Last Monday, I had the privilege of being able to attend an event for Wargaming's World of Tanks in New York State where I was to be one of the first journalists in the world to see the next version of the game for consoles. Myself and several other people from various outlets were whisked away to The Museum of American Armor in Bethpage, New York where we would get to enjoy an Armor Experience followed by a briefing on the company, time to interview the developers, and getting hands-on with the latest and greatest version of the game: World of Tanks: Mercenaries.
I had spent a bit of time researching & playing World of Tanks in the days before and consulting with some of my friends who had crazy amounts of time in the game. I was primarily there for the game and thought that it would be cool to see a handful of tanks at The Museum of American Armor. I was simply not prepared for the sort of arsenal this museum had on deck. We were here to see World of Tanks: Mercenaries and Wargaming had us at the perfect venue for showing off the largest content update for their game to date. Take a look at the teaser trailer to get a feel for what's coming later this month:
No more loyalties, just awesome mercenary tanks built from the flaming wreckage of your enemies.
We arrived at the museum, had a quick safety briefing, and were then equipped with World War 2-era coats and helmets for something they call the "Armor Experience." Unfortunately, I had decided to make use of the restroom and found myself with little in the way of selection for a coat. The helmet was clearly designed for the standard-issue American head of the '40s and not my gigantic Slavic melon, so that was a bit of a mess as well. The attendees were split between an APC sort of vehicle and a deuce-and-a-half, and we rolled out with a couple of tanks trailing behind us.
One of the other passengers in the Jimmy swore that he saw movement deep in the woods. A moment later, one of the reenactors on foot shouted "Krauts!" and a cacophony of gunfire erupted from soldiers on foot and crew-served weapons. We moved on to an open field where we got to see some genuine heavy American armor roll up on a mock German bunker, fire off a couple of blank shells, and see the Wehrmacht surrender. (It's always fun to see Wehrmacht surrender.)
The Armor Experience at The Museum of American Armor was way more fun than I had expected. I was there for World of Tanks: Mercenaries, but I found a really cool place not too far from home. If you're in the area and you'd like to see tons of classic American armor & equipment in person, I cannot more highly recommend that you pay them a visit.
Following the fun with tanks, we ended up getting some food and sitting through a presentation about the history of the game. Wargaming's Ingo Horn and Stephen Breden did most of the heavy lifting on the presentation and were genuinely humorous and charismatic throughout the whole thing. We then had the opportunity to see Wargaming's Senior Game Designer Leo Flores take a crack at playing some of the new content in World of Tanks: Mercenaries.
What's coming in World of Tanks: Mercenaries is essentially split into two portions. The PvP side of the game will have a new "nation" added that is simply kitbashed mercenary tanks with no affiliation to a particular nation. The PvE side has quite a few missions for players to work their way through. Mr. Flores talked about how players had been asking for a serious PvE challenge for some time, and Wargaming had done their best to deliver one with World of Tanks: Mercenaries.
The first mission Mr. Flores attempted to play had unfortunately been affected by a graphical bug with shaders, owing to a difference between the consoles used for testing and the development environment that Mercenaries was put together on prior to this event. This is just the kind of thing that happens with a game in beta, so I don't think it reflects poorly on the game. One of the developers communicated to me that they had figured out how to sort out the problem and it should be a non-issue on release.
A decision was made to skip the first mission and we moved onward to the second mission where we got to see a very odd-looking tank that was an amalgamation of various different armored vehicles doing its damnedest to accomplish the mission of stealing uranium for a private client. These missions take place in an alternate history where World War II never technically ended, in part because Germany wasn't stupid enough to attempt to invade Russia.
Throughout the course of the mission, Mr. Flores faced off against stationary gun emplacement and enemy tanks with several AI tanks serving as his backup. Damage accumulated gradually throughout the level, and he had to make use of a repair pack placed in a rather open and inconvenient spot to be able to press on. After much trial and tribulation, he was able to complete the level—but just barely. If the Senior Game Designer is having a bit of a rough time working his way through one of the missions, I think it's safe to say that Wargaming is definitely going to have a challenging scenario available for players when World of Tanks: Mercenaries goes live on consoles later this month.
