much left standing to properly compare it to.