Pages Menu

Categories Menu

Posted on Feb 23, 2011 in Electronic Games

World of Tanks Preview 2: World of Tank Destroyers

By Brian King

World of Tanks. PC Game. Free to play.

Passed Inspection: Very satisfying game play for a beta product. Free to play.

Failed Basic: Vagaries of match-making can yield lots of frustration.

This preview is based on my journey of over 400 battles within the Tank Destroyer (TD) class of the German Army.  I’ve had to grind through five levels of vehicles, including the baseline Leichttraktor, the Panzerjager I, the Marder II, the Hetzer, and the StuG III. Since it may take me weeks or even months to go through the whole tank destroyer lineup I’ve decided to write some impressions based on what I’ve seen so far. More precisely, this is how I’ve survived to date in the World of Tanks.


First, my impression of the game itself is generally very favorable. I’m a natural fan of both first-person military shooters and of armor in general, so this game caught my eye immediately. It delivers on the promise to throw a bunch of people with tanks into an arena in 15-versus-15 matches and provide a lot of entertainment. The matches so far have been incredibly stable from a technology standpoint and I’ve not had a single bandwidth issue, drop off, or major glitch in over 500 total matches, including those in which I’ve played using something other than a tank destroyer. In all that time I’ve been in exactly one match where there was deliberate, organized team killing. I’ve heard rumors of people using scripts/bots, though I have no evidence of such. For the most part players are very serious about actually playing the game, even if some aren’t particularly interested in playing it well.

My biggest beef with the game so far is that my level 5 tank is often placed into the same map as level 9 tanks.  This seems to happen to me a lot, and—though I’m perfectly willing to fight tougher tanks—it changes the whole dynamic of the game from one of intelligent stalking to frantic avoidance and ruins the experience. I would never deliberately choose to go head-to-head in a match against 15 enemy tanks with armor my gun can barely scratch.  By contrast, in 400 matches as a tank destroyer, I’ve been at the absolute top of the team lineup exactly once. That was the only time all the other units on my team were ranked lower than mine. It would seem to make sense if they could tighten the dispersion of ranks in any match so that you are never facing a unit more than a tier or two higher or lower.  I would also like the match loading screen to show the breakout of ranks so you know up front how many of each rank are present.  There are so many tanks of different sizes and shapes, it it nearly impossible to identify which tanks belong to which ranks.

Another criticism is the random selection of maps. Some maps are fantastic, while others are less interesting to me. Naturally, the random generator seems to place me on maps I dislike with a higher frequency. Himmelsdorf I’m looking at you!

While it is as much an arcade game as a simulation, I find that, by and large, using sound military tactics provides the best chance of survival in the game—and faster ascension up the tech tree. Those who simply throw their tank against the enemy without forethought often die first. The cagey ones tend to hang on longer … which brings me to the core reason for writing this preview: sharing my experiences as the commander of a tank destroyer. I chose this class because it suits my style of patient gameplay, careful target selection, and standoff participation outside the heat of battles.  I prefer to provide overwatch for my teammates rather than rubbing steel with the enemy. The early TDs are essentially convertibles, with some armor protection up front and little or none on the top and rear.  This dictates that you stay well back from the action and pick targets from a distance.

There are a few simple lessons I’ve learned which may help anyone interested in picking up the tank destroyer trade, and giving this game a whirl. 

1. Stay well back from the action, but close enough to target individual enemy units.  This is a skill you’ll have to develop because it isn’t always obvious where the line is to be drawn, but this is best done by viewing your tank in the 3rd person view and moving your reticule over enemy tanks as they are sighted by friendly units in the distance.  If you get a lock, wait for the reticule to tighten up, and then fire! You will come to realize that you are targeting slivers of enemy units from across the battlefield, rather than taking them on head-to-head.  This is perfect because they are more likely to be firing at your comrades in their face, rather than a lowly unit in the rear echelon! See screenshots for some of my favorite haunts.

2. Choose your firing positions based on maximizing your initial field of fire while also providing a means to reposition quickly.  Put yourself somewhere you can watch the battle develop on the minimap and anticipate where you might find those first targets. If done correctly, you will have first pick at the enemy recon units that come screaming over the map looking for your artillery.