We were then split into two groups where we could ask questions of the staff on site or try the game firsthand. Mykel Hawke and Garret Machine served as experts on all things military and were very pleasant to chat with. I decided to try the game first and talk with the developers later.
The entirety of my experience with World of Tanks is on PC. Playing the game with an Xbox controller was serviceable, but it certainly was not my preference. I bypassed the training (as I was well-familiar with the game by now) and hopped into the second of three available missions. The second mission didn't feel terribly complex; it was simply a matter of maneuvering from point to point with your AI comrades and taking out enemy tanks. I was able to win it quite handily despite using a control scheme that I wasn't experienced on and playing through a map that I had never seen before.
The third mission was an entirely different story. Tank Destroyers—analagous to snipers—were peppered throughout the map and concealed very well. The enemy had the high ground and opportunities for crossfire at multiple points. Nearly any approach one might make would certainly be under highly-accurate anti-tank fire that could make quick work of you and your allies.
My first attempt ended with my unceremonious death at the hands of some far-off tank that I couldn't quite see. Several later attempts ended similarly, though I made it a bit further each time. I think if I had about an hour or so I might have been able to figure the mission out, but I didn't want to monopolize World of Tanks: Mercenaries while there were other people who didn't yet have a chance to play the game. My experience with the franchise overall is limited compared to a seasoned player, but the PvE missions certainly felt quite challenging. Unfortunately, we were not able to partake in any PvP action in the event so I can't comment on how that played out.
I had wondered about the in-game currency one earns—can I complete PvE missions and then spend my earnings in the PvP portion of the game? In short, yes and no. The stars I earned playing PvE would only be good for PvE (and vice versa), but the silver coins would be universally used in any of the game modes. A Wargaming staffer stated that this was done deliberately to keep seasoned, longtime players from being able to just hop into the game and wreck face without any real challenge.
The PvE missions will also have an additional feature for players who are really looking to mix things up. Once you've completed them with the default tanks, you'll be able to go back and play it with any one of the over 600 tanks in the game that you've already unlocked. The difficulty will dynamically adjust depending on your setup. If you think bringing in a Tier X Heavy tank will make things easier, you will be very mistaken.
The upcoming content for World of Tanks is looking to be a lot of fun for consoles players. I had wondered—will Mercenaries be making its way to the PC or mobile versions of the game? Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be likely anytime in the near future. I asked several of the people from Wargaming just why exactly the game was even separated into multiple distinct versions in the first place. They weren't able to say much, but one could probably guess that it'd have something to do with technical limitations and/or licensing agreements with console manufacturers or other companies. It's a damn shame, because I had a ton of fun playing World of Tanks: Mercenaries but I won't be able to enjoy it myself when it comes out as I'm a PC gamer.
If you play on console, well, what's coming is shaping up to be pretty darn interesting. The PvE seems fun, and I'm sure the new Mercenary faction will bring something new to the table for the PvP side of the game. World of Tanks: Mercenaries is expected to release on June 26, 2018, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. If you're more of a PC gamer like I am, you can sign up for the PC version of the game here [Affiliate Link] and go hog wild with hundreds of historical tanks!
Disclosure: Wargaming facilitated travel from Manhattan to The Museum of American Armor where I was able to participate in an Armor Experience at their expense. Additionally, I was provided with food & drink throughout the day and I received a World of Tanks branded backpack at the conclusion of the press event. Finally, TechRaptor participates in an affiliate link program with Wargaming, and TechRaptor earns a small amount of money from business generated through designated links.
What do you think of World of Tanks: Mercenaries? Do you expect that the game will be able to provide that challenge that players have been looking for? Let us know in the comments below!