If you’re looking for a free-to-play WWII-modern era tank, plane, and ship combat simulation game, then you have two main choices to pick from. Both Wargaming’s “World of ___” series and War Thunder are free-to-play and very enjoyable games, but they both require a lot of grinding to unlock more weapons of war to play with. There is also a fierce rivalry between the two games, similar to the rivalry between Battlefield and Call of Duty. Both games/series have a few similarities and enough differences to cover different target audiences. I’ll explain the two games/series more in-depth and explain what game you should play depending on what you’re looking for.
Wargaming’s World of ___ series originally started off with a PC-only WWII and early Cold War tank combat simulation game called World of Tanks, which featured some of the most common and popular tanks from that era. Players drove around in a tank on a team of up to 15 players and fought the enemy team in various game modes, from deathmatch to capture the flag. World of Tanks featured a health bar system for the vehicles. Each shot did a set amount of damage depending on whether or not it penetrated the tank’s armor, what type of shell it was, and if the vehicle was angled at all. Shells could also bounce off armor or not penetrate at all. Combat is typically fast-paced and has a bit of an arcade feel to it. As for World of Warships and World of Planes, the other two big names in the series, the gameplay is pretty similar, though you can’t really stick with your team in Warships as well as you can in the other two games.
The World of ___ series also implements several prototype vehicles and vehicles that never made it past the drawing board as well, meaning you can run into some insane vehicles on the battlefield. An example of this, and one that is notorious in the World of Tanks community, is the WT Auf. E-100 tank destroyer, aka, the Waffle. This tank never existed, and the Germans barely considered building it in WWII. Wargaming put it into the game, and it is a true nightmare. It received so many nerfs that it ended up being removed from the game on PC. The Xbox players still have the ability to unlock it, though. But the wide selection of vehicles and nations really makes the game enjoyable because you never know what you’ll come across in a game.
As for tactics and strategies, the maps all have their own individual layouts that players will typically have a set strategy they automatically go to. Kind of like CoD, there is the usual three-lane system, where the players go left, right, or down the middle. Keeping an eye on the other sectors is vital to make sure you don’t get flanked. And speaking of flanking, trying to flank is essential with how armor works in this game. Very rarely will frontal shots penetrate the heavier tanks. Each tank class plays a vital role as well. Light tanks scout and grab the enemies’ attention, medium tanks are jack-of-all-trades, heavy tanks soak up the punishment, tank destroyers snipe from afar or blast tanks to bits, and artillery provides support from a distance.
War Thunder was also originally designed for PC until it became available to PlayStation and eventually Xbox. War Thunder sought to combine sea, air, and ground combat from WWII on to modern times. It took them a while to get naval units added, but now they’re really pumping out the ships. With a much more realistic gameplay style, players would be in games of up to 32 people in total and could play realistic battles where the teams were split up into the Allies and the Axis, or in arcade battles where teams were mixed. War Thunder can be a very difficult game to be good at since there are no health pools like in World of Tanks. Games are slower and more meticulous because of the risk of being one-shotted.
The addition of planes really makes it more chaotic as well. Trying to focus on the battle in front of you while hoping that the enemy planes don’t bomb you to hell and back can be challenging. Instead of having artillery, there are anti-aircraft vehicles to help keep the skies safe. Tank crews can and will be slaughtered en masse by enemy fire. In a battle, you can actually pick multiple vehicles to use instead of just one. But, if you have one vehicle that is several levels above the others, those other vehicles are basically useless.
Primary Differences and Conclusion
There are several major differences between the two games. The biggest is the style of gameplay. The Wargaming games are primarily arcade-y and faster-paced in general. War Thunder is more realistic and methodical, primarily due to how quickly you can get killed. There’s a LOT more rushing in World of Tanks, and 90% of the time, you’ll see at least one light tank deep in enemy territory. World of Tanks has artillery while War Thunder has anti-air. World of Warships has more ships at the moment, as well as aircraft carriers. War Thunder doesn’t have CVs as of yet but does have aircraft in the naval battles. Aircraft in War Thunder is much more fragile than World of Aircraft, and there are actually fewer lives than in WoA. War Thunder also goes well past the Cold War era with vehicles, too, while only World of Tanks is modern-ish at the moment.
Taking damage is vastly different too. As previously mentioned, one shot will more than likely do you in with War Thunder, except with the ships. If they don’t kill you, they’ll slaughter your crew and damage the equipment. In World of Tanks, you’ll probably survive most hits, or your tracks will get destroyed. They have a habit of eating shells. Ships are closer to being similar, but World of Warships has spongier ships unless you receive a barrage of torpedoes from a rushing destroyer.
So, to conclude, War Thunder is much more challenging and realistic; Wargaming’s series are more laid-back and arcade-y. War Thunder mixes land, sea, and air while Wargaming has separate games that focus on each individually. the vehicles in War Thunder are more realistic too, with vehicles that existed and some blueprint vehicles that might have been. Wargaming had more ships, planes, and tanks that weren’t ever produced and barely even thought of. There are a few more customization options for War Thunder too, such as branches for camo. Though both games/series are on consoles, War Thunder isn’t really ported all that well. Keyboards are almost required for the many, many controls. Both games are similar but have plenty of differences to make them unique and enjoyable games, so long as you don’t mind the grind.