I’m having a hard time putting down World of Tanks Blitz. Part of the problem is that my kids keep bugging me to play so they can watch. The other part is that despite making some concessions to ensure the multiplayer experience works on mobile devices, it’s similar enough to its excellent PC sibling in all the ways that count, and even some of the changes end up adding to its addictive qualities.
Consider that a victory for Wargaming.net. While the developer was working on the Xbox 360 port of World of Tanks and getting World of Warplanes off the ground, it saw other studios release multiplayer mobile tank battle games, some of which were pretty good. Yet there was always the expectation that Wargaming would bring its expertise to touchscreens at some point, and the result was worth the wait.
Let’s start with truth in titles. World of Tanks Blitz is well-named, because everything about it is faster than its online counterpart. Seven is the game’s magic number: battles are seven a side and last for a maximum of seven minutes. The smaller maps have just one base to capture, set halfway between the two teams’ starting points, which suits the quicker pace. Scouting still has benefits, but there’s less need for it because you’re going to run into enemies pretty quickly no matter where you go.
The designers somehow still managed to populate the maps with things to hide behind, advantageous terrain and other interesting features. It’s generally just as suicidal to go running off on your own as it is in World of Tanks, and a combination of brains and reflexes is still the best formula for success. It’s just that you’ll have to make faster decisions and live with them.
Computer veterans may have some adjustments to make when it comes to the controls, though regular mobile gamers are going to find them less off-putting. The virtual stick that moves your tank is the least exciting part, as it often is, though the dedicated buttons for rotating your vehicle without going forward or backward are slick. Tapping and dragging anywhere on the right side of the screen controls the turret, and buttons on both sides fire the gun. Consumables are also easily accessed with dedicated virtual buttons, and the whole scheme can be cutomized to your liking.
The remainder of the UI looks almost exactly like what you’d find on the PC, and that familiarity extends to the garage area as well. Blitz does a nice job walking newcomers through upgrading tank modules, resupplying ammo and researching and buying new vehicles. Advancement to higher tiers follows the World of Tanks blueprint, except that several aspects are streamlined and simplified. Crew skills are improved as a group, Arty is missing completely (that’s WoT slang for artillery), and only USA, Russia and Germany tech trees are in the game at launch.
Still, you have the option to drive light, medium and heavy tanks, as well as tank destroyers, and — stop me if you recognize a recurring theme — it won’t take as long to get to higher tiers as in the online game. That makes paying for premium time and the added experience and credits you get from each battle perhaps even more worthwhile, though this is a game that can honestly be played with absolutely no real money investment without missing out on anything.
Everything else Wargaming is good at is packed in here too, things like medals and achievements, the ability to form platoons with your friends, and little details like the lag and frame rate indicators visible during gameplay. The only way you’ll notice something amiss is if you have anything less than a very solid wi-fi connection. Under those conditions, you’ll see your tank skip ahead or turn unexpectedly, other players’ vehicles mysteriously phase through terrain, and other things that are probably a lot trippier than the designers had in mind.
As prerequisites go, though, ironclad internet isn’t a horrible one. It’s not surprising that the developers reported having 70-minute average play sessions during the World of Tank Blitz soft launch, because it’s so easy to get sucked into saying, “OK, just one more battle” before looking up and seeing that 30 or 60 minutes have passed. That’s praise of the highest order for any mobile game, and proof that any allowances that Wargaming made for bringing its brand of armored mayhem to a less powerful platform didn’t hurt its winning formula.
In other words, roll out, and don’t be afraid to do it on a smartphone or tablet.