3. Keep an eye on whether you are in range of enemy artillery, as this will necessitate moving after you’ve fired a shot or two. This is another skill which will develop over time.  You will learn that your need for relocations is directly proportional to the number of enemy artillery units.  More artillery, more relocations necessary.  If an artillery shell lands near you, keep moving!

3a. Play as artillery a few times if you can.  I’ve also played some matches as artillery simply as a means of seeing the world as they do. This will help you appreciate why you have to move fast once you are sighted.

4. Keep your front facing the enemy unless you have absolutely no choice. With little to no side or rear armor, the early tank destroyers brew up instantly if you turn or try to run while in sight of an enemy.  If you are caught in point blank situations you will likely die.  Refer to point 1 above.

5. When you are firing at extreme range, or you have multiple targets, don’t bother zooming all the way in on them, as this reduces your battlefield awareness of what is happening around you.  Just line up your shot, make sure your crosshair is showing an outline of the enemy tank, let your reticule tighten up as much as possible, and fire.  When you do have the luxury or necessity of picking where you fire your gun, target tracks of fast movers, sides and rears of heavies and other tank destroyers, and generally target anywhere except the turret of the enemy, which is often the strongest point on the tank.

6. Limit movement.  Try to pick a good position at the start of a match and don’t wander if you can avoid it.  Time spent wandering increases your chance of running into enemy tanks at close range, and you are generally slower than other units while on the move.  Tank Destroyers gain the most benefit of stealth when they are parked just behind bushes.  When you come out into the open, your chance of getting picked off rises dramatically.    

6a. The only time I break this rule is when I’m up against super heavies in those poorly chosen matches I mentioned previously. In these cases, it usually pays to move and fight close to and behind your own heavy tanks. If you are extremely lucky perhaps you’ll score a hit on a damaged enemy. Just keep in mind that it is often one-shot one-kill when heavies target you.

7. Have faith. While some of these early tank destroyers may seem futile to operate, it is possible to manage your location wisely, get the drop on the enemy, and control the battle.  One of my most exciting battles was in a Hetzer in which I destroyed 8 enemy units.  Even my Panzerjager I yielded 6 kills. It can be done with patience.

For the sake of my preview, I’ve found playing the first four ranks of tank destroyers extremely satisfying, with the StuG III (rank 5) yielding less satisfaction because it often gets stuck in matches out of its league. This matchmaking issue may be fixed by developers as the game is tweaked, so we’ll see on that count.

There are still more features coming to the game before it gets released, and we’ll be keeping an eye on things as we move closer to release date here in the States. I’m most interested to see how the Clan Wars module is built into the game, as one of the most lacking aspects overall is team cooperation and the feeling that your battles matter. This applies at the individual level where you don’t feel you are fighting for anything while on any single map, but also the team level where you rarely see teams cooperating as a 15-player unit to achieve victory. The most strategy you’ll see is "everyone go left!"

Based on my gameplay experiences so far, I think there is a lot of potential yet to be unleashed in World of Tanks.


  1. I find playing a TD in games that are ranked waaaaay out of your league rather satisfying. Then the ambushing capabilities of the tank destroyer come out on the top. Also, high explosive shells are your best friend in high ranked games -> losing no penetration across large distances and yet dealing damage even if they don’t penetrate on straight surfaces. They also do a lot more critical hits than normal AP shells, which hinders the fighting capabilities of the tank. Making it easier for your higher-tiered comrades to finish him off. See if you can manage to find the spots where different crew members sit on different tanks. That way you can easily target for an example: A driver which is crucial in high ranked heavy tanks.

  2. I got fully upgraded JagTiger, and some points and advices here are really wrong for German TD’s. At least for higher tiers. I played my Stug III so long time ago… πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Anaconda. My preview was based only on the lower end German TD’s (up through Stug III). Succeeding with a Marder II is quite different than handling a JagTiger – no doubt about it. Most times those heavier TD’s are out in the thick of fighting, though they are still very vulnerable if the attack fizzles and they are left alone or flanked.

