Close the hatch and man the turrets as we take to the front lines and get an early look at Total Tank Simulator.
Due to blast into Early Access on PC, Total Tank Simulator is a new strategic sim from developer Noobz From Poland. We got the option to join the battle for the Eastern Front early and try out the upcoming title. With a genuinely interesting physics engine, strategic management, and a very distinct visual style, this new combat sim shipped us off towards our next victory.
Turning up at boot camp for the first time, Total Tank Simulator doesn’t immediately present like many other military titles. Don’t expect Total Tank Simulator to follow the classic approach of Batallion 1944 or attack with top tier ray tracing. This isn’t Call of Duty but it certainly does stand apart from Command & Conquer clones. Whether that is immediately evident from the walls of bold colors of polygonal shapes that give the entire title a juvenile feel is debatable but that doesn’t make basic training any easier.
From the first moment, we glimpsed Total Tank Simulator it was evident that we would need some instruction. Introducing a set of sample maps, the initial training sims give players a set of adversarial red versus blue scenarios and gain a basic understanding of how to deploy units, utilize the camera controls, and direct individual units on their own path of destruction. What becomes very evident early on from these tutorials is Total Tank Simulator’s reliance on a plethora of contextual controls that players must memorize. This makes the tutorials, however limited, absolutely essential to understanding combat and surviving the rigors of war.
Total Tank Simulator comes with a number of gameplay modes available for armchair generals. Aside from the traditional campaign mode, we were also able to get some action in the title’s sandbox simulator mode. Sandbox mode opens up almost instant access to everything that this armored action sim has to offer on custom maps, pitching up to four battalions against each other in 1v1 ad 2v2 matches. As with many grand scale war sims, it’s best to jump into the campaign mode and allow the progression curve to drip feed the game’s systems and controls in a staggered fashion. This is implicit in the fact that the tutorials are a little less than complete at this time.
When Total Tank Simulator arrives in 2020, it will feature a total of six factions, each with their own strengths weaknesses, and weapons of war. In this particular instance, we had access to Russian and German army units for our hands-on. This provided a fairly polar set of options when jumping straight into Total Tank simulator’s campaign mode. Campaign mode, as you’d expect, provides a narrative set of missions that players must overcome with a set of predetermined restrictions. This includes capture scenarios, eliminating enemy opponents, or picking off a particular target across a total of 50 battle maps, meaning there is no shortage of encounters. The variety of missions seems acceptable for a game in Early Access but largely it’s the terrain and mix of opposition that keep things interesting, instead of the mission objectives.
Opening up on an animated Russian officer, the campaign mode proceeds to set up a range of sub-missions that players can pick from, each of them a step on the course to victory against a Geman offensive. If you are going to hold out against this powerful foe it is imperative that you know your forces. While the German tanks, troops, and tactics are expensive to deploy and generally more powerful, Russian units are quick to action but much less well defended.
These differences make a thoughtful tactical approach to each scenario particularly impactful. Before jumping into battle, troops must be purchased, barracks deployed, and tanks put on track. This isn’t a traditional resource gathering strategy. Once units are lost they are largely gone for good. Only factories or barracks can produce more cannon fodder and they cannot be rebuilt if left undefended. This makes selecting an effective range of air and ground assault vehicles all the more crucial before blasting into battle. Whether it means mining the local forest or simply swarming your opponent with a tank rush, the range of firepower available is definitely worth noting.
Progressive Atack Bears!
Overcome enough scenarios and you’ll find yourself rewarded with a variety of currencies. Money and tech tree points, as well as personal experience points all feed into the game’s progression system unlocking access to more powerful bonuses, new technology for your troops, and providing a boost to the war chest that needs to be managed. While balancing the books over the course of a campaign isn’t exactly my idea of fun, each force has a satisfying set of available unlocks from advanced pyrotechnics to bears with flame throwers strapped to them. Total Tank Simulator might tout itself as a physics driven experience but it clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Sit Back And Enjoy The Ride
Choosing how to advance your army’s tech and deploying these ingenious weapons of war could easily be considered the most important moment of the campaign in this war machine. The military-industrial complex always wins out and picking the right approach to war means combat is a sedentary affair. Once you’ve opened a scenario and placed a series of units across an active zone, combat proceeds as a frenzied rush of activity. While commanders look on from above, the troops below get to work. AI drives both sides to seek out points of interest and engage in skirmishes to undermine the opposition. Amidst a series of animated explosions and spiraling aircraft, gamers can jump into the cockpit of a fighter or co-opt control of a tank to run around the battlefield. This is one of the standout features of Total Tank Simulator and a ton of fun. A brilliant distraction from the flow of battle, it also adds a ton of variety to each encounter. Who doesn’t want to be an attacking bear, right?
The breadth of content on offer is both a blessing and a curse for Total tank Simulator. Eventually, six factions will each have their own campaign mode, and experiencing the fracas from several points of view proves to be a definite bout of chaotic fun. However, Total Tank Simulator definitely leans heavily on the simulator side of action right now. Due to some seriously fast action and an AI that acts of its own accord battles are, as I hinted at, a passive affair. Controlling individual units is fun but usually brief and tends to be useful only when redirecting a unit to a particular target or capture point, while the sandbox mode would benefit from an online competition. Instead, it seems to give players a complete toy chest full of soldiers and then leaves gamers to play with themselves.
The incentive to leave the AI to do the dirty work is enhanced by a UI that currently has plenty of tactical information but little obvious way to interact with the overall actions of the troops under your command, outside of stepping into their shoes. A large swathe of controls that players must simply memorize and a hectic battle, with little understanding of what the AI has decided it needs to do, means that taking a grunt into action can quickly become a solo survival run.
Taken as a reincarnation of preschool toy soldiers, Total Tank simulator is a jolly good show. The whimsical animation, great sense of its own ridiculousness, and frantic action make for a game that I’d love to see expand onto mobile. Much of the strategy comes with crafting the best team to enter a scenario and makes for a dazzling explosion of action, punctuated by well some impactful choices. This rookie sim is still a bit rough around the edges, and if the team behind it flesh out an online option then I could see myself taking a tank into battle again. You can keep an eye on Total Tank Simulator over at the official Steam Store page for its Early Access release later this year.