Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Waltzing Matilda in WoT

I'm developing a real liking - perhaps naturally - for the British mid-tier tanks in WoT. My latest acquisition is the much maligned (as all British tanks were I suppose) Matilda Mk. II> Infantry Tank. I was so smitten with the idea of having this plodding beast that I actually purchased the Premium Soviet Mk. IV version first!

The British Matilda tank was supplied to the Soviets as 'Lend Lease' during WW2.
This version has the 76 mm ZiS-96 gun which is only so-so for it's tier (Tier V) but this is intended to help balance out the Matilda's very good survivability due to it's good armour. It has been said that the Matilda IV is a 'pocket sized KV-1', which is a generalisation but certainly you do find that you get a satisfying amount of bounces when driving this tank.

The down sides are it's torturously slow speed and it's guns lack of penetration. The ZiS 96 gun is a Tier V  gun with damage stats of 110/110/156 and penetration stats of just 86/102/38, but a rate of fire of 16.15 per minute.

However, there was something about the plodding 'I'll get there eventually' attitude of this tank that I liked and so I earned myself the British version, which is actually a tier lower at just IV.

No logic dictates that the British service (and non-premium) version of the Matilda should be a little inferior somehow. And while armour is the same, and so it the horendous speed, the gun ability of this tank makes it worth a look.

Now the gun I want to highlight is the British QF 2-pdr Mk. X (40mm) and its stats look like this:  Damage - 50/50/60, penetration -78/121/23 and rate of fire - 28.57. On the surface you would say that it is inferior to it's Soviet counterpart, but that rate of fire and penetration lift it's performance IF you happen to be one of the top tier tanks in the game you are playing (nothing changes if you are pulled into a higher tier match, you are still cannon fodder).

I think it's a mark of how good this tank is - when matched in a favourable tier game - that the YouTube World of Tanks commentator QuickyBaby actually did a tank review of this tank (and he never normally strays from higher tier monsters)...

Now while the attraction of the Matilda when matched favourably is obvious how to deal with the inevitable matchmaking disaster is less so obvious. This is mainly because of your speed - you cannot simply turn yourself into a Medium Tank come Scout for the big boys!

No, your best bet - obviously - is to 'buddy up' with a similarly plodding Heavy to provide some sort of support and hope you can chip away at modules and weak points with some nicely placed (or lucky) critical hits. But do get used to the sound of bounces!

My 'buddy' and I spot a flanking opportunity as the enemy tank is occupied
with our team-mates in the next valley.
The above screenshot show me in my Soviet Matilda acting as 'escort' for a KV-1 Heavy. You have to stick to your buddy like glue and even perform the unenviable job of meat-shield if the going gets bad, hoping that if he survives and you take the heat he can reload and take out the attacking enemy.

This is - nearly - what happened in the following screenshot...

Having flanked our target - a rather scary KV-2 'Troll-Cannon' - I kept popping out in order to draw his attention and fire (while praying not to get hit). Once the KV-2 ineffectually 'shot his load' at me and missed my KV-1 companion drove out and shot him in the ass! Job done!

WoT's New Personal Missions
Finally, I would just like to mention the recent addition of the personal missions to the game. Obviosul;y World of Tanks is fundamentally a multi-player game - there is no single-player campaign associated with it.

Mission name on the left of the panel and explanation of the task on the right.
 Now this is OK, the whole premiss and fun of the game is the person v person action and is enhanced when two of your friends get together with you to form a platoon. But there are times you like to have a spot of solo gaming and that's where the game's missions come in and add a bit of a spice and gives you some nice rewards too!

Here's a close-up of a particular task. This one is for Medium tanks.
While I call them 'personal missions' there are some that demand that you platoon-up to perform the tasks. This can be a little frustrating as it can impede your progress through the missions if your friends are not around or are unwilling to help you achieve your specific missions. (And this is why I call the personal missions, as some of the tasks are not entirely compatible with 'team play' tactics.)

There is a 'mission tree' for each type of armoured vehicle and the tasks get increasingly convoluted - and sometimes downright suicidal - as you rise through the mission list. In the end there is a nice prize for you if you complete all the missions in a mission section, in this case I might earn myself a nice StuG IV.

As I say, it's not a real single-player mode  as you are still playing normal WoT, with the same maps and the same number of real people playing against you. There's no campaign story, no NPC tanks and no ability to play the game 'off-line'. But still, it gives you something to be working for while you death-match your way through the opposing force!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Battle Supremacy (Mac OS) - Night fighting!

Just when I thought there wasn't much more to say about the 'poor man's World of Tanks on the Mac' - Atypical's Battle Supremacy - the little blighter goes and surprises me.

Now - forgive the pun - but this isn't a game changer, the game is still petty crude (compared to WoT) but it does have one thing that World of Tanks hasn't...Night battles!

