In the world of war games, developers usually make design decisions that pit realism against dynamism. What FPS fans tend to crave is quick, action-packed gameplay, not the slow, tense, slog that hyper-realistic games like "Operation Flashpoint" deliver and deliver well. Although some shooters try to bridge the gap by providing realistic aesthetics, there's usually some point where players are left thinking, "okay, that couldn't happen."
It might be due to the nature of tank warfare, or because of clever development by Wargaming.net, but "World of Tanks" provides a gaming experience that blends the action of a shooter with the realism of a strategy game. Just about anyone who enjoys shooters will find "World of Tanks" fun to play because it brings you to the action almost instantaneously, and doesn't force you to digest and master reams of information. If all you want to do is start the game, pick a tank, and shoot things, you're more than welcome to.
It may seem like a stretch, but "World of Tanks" should seriously appeal to fans of mech simulators like "MechWarrior" and "Armored Core." Each game is unique, but all three require players to think carefully about how they customize their vehicle before combat, and feature paced, tactical gameplay. There's still plenty of action, but thoughtlessly running around won't cut it and each class is different enough to require teamwork in the name of victory.
The action of "World of Tanks" is really fun, and for some fairly unique reasons. Although players are controlling tanks built in the early 1900's, the controls are intuitive and don't take much time to get used to. The only thing that might throw beginners off is learning how to simultaneously handle the turret and treads – inexperienced players will frequently find their aim or movement ruined because they forgot to pay attention to one while doing the other. This might sound tedious, but it only takes a few matches to get the hang of driving and shooting.
Wargaming.net could have taken the easy route and featured a simplistic hull point meter that drains until a tank dies. However, they went the extra mile and created a localized damage game mechanic. Most of the time your tank will operate without a hitch until it blows up, but it's fully possible for your tank treads to be shot apart. It's rare to have that depth of strategy in a shooter – movement and orientation make a big difference.
Part of what makes "World of Tanks" so fun is that you have to be conscious of your speed, turret speed, firepower, and handling. Although every tank uses the same control scheme, these simple aspects matter enough to significantly change each players strategy. Light tanks absolutely must keep moving and be aware of cover at all times. If you're skilled enough, it's even possible to kite around heavier tanks with slow moving turrets. With hundreds of tanks filling out five different c lasses, there are plenty of strategic and tactical choices to be made.
Although it's fun enough to roll around on your own, joining a clan creates a lot more opportunity for team tactics and strategy via clan map battles. It's a little disconcerting that lone wolves can't play on a metamap and reap the rewards therein, but it does promote in-game socializing rather than screaming about the promiscuity of your opponents' mothers. Clan battles can be very rewarding – picking a spot on a map and saying, "This is mine now," is great, but actually winning a territory nets you daily allotments of gold.
At the price of free, everyone should at least give "World of Tanks" a shot. Buying gold will increase the rate at which you accumulate in-game assets, but it doesn't create a pay-to-win system. Gold can be used to buy certain items directly, but can also be turned into experience and credits to purchase other types of items. There are a few instances where the game makes an obvious, if not minor, push for players to buy gold, but that's understandable since the game is free to play to begin with.
This game will be loved by tank and history buffs, mech game fans, or anyone who appreciates action games with a little thought and pacing to them, but should also appeal to fans of shooters. There might not be a story behind the game or all the flash and trim of a triple-A title, but that just lets players jump right to what matters: customizing, playing as, and blowing up tanks.