      I’ve moved on to the JagPz IV since writing this and I’ve noticed a tendency to move from cautious defense to a probing offense more often than not. I’m not sure if this is due to the mix of tanks, more skilled players overall, or just being able to sense where I’m needed when the Schwerpunkt happens. I still do enjoy protecting the artillery from the hyenas though, since I also like to play artillery from time to time. πŸ˜€

      • You may be surprise to here this from a Maus commander but I try to avoid the Stug III more then any other TD out there. By using the 10.5 cm StuH 42/L 28 gun with nothing but HE rounds you can easily harm any tank in the game. While the higher tier TD’s carry bigger guns, they also stand out more. And it is easy for most people in the higher tier tanks to ignore you until you take out their tank a few times.

      • Good to know you’ve moved up to the JagdPzIV, I loved it when I was grinding up the tree. Enjoy it’s good speed, maneuverability, decent 88mm. gun, and good natural camouflage while you can.

        From the JagdPanther onwards, you will have next to no camouflage. Contrary to what the specifications note, the developers have decided not to give any camouflage bonus to German TDs from Tier 7 upwards. You will find that you are as easily spotted as a heavy tank and your playstyle will need to adapt accordingly.

        With the high ‘visibility’, you will find that training your crew in camouflage skills, or buying an expensive Camo Net module is a waste of time and money.

        Unlike the Soviet TD line, strangely enough they retain great camouflage abilities right up to the top tier.

  3. Hello,
    the other thing which for me makes WOT far more interesting is the plethora of historical skins provided for the tanks. Which are easily applied and although it means that any similar tank is dressed identically it makes the game far more enjoyable than everyone in panzergrau or olive drab

    Just go to the Creativity section in the forums to have a looksee.

    Also the modded sniper reticles help too …(just check for my thread for them πŸ˜‰ )


    ps…nice write up….ill make sure theres a link in the forums back here

  4. Very nice, balanced, informed and well written write up. πŸ™‚

    Generally I find the matchmaking system to work reasonably well (and better than it did before), however there can be exceptions, and I know the Devs make adjustments to matching on occassion.

  5. One misconception which deserves explaining is sorting of tanks in the table of players.
    It is not from strongest to weakest, it’s a bit more complicated (or simpler). It is sorted by tier only (class and upgrades are ignored, even guns !), then it is sorted by name (case sensitive).
    So if you have lowercase name with some late letter, you will almost never be first. If you start with capital A, you will be ‘king of the hill’
    much more often.

  6. Nice article, look forward to it’s continuation.

    I had the same issue regarding being able to tell the tier rankings of my team and the opponents. There are many modifications you can make to reflect different info instead of just an icon.

    Here is a link to the one I use, it replaces the icon with the name and tier.

    Many other icon mods in the Creativity subforum, along with garage skins, tank skins (which you already found from the screen shots), all sorts.

    See you on the field.

  7. An excellent and well thought out review. I have progressed into each of the tech trees. Have played well over 2000 matches. One thing I noticed is that I kept my crew and retrained them for each progressive tank. Once I had an experienced crew I started being at the top of the ranks much more frequently. Also HE shells can bounce or richochet which seems odd. Having had my light tanks suffer at the hand of higher tier tanks I really hope the full release will have options such as Tier type vs Tier type and nationality versus nationality along with more maps.

  8. You are almost never on top of the roster with a TD, because TDs are counted as one tier + within the matchmaking system (a tier4 TD weighs the same as a tier5 medium). This is compensating the camouflage capabilities and large guns of TDs.

  9. As I try to tell anyone who will listen, the matchmaking issues exist simply because of the small number of players. When there are only a small number of tanks to choose from, you’ll get matched against much stronger opponents because the matchmaker wants 15 vs 15 more than all tier 5-6 tanks. When the player base increases, these matchmaking issues will disappear.

  10. Hey, Brian. Read through your article. For clearification, the Stug III will be rebalanced, so it won’t appear in higher battles as much or as severely. I’m not 100% sure how it will work, but my guess is that the worse one’ll face with a Stug III is tier 7s. Though, the SU-85 will not receive the same rebalance as this tier 5 TD receives a tier 7 gun, unlikes the Stug.

