World of Tanks: War Stories – Hands to Treads With Single Player Tanks

Last week, Wargaming announced that single-player campaigns are coming to World of Tanks, and we had the chance to go hands on with these War Stories at their Chicago studio before the first two release on August 22nd. Acting as a kind of tutorial mission, Brothers in Armor is the first campaign, telling the tale of the Battle of Romania. While many players already know how to play, and there is already a tutorial mode in the game, it acts as a nice refresher course. Brothers in Armor ends up being a quick enough tutorial that experienced players won’t sit around stuck and bored, and yet somehow an in-depth enough experience that gives new players a chance to try out some tank mechanics for the first time.

Getting the fit just right for this doorway into the single-player content is crucial. These campaigns have been long demanded by fans of the game, but will also serve as an entry point for players that may have never wanted to jump into a free-to-play, 15v15 multiplayer experience. Once the first mission helps you get the hang of moving, aiming, shooting — you know, all the things you would want to do in a tank — the second and third chapters of this first story throw you right into the heat of tactical tank battle.

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It quickly became clear to me that War Stories is every bit World of Tanks. This is the same purposeful movement, the same rigorous combat, the same thundering tanks that turn a grassy countryside into a flaming battlefield in the multiplayer game. The difference in War Stories is not being able to rely on your team for victory after your tank’s destruction. Sure, you have AI tanks on your side, and you can bring a co-op player in (online only, sorry couch co-op fans!) to run each mission tread to tread. But I found that playing fast and loose – as fast as the tanks would allow — ended in me failing these missions on more than one occasion.

I was forced to adopt a more tactical play style to achieve victory, sitting back and approaching each situation smartly. You can give orders to the AI friendlies around you, scouting the area and setting up ambushes. It’s how I should have been playing World of Tanks all along, but while the multiplayer game doesn’t harshly punish rash decisions and poor playing, the War Stories can’t be completed without smart play. Overall, the single-player campaign ends up feeling like a great way to train up for playing competitively, all while giving interesting stories and alternate takes on history.

Character and Personality

Now, I’m no history buff, so some of the alternate history takes don’t mean much to me, but Wargaming did a great job making these narrative experiences meaningful beyond just a handful of dialog that explains the where and the why. Each mission is bookended by high quality motion comics that strike interest in these stories even for those that may not know the details of the historic stories. The comics add personality, heart, and character that isn’t otherwise present in the tank combat. It lifts the lid on these rolling metal deathtraps and gives you a peek at what’s inside.

Flashpoint Berlin is the second campaign coming to to War Stories, an alternate take on the blockade of Berlin. It changes the environment from a green mountainous region to a snowy city with a worsening blizzard as each mission progresses. It’s nice to see two starkly different campaigns launching with War Stories, and the next two will follow this trend. One will feature the Cuban Missile Crisis if it had indeed resulted in the launching of nukes, coming in September, and the final one is titled Kennedy’s War, so you can imagine that one will another great story when it launches in October. After that, Wargaming expects to add new content every 60 days or so.

The future of War Stories is where the real potential lies. World of Tanks regularly has one-off events like the moon mode, Halloween modes, and Christmas modes. What’s sad is watching these special events come and go, but War Stories gives Wargaming the opportunity to give these modes some permanence and story. During my time visiting Wargaming, it was hinted that there could be a space campaign in the works for War Stories, and there are tons of other ideas that are being kicked around with the team. War Stories doesn’t have to be limited to plausible history, but can finally start to explore some of the more fantastical elements that the World of Tanks team has previously been hesitant to explore.

Challenge mode will allow you to replay each campaigns’ three missions with additional challenges and, perhaps most importantly, your own tanks. You can continue to gain progress on them, leveling them up and building their skill trees, so War Stories and the multiplayer are intrinsically connected. This isn’t a separate game. It’s a new part of a very successful free-to-play franchise that will only help to attract more players to the franchise, in addition to providing a sense of newness for existing players.

A New Facet of Tanks

War Stories really helps to round out World of Tanks, bringing a new facet to the multiplayer tank combat game. It meshes incredibly well with the multiplayer mode, using the same microtransaction strategy. This means that, at least for the announced War Stories, we won’t be paying any money. That’s not to say this structure won’t change in the future, but for now the development team is fighting tooth and nail to make sure you’ll never come up against a paywall in World of Tanks. As I mentioned in my review when it released on PS4 last year, “the transactions in World of Tanks are not paywalls. Instead, think of them as time savers.” This remains true with War Stories.

On top of it all, I got to play these first two War Stories in 4k on a PS4 Pro. It might not be true 4k — 3200 x 1800 with checkerboarding — but it looks incredible. The level of detail, fidelity, and increased draw distance makes everything pop, not to mention the HDR compatibility really drawing out the contrasts and depths of colors. If you have a PS4 Pro, it’d be a crime not to use it for World of Tanks. It looks that good.

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World of Tanks War Stories shows strong support for Wargaming’s free-to-play title. They are consistently creating a whole new game through updates, and instead of just building on the foundations, they are raising their baseline with every new bit of content they put out. It will be interesting to see how Wargaming utilizes this new platform they’ve created, as well as what kind of new audience it attracts to a game that was previously multiplayer only. You can start jumping into these War Stories on August 22nd, and expect new ones to come out every couple of months after that.

World of Tanks War Stories was previewed at an event at Wargaming Chicago. Wargaming provided travel and accommodations for the trip.