This caught me completely by surprise! I logged on for a quick spot of lunchtime tank blasting and was dropped into a midnight urban scene with only my tank's headlamps and the silhouette of buildings in the moonlight for illumination. But guess what...It worked brilliantly!

The guys over at World of Tanks should really take a look at this, the cover of darkness really adds a level of uncertainty that makes the whole game mode tense and interesting. The only clue you have to the enemy whereabouts is your 'radar' (why do tanks have radar, I do not know) and the enemies red ID tags.

The inaccuracy of the ballistic physics of the game still spoil things a little (...'Really? My Tiger I was just knocked out by that Matilda? Come on!...) and the speed with which the smaller tanks can race around is crazy when this mobility is not then balanced by lesser hitting power. But, it is what it is and more people seem to be online playing it each day.

Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee! The Matilda is the Ferrari of tanks in
the game. Noting like the actual Matilda which was a plodding and unreliable
hunk of iron with a piddling gun!
It struck me today what Battle Supremacy reminds me of - it's like an updated version of the 80s coin-op game by Atari called 'Battlezone'. A very simple blaster with little realism, but fast gratuitous 'blow 'em up' fun.

Remember Battlezone? This Tron-like 'VR' game (yes, they thought this was
'VR' in the 80s) is very reminiscent of Battle Supremacy. The way colliding
tanks pirouette in both games is remarkably similar!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Battle Supremacy (Mac OS)

I actually took a look at the FPS tank game earlier last year. At fist I was a bit excited as I thought that - finally - a World of Tanks-like game had come to the Mac, but alas I was to be bitterly disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, Battle Supremacy IS like a poor man's WoT - in a very rudimentary way - but simply lacks many of the features that makes World of Tanks so popular. Fundamentally Battle Supremacy lacks both the polish and the depth of the PC version of the popular multiplayer online tank battle game. It took me about 15 minutes of play to realise that it wouldn't give me my 'tank fix' on my Mac and so I shelved it (luckily it was only £3.99 so it wasn't a huge loss)...

However, I recently read a review which highlighted the online aspect of Battle Supremacy - as opposed to the single player campaign mode that I had played - and it was positive enough to have me dust off the app and spark it up again.

While basic the Battle Supremacy tank models are actually similar in their level
of detail to the tank models of World of Tanks when it was very first released.
Unfortunately the physics and handling is a world apart.

Here's where you expect me to say 'and oh, it was lots better than I remember'! Sadly, no, I won't go as far as that, the basic game mechanics and physics are still awkwardly clunky but the added dimension of playing real players did spice up the gameplay somewhat.

And full marks to Atypical Games - the developer - they are persevering and attempting to improve the game. New tanks and maps have been added and they continue to de-bug some of the basic flaws and in online mode there is some fun to be had.

In fact, I would say that Battle Supremacy does add a fairly acceptable fast gratification aspect to my gaming. If I have only 15 or 20 minutes to spare - say during lunch - the game actually does hold my attention for that short period and, I'm surprised to say, does provide me with a certain amount of fun.

I am glad Atypical Games are sticking with the game as I can see how it could turn into a half-way decent casual shooter. It will never have the depth of World of Tanks, and I could never see myself sitting down for a three hour long session of intense tank-battling with it, it simply isn't that in-depth to hold my attention that long. But as a 'coffee break' blaster it has a certain unsophisticated charm.

There are still annoying glitches in the game and the handling of the tanks is definitely not smooth or responsive. Occasionally I find myself driving in completely the opposite direction of where I want to go and the graphics look ten years old, but at £3.99 it's still worth a look.

Things Battle Supremacy doesn't have that World of Tanks does:

  • WoT has 15 v 15 player random games (BS - apply named? - is supposed to be 10 v 10 player, but I've never seen a full server).
  • WoT have in-depth upgrade paths for both tank types and equipment (BS has a very crude equipment upgrade system and no logical upgrade path for tanks)
  • WoT has 'national' tank lines (BS has a hotch-potch selection of tanks)
  • WoT has player/tank skill tiers to balance battle (BS has no skill or tank tech tiers)
  • WoT has currently about 20 different maps cycling (BS has about 3)

I could go on but you get the idea. In it's defence WoT has a HUGE amount of money available for continued development based on player subscriptions and 'pay to win' upgrades, Atypical Games has to work with the tiny amount of money it get's from the £3.99 purchase fee.

I'll continue to play Battle Supremacy (in small doses) over lunch times and really hope it continues to develop as it least it allows the Mac user to get a glimpse into what he's missing and provides a quick fix of shoot-em-up fun!

(Incidentally, there are several ways to get World of Tanks working on your Mac, including STEAM game streaming and Windows emulation, but from my experience the performance of the game is simply too impaired by the software work-arounds to be worth it.)