  11. I’ve played just short of 500 battles in a Jager 1. I’ve also played over 100 games in the Marder and almost 100 in the Hetzer. When I read this article I was surprised how similar the author’s experiences were with my own. This is a good read for anyone considering the German TD line.

    BTW I love this game, but matchmaking is hosed. Players shouldn’t be matched against tanks that they can’t compete with.

    Everything else about this game is amazing!

  12. You don’t like Himmelsdorf in a TD? Review flawed.

    • Hi Bill. I don’t care for Himmelsdorf in particular because it is much more of a knife fight instead of having sniper distances compared to many of the other maps. It is very small, so most of the fighting takes place at close quarters. I was up front that I don’t like to fight that way. Just personal preference.

      Ruinberg is better because it has more foliage, though I almost never venture into the city blocks due to the danger of getting flanked.

  13. I honestly don’t have too many issues with the match making…sometimes it seems unbalanced, but I find a well played team can easily defeat even something that seems unbalanced at first.

    You have to think about what your lowly tank can do if you feel out classed. You can still spot areas of the battlefield (and don’t shoot so you don’t reveal your position as easy). You can provide much needed defense for arty or even remember that you can cap just as easy as the most powerful IS-7 or Maus.

    Fights where the balance isn’t as apparent are much more interesting and far more rewarding. And if all else fails…it is like 10 minutes to the next fight…

    • Well put.

      I got pulled into my first battle against a Maus (German Tier 10 heavy) when I was driving my SU-26 (Soviet Tier 3 Artillery). I still managed to get 6 kills that game and kept the Maus tracked while my teammates ran
      circles around him and destroyed him.

      Someone else mentioned that the matchmaking will fix itself when there’s a larger amount of players. I believe that is true as well, the tier-brackets are being tightened, and once there’s a large enough player-base, we shouldn’t have to worry about being slotted into battles where we’re facing enemies 4 – 5 tiers up.

  14. Hi Brian,

    make sure you join the Historic battle event series and you will see true team play and tactics. Random battles fall way short on these and are not satisfying anymore after you experience the HBs.

    The series events are held every Sunday for three month now and are well established. Granted their own subforum section and are spot on the weekly newsletter.



  15. All in all, a well written article. One point I’d like to touch on though:

    The barrels are actually a weak point, especially where the gun meets the turret. A well placed shot can and will put the enemy’s gun down for potentially enough time for you to finish them, or penetrate as far back as the ammo rack, and if you are particularly lucky, an insta-kill from the ammo rack exploding. The turret itself has high armor though and hitting the mantle can be difficult, but when going nose to nose with another tank you can’t normally penetrate the front armor on, aim for the mantle, or just under the turret for a nice turret track shot, then scoot and shoot.

  16. Something I find lacking in the Tank Destroyer group is that the American TD’s are missing. There are three American tanks of note, the Jackson, Achillies, and Wolverine. All three were used extensively through the war and yet while the Germans and Russians get to have theirs, the Armericans were overlooked why?

  17. Man the matchmaking EVERYBODY complains about it but sometimes even if the other team has 3 maus on the team and your team has only 2 tier 10s is easy for a tier 8 and 9 to take out the tier 10s(maus in this case) you just need to orginize the team properly and let the noobcakes go and die.

  18. I do not agree with most players: I really like the balancing. Maybe I will have no chance against the top tiers, but there is always low tiers on the other side as well – just be part of the team and not a lonely wolf!

    And StuGIII is my favorite tank in this game (have the German line till Ferdinand, TIGER, VK3001P, Hummel and the Sowjet line till T-34-85 and SU-100). With the 10,5cm gun (HE) you can one shot kill most lower tier tanks and sometimes even same tier. And as mentioned above – you can damage up to tier X every single tank!

    But I agree, the game has potential and I am exited to see how the future game modes will play. And my recommendation to all players – try to find a comunnity to play with. A 15 tank TEAM is a total different experience than a random “team”.

    • I am definitely on the lookout for a team. I’ll check out the forums.

