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Climbing inside the Chinese tanks: World of Tanks 8.3 impressions

There's plenty of sloped armour on offer, but it's not as thick as you might find on other tanks.

With
the update to version 8.3, eighteen new Chinese tanks are trundling
their way into World of Tanks. I think some of them may just become fan
favourites. While the Chinese tech tree is nowhere near as big or as
complex as that of the game’s other nations (it’s more of a tech
sapling), it’s quite unusual in its layout and it offers some
interesting new vehicles to try, some of which I really enjoyed driving.
Here are my first impressions of these new tanks and my thoughts on
their pros and cons.


First,
let me break down that tech tree for you. Seventeen tanks can be
unlocked as you work your way up those branches, while the Type 62 light
tank exists as a separate premium tank, only available for gold. As we
noticed back in November, there’s not a single tank destroyer or artillery piece present: the Chinese tanks are only tanks and, by and large, they’re lights or mediums, with the first medium appearing as late as tier five. (That's right, the tech tree above has been revised, making the Type 97 a light tank.)

Not
only are those heavy tanks rare, they’re also much further up the tech
tree. While the other nations get to enjoy their first heavy tanks at
the fourth or fifth tiers, as you can see here, you’ll have to wait for the seventh tier
before you can close the hatch on an IS-2, the Chinese refit of the
famous Soviet battle tank. At the same time, even at the very highest
tiers, China still holds on to its light and medium tanks, unwilling to
let go of their speed. This is a nation that enjoys mobility on the
battlefield.

You’ll
notice this the moment you start the engine. Even the heaviest of these
new tanks, the 113, moves at a decent speed for its class and tier,
offering a respectable traverse speed too. Hop down to tiers nine and
eight and the tanks are nippier still, with China joining France in
still offering a light tank option as high as tier eight, that being the
WZ-132.

So,
as you might have guessed, these tanks offer speed and maneuverability,
but there has to be a tradeoff for this and naturally this comes in
both firepower and armour. Don’t get me wrong, these things aren’t weak
by anybody’s standards and a capable commander will make sure they hold
their own in any firefight, but there’s nothing like the Maus or the
IS-7 to play with, nothing that can deliver a hammer blow to the enemy
or sit there chewing on AP shells like nothing is wrong. As I fought my
way through my first battles, I found it almost impossible to one-shot
other tanks of the same tier, even other Chinese tanks, and in spite of
all my sloped armour I still felt every hit I took, watching as more and
more of my hit points were chipped away. It wasn’t wise to sit still
for long.

That
said, nothing is too light or too undergunned either. Even the light
tanks still pack a punch and just about everything is quick on the
reload. While you might not one-shot your enemies very often, you’ll
more than make up for this by firing more shells in less time. Trying
out the tier five T-34, a medium tank that’s another Chinese
interpretation of a Soviet classic, I found I was both driving faster
and firing faster than my rivals. What I couldn’t provide in serious
damage I could more than make up for in rate of fire.

With
tanks like the T-34, the IS, the M5 and the Renault NC-31, you’ve
probably noticed that the vast majority of this new tech tree are
refitted or re-engineered versions of other tanks, a reflection of how
China frequently modified the tanks it bought. In many cases these tanks
feel quite different: my impression was almost always of greater speed
turning ability, sometimes as the expense of firepower and frequently
creating a something that ended up as a pretty middle-of-the road
experience. Personally, I like this, but I appreciate this isn’t going
to be to everyone’s taste. These tanks aren’t going to suit campers or
snipers, but they will appeal to players who try for flanking maneuvers,
who who enjoy driving behind their enemies and shooting them right up
the tailpipe.

The
overwhelming impression of these new tanks is that they’re good
all-rounders, balanced vehicles that rarely excel in any category, but
also lack serious weaknesses. This makes them extremely easy to handle -
I can see this nation becoming a favourite for many beginners, as these
vehicles are forgiving at lower tiers and they offer a chance for
players to experiment. At the very highest tiers they’re going to
struggle in face-offs with many of the already established heavy tanks
and they’ll have to make the most of their maneuverability to outflank
their enemies. But this does mean we’re going to see more base captures
by sneaky, speedier tankers who will turn up much sooner than expected.
Tactical play is going to be important.

Wargaming have no firm date yet for their update to version 8.3, but they have released their patch notes for your perusal.

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