If there's one thing we can all agree on during this most confusing of times on planet earth it's that everyone and their granny absolutely loves tanks. It's true. Go out on the street right now and ask anyone, you won't find a single person with a bad word to muffle through their face masks about these glorious war machines.
Belarusian developer Wargaming has cleverly tapped into this undeniable fact with its long-running World of Tanks series which, as of the latest official count, boasts over 160 million registered commanders and has seen around 10 million players online concurrently. That's a lot of tanks. This is a hugely popular series, then, with a long and prestigious history which our very own Gavin Lane, driven almost entirely mad by his uncontrollable love of tanks, recently wrote a feature on which you can read here. It's a series that's been ported to just about every available system in order to service humanity's deep and insatiable love of the tank, and now it's the turn of the Nintendo Switch with this port of 2014's World of Tanks Blitz.
World of Tanks Blitz takes the tried-and-tested multiplayer gameplay of its full-fat forebearers and streamlines it for mobile play, reducing team numbers from fifteen per side to seven, shortening match times and decreasing map sizes. However, these small modifications aside, this is much the same game that people have been playing incessantly for the last decade. You'll start out with a handful of low-level tanks, engage in strategic battles that task you with capturing bases and blowing enemy vehicles to pieces and then jump into dizzyingly vast tech trees with your accumulated XP in order to upgrade, unlock and improve in a cycle that will take you several hundred hours to see through with every bit of hardware on offer.
In terms of gameplay, for a free to play title, World of Tanks Blitz is a reasonably solid affair. Battles have a fair amount of strategy to them with four different tank types available to trundle around maps in. You'll start out with light and nimble units that let you bomb around at the expense of armour and firepower then gradually move up the ranks, unlocking access to medium and heavy vehicles as well as great big destroyers capable of downing lesser foes with a single blast of their long-range mega guns. Matches see you attempt to capture various control points whilst ensuring that you keep your tank covered at every angle from enemy fire. You'll need to make use of buildings, walls and other scenery in order to make sure nobody has a shot at your vulnerable weak points and inching your way around maps attempting to get the strategic drop on the other team is pretty fun stuff, for the most part.
Every single one of the historically accurate, mid-twentieth century machines on offer has a plethora of unlockable parts, ammunition, crew and equipment for you to work towards gaining and, happily, the game doesn't gate any of this progress behind its premium paywall. If you don't mind the grind, you'll be able to rise up the ranks from level one whippets right up to awesome level ten behemoths without ever putting your hand in your pocket. This, of course, doesn't stop World of Tanks Blitz incessantly trying to get you to part with your real-world cash in exchange for premium access and other shiny trinkets – even with our premium account activated it still constantly reminded us of other things we could purchase – but this is all par for the course with FTP games and, to its credit, Wargaming hasn't allowed the core balance of its game to be affected; as is the case in Fortnite, there's no way to effectively 'pay to win' here.
If you are tempted to jump into the premium access side of things, you'll find XP is dished out more readily; you'll have easier access to the many boosters that see you gain rewards more quickly and also open up a mission structure that gives you goals to work towards as you progress up the endless tech trees for each and every tank in the game. Players who want to play entirely for free, though, can rest assured that premium players really haven't got any upper hand in battles which match tanks of similar levels together at all times.
However, herein lies World of Tanks Blitz's biggest problem. Attempting to ensure that matches remain balanced by matching tank levels in this way means that you'll always be facing off against machines of similar power to your own. On paper this reads fine but, in practice, it kinda renders the process of upgrading a little bit pointless beyond the fun of collecting. Playing a game here in low-level tanks vs other low-level tanks feels pretty much identical to playing in a match filled with the very top-tier, most powerful units available. You can't really feel the benefit of growing stronger because you're always facing opponents of the same strength that take the same number of hits to down. In fact, we found that we'd rather play in the beginner tanks because they move around the map quicker, rather than trundling along at the often maddeningly slow pace of their bigger brethren.
Further to this, there's a problem with regards to team coordination when playing with random strangers, which we guess a lot of people will do for the most part (although you can set up and join clans). In the PC and other console versions of World of Tanks, there's a quick comms system accessible by holding in a bumper button which allows you to dole out simple commands or requests to the rest of your team. In World of Tanks Blitz, however, this comms system is nowhere to be seen and without it there's no way to put together any kind of group strategy, meaning winning a game is pot luck for the most part, unless you've got a team of pals to play with. We're pretty hopeful this function will be patched into the game in pretty short order but, for now, it's a bit of an oversight that really affects how teams work together.
These issues aside, though, World of Tanks Blitz does a reasonably good job of delivering the core gameplay, evidently beloved by so many, to Nintendo's hybrid platform. In terms of performance, this one isn't exactly a looker – although it does have a certain old-school charm – and, as a result of this, it runs at a perfectly solid 30fps at 1080p docked and 720p in handheld mode. Matches are always quick to jump into, the inclusion of cross-play with other platforms ensuring that servers are always chock full of budding commanders, there are touchscreen controls to help navigate the game's many menus and gyroscopic controls are available for fine-tuning those long-range shots whilst aimed down the barrel of your cannon.
If you can overlook the match balancing issues, a lack of communication options with random teammates and the game's incessant pushing of its premium features, there's still a reasonable amount of fun to be had here. With hundreds of historically accurate tanks from eight different countries to get to grips with, plenty of maps and an endless stream of bits and bobs to unlock and customise at your leisure, World of Tanks Blitz is a pretty successful mobile conversion of a series that's proven wildly popular over the past decade.
World of Tanks Blitz takes the core gameplay of its full-fat forebearers and translates it fairly successfully to Nintendo's hybrid platform. This one's not going to win any beauty pageants, it's highly repetitive, there are some balancing issues and a pretty essential comms system is MIA but, overall, there's still a decent game to get to grips with here – especially if you like tanks, which, as we've already established, everybody does. With a huge number of tanks, countless upgrades and none of the absolute essentials hidden behind the game's premium paywall, there's literally hundreds of hours of tank-blasting action to indulge in that's well worth checking out for the princely sum of zero.