UPDATE: Well shut my mouth - just finished writing this when I noticed an update which includes greater 'pay to upgrade' features! This is bad and good - bad in that it means that there isn't a level playing field as some players will pay to get the best tanks and good because it might mean greater development of the basic game. Take your pick and which you think it is.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Christmas Analogue Game Haul

I've sort of made my Christmas analogue games a foot note post as they don't really come under the 'Milgeek' theme heading - other than that they are games I will be playing. I *did* have a war game on my Xmas wish list - Memoir '44 - but, to be fair, it was very expensive and is something that I should be buying myself.

Anyway, as the board games I did get as part of my Christmas treat are not military related I won't do a full post describing them but instead will point you to some online video reviews on them (why reinvent the wheel)...

First off, I received 'Ticket to Ride: Europe' - short story, I wanted a 'family' game that was just a bit more involved than good old Monopoly. This railway tycoon track building game seems pretty easy to pick up and yet can involve sneaky strategies and cut-throat tactics once players are used to the basic mechanics...

I should add that a great way to learn the basic mechanics is to download a digital version of the game (that's what I did). These are available for desktop OS, tablet and mobile - I bought both the Mac OS and iPhone versions and they are terrific casual games in themselves.

The second game I bought with my Christmas money was 'Dungeon!' - which, roughly, is a sort of introduction to the concept of 'Dungeons and Dragons' without the need for complex manuals, pencils paper and lots of funny shaped dice or dressing yourself up and giving yourself an 'amusing' name!

This is quite a 'young persons' game (8 years old plus it recommends) but is a nice way to introduce a skeptical grown-up family to 'role playing' of a sort. I suppose you could say it's a board game intended to get your 'young 'uns' interested in playing more advanced and full-blown RPGs.

So, there you go. Not very Milgeeky but none-the-less two new games I am playing at the moment.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Christmas break, a haul of new adventures!

As far as gaming goes Christmas is an opportunity to relax and catch up on all the gaming I've been meaning to do but just haven't had the time. It also means the annual STEAM sale and I bought a couple of excellent single player games for my PC that have been on my watch list for quite some time.

South Park: Stick of Truth and Wolfenstein: New Order have stubbornly refused to drop in price, despite being 6 or so months old. I refused to pay the extortionate release prices for these two games and held out until STEAM finally offered them at a discount. Quite a big thing for me as I usually cave and pay the full price for games I want after a month or so!

Anyway, of course these are single player PC games and I have sort-of gotten out of playing SP games as a rule. I think the last single player only game I played was Fallout 3! But Christmas is the ideal time to pass a few hours solo gaming as on-line friends tend to be a bit scarce due to family commitments.

South Park: Stick of Truth is as stupid and adolescent as you imagine it would be, but as a big South Park fan I am completely happy with the never ending fart jokes! It is very faithful to the series and as a lot of reviewers have commented it is just like being in an episode of the cartoon - all your favourite characters are there.

Here's my South Park character - 'Douchbag' the Level 2 Thief. About to set off
on my adventure aided by Butters...Not exactly an RPG dream team!
Wolfenstien: New Order is a continuation of a classic franchise that hails back to my Mac Performa days (with Wolfenstien 3D in 1992).This is a real Milgeek fiesta of WW2 FPS, Nazi Occult sci-fi and alternative history nonsense. If you loved the movie 'Iron Skies' then you will love this silly romp. There are plenty of cool weapons to play with and plenty of stupid Nazis to despatch (seriously, even in an alternative future Nazi guards are still the dumbest creatures you can imagine)!

The main character in Wolfenstein - Blazkowicz - has changed quite a bit
over the years! His 1992 cartoon pixel self has developed into the 2014
realistic rendering. None the less the game-play is still firmly comic.
Aside from these two solo games I have been lured back to playing World of Tanks again (...I know...) by the latest 9.5 patch and it's inclusion of some new British armour. Chief among these are two of my favourites, the Sherman Firefly and the Achilles tank destroyer - both armed with the pretty potent 17 Pounder gun. It's not an exaggeration to say that British WoT fans have been pleading with the developers to bring out the Firefly even since they released the British tank line.

The WoT Sherman Firefly. The game models have slowly improved since the
game was first released, this model is quite superb and check out my 17 Pounder!
The attraction of these two tanks - for me at least - is it adds a very handy pair of British 'scout sniper' type of tanks at Tier VI. I love Tier V/VI, they lots of fun with plenty of movement and action but with the ability to punch above their weight if you get dragged into a higher tier game. While the 17 Pounder gun isn't a big hitter - compared to my M36 Jackson's 90mm or the Jag. Pnz. IV's mighty 88 - it's good range, accuracy and relatively high rate of fire means yo can chip away at heavier types and really annoy them.

The Achilles, somewhat at odds with the Christmas background in it's British
desert camo! I am still deciding whether I like this Tier VI  tank destroyer as
it has yet to displace the M36 Jackson as my favourite level VI mount.
Anyway...That's my Christmas 2014. Plenty of games (I'll be telling you about my Xmas analogue games in a separate post later). I wish you all a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2015!