Posted November 9, 2014 by Peter in News

Hands on: Armored Warfare (PC)

Armored Warfare logo
Armored Warfare logo

Driving a tank should be one of the most satisfying things in the world. The roads would be yours, no obstacles to stand in your way (for long)… and the only hazard would be unfriendly tanks coming the other way. Obsidian Entertainment’s Armored Warfare looks to capture that satisfaction in a team-based MMO; Games Fiends got to take a look.

Obsidian Entertainment’s Matt Festa was on hand to talk us through what is available, and what currently isn’t – the game is still in development, with acknowledgements of adjustments still to be made. While the finished game is promised to have a 15 vs 15 PvP mode, there is a strong focus on it’s PvE mode, with missions intended for three to five players in relatively balanced groups taking on large numbers of NPCs – and this was the mode demoed.

It uses the WASD keyboard layout with mouse for looking and aiming, sharing a feel with many FPS titles. However, the sheer mass of the tanks means game play is held at a different pace, which Festa describes as a “strategic shooter game”. His enthusiasm for both the game and the genre comes across, joining journalists for sessions and naming several FPS titles he enjoys. “There’s a lot of us at [Obsidian] who are pretty hardcore shooter fans, and so to do something like this which is a little different from a typical shooter was an awesome opportunity.”
Armored Warfare screen
“It’s a lot more focused on tactics and strategy than just on twitch skill”. Positioning is essential, for example – tanks can’t just evade shots, but their armour is stronger on the front than the sides or rear, meaning a properly lined up vehicle can negate incoming damage. This goes both ways though – during the demo session seeing the enemy T-80 take zero damage from a shot on the nose, before flanking it to do actual damage when its attention was on my team-mates.

The demo sessions were of a four player mission, with our team having to destroy three bunkers scattered across the map; a secondary mission was also in place to destroy three further targets – SAM missile sites in this case – but within five minutes of starting. Of course, the enemy forces don’t plan on making this easy which is where a balanced team is key.

Vehicles cover several categories, from the imposing mass of a main battle tank, through to the lighter artilleries, tank destroyers and scout vehicles. A large number of each has been promised for the full release, but the demo had just under a dozen to select from, although this was enough for the group to properly support each other.
Armored Warfare screen
The tanks are pretty self explanatory – rolling walls of metal with big guns on the front, and feel as powerful and satisfying as you would hope. This is balanced by their lack of speed and manoeuvrability, and in the game spotting ranges are key too, with tanks often being visible before they can see their enemy.

This is balanced by the lighter scouting vehicles, which obviously are not intended for fighting heavy armour but are still dangerous in the right hands, and can spot enemy movement from a far greater distance.

This also benefits artillery, which have the ability to “aim” using a satellite map of the battlefield – although their ability to land shots is balanced by obstructing terrain, projectile travel time, and degrees of inaccuracy preventing pinpoint targeting… but getting a session at the controls reveals how satisfying it was to lead a moving target heading out of range and still land that finishing shot.

Players can buy a variety of vehicles between missions, Festa explains. “The vehicles in Armored Warfare are provided by dealers; each of these dealers has a specialised theme, they have vehicles that are around that theme, and they have a background narrative that fits within their context of a greater story.” A quick example was given on the day of two dealers, each specialising in vehicles from specific countries.
Armored Warfare screen
Upgrades are also possible using a tech tree. Examples shown included different barrel weapons, more armour on weak spots and smoke grenades to break the line of sight. However, the plan is for these to be balanced with consequences too, such as reduced manoeuvrability as weight increases to prevent upgrades simply being a race to the top. The near-future element of the game is emphasised with the equipment, albeit with some additions and adjustments still being made. “We’re trying to focus a lot on figuring out how to do all the modern equipment and what impact that’s going to have on the game play mechanics.”

But being an MMO featuring tanks, it was impossible not to bring up World of Tanks, Wargaming’s PvP title. Festa is complimentary towards it. “It’s a great game. Being compared to them is certainly not a bad thing for us.” However, Armored Warfare does a lot that is different too. The PvE mode is most significant, with the missions giving players a chance to enjoy online play but avoid the pressure of competitive play – or get some practice of the mechanics before jumping in.

Certainly, the time taken to get the NPC AI right is significant, although Festa says that getting both PvE and PvP right is critical. “I wouldn’t say that we’re focused on PvE, I think we want both modes to be really good because we know that a lot of players expect good PvP [...] but we want to offer this stuff so we have something that’s a little bit more unique and also that’s more appealing to players who aren’t as into the super-hardcore competitive stuff in those matches. Because it can be intimidating jumping in [...] and so offering something that’s a little bit more ease-of-entry, you can choose an easy difficulty so you can go on there and just learn how the game works, and then when you feel like it – if you feel like it, because you don’t ever really have to go into the PvP – [...] you can switch over to PvP. So I think we really have to get both of them right.”

Armored Warfare is currently in development, with closed testing due soon. To sign up for a chance to participate, visit the game’s website.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.