    • PZ4 also has the nearly same 10,5cm with HE, which is much more effective at close combat (cause the 10,5 isn´t made for range)
      so stugs 7,5cm is the best for it
      PS: also hetzer has the 10,5cm with just a bit slower reload

  19. Himmelsdorf and Ruinberg is the only good maps in this game.

    And i play Heavy-Medium-TD so i know that those favor the more mobile medium/heavies but are equally fun compared to stare at each other for an entire match with only lights dying on certain maps…

    And with more players come the hassle of players that dont know anything about tactics, Which is more or less required if you want a positive win/loss score.

    Also if you have 2 friends that can play, platoon makes this game much more “Tactical” since you can cover them and vice verse.

    I want more description of nations tho. Like “Germany is good at range” or “Russia makes the best dogfighters” or even “US is a mix between dogfights and sniping”

    If i know germany was so camptastic I’d go for russian line instead.

  20. You stopped playing right when the German TD line gets really good. The JagdPz4 is where it goes from painful to incredible. The Stug isn’t too bad, but as you noticed it gets in a lot of high tier games, and that 75 L/70 just doesn’t cut it against a T-44. But the short 88 on the jpz4 works a lot better, and it has better armor for when you’re spotted.

  21. to Anonymous(answer8):
    a Tier5 is a Tier5
    youre not wrong of best gun/camouflage, but TDs have the lowest HP and also no flexibility for chancing situations

    medium are the fast tanks of the game (lights are just at beginning)
    weapons are not the best, but the “turret” can rotate fast, so its good for close battles

    e.g. a medium is kissing your TD from side, you dont have any chance to win, if he do right

    heavys have MORE HP, also good weapons and all around good armor, but are most time really slow and big, so there are the easiest targets for artillery

    to the 5th point:
    if you can damage the turret, try it (you learn fast, which turrets you can damage) cause the gunner and reloader are in turret, also the gun itself and ammunition is there, so you can decrease the strenght of then intensive, just with one shot
    effects are slow reloading time(reloader and ammunition-system……)
    or bad accuracy (gunner and gun itself)
    also a high damaged gun can´t fire a few seconds)

    e.g. the T29 (in my view the best tier7 tank, cause he has a GOD weapon for Tier7) has a unbelievable turretarmor, but just from front.
    the side of this turret is absolutely penetratable

  22. A very addictive and fun game. Unlike the first-person shooters like Black Ops where you run in and die in a small map hundreds of times in a session, World of Tanks has you snoopin’ and poopin’ for up to fifteen minutes with the opportunity to fire at a nice juicy target with some serious firepower. If you get knocked out early you can go back to the garage and jump into another battle in a different vehicle.

    The gameplay is more like a combat simulation without getting boring as opposed to a free-for-all *** that some multi-player games become. Teamwork is the luck of the draw in random battles but you will be best off if you follow the herd. If you want to be a leader then make sure somebody is following – if not then pull back. Nothing like being the lone tank staring down the barrels of five or six oncoming tanks! And there is the fun! Even if you lose again and again, which can be frustrating… if you use the terrain and employ teamwork the game is much more satisfying as you get one, two, or even three kills.

    LIfe is hard when you are just getting into the medium tanks and you are up against heavy tanks in matches. You can pair up and act as a wingman to one of your team’s heavies. I like to get behind terrain, take a shot and pull back. I’ll shoot and pull back, knocking out enemies, until we get back to the base and we are overrun. If things are going well a rushing attack can be fun as you compete with other players to mop up the enemy survivors.

    I can see why the reviewer likes the Stug III as they are among the few vehicles that make me pull back and go the other direction as soon as I see them. They pack a punch and usually get setup in terrain so that they won’t be flanked easily. Not worth it, I’ll go back and find another target. Best advice I can give is, use the terrain all day, everyday. This game is still a game, not an exacting simulator, but when it comes to the terrain you will find that it saves your hide. That and it has me wanting to learn more about the tank aces of WW2. – Best game I played in the last year.

    • The problem most will have with the tanks can be summarized like this.

      -All tanks until properly kitted out are crap because they will not punch their worth tier wise.

      -Light tanks fail in their role as most often even with the initial rush the enemy will not be able to be attacked due to range or cover, you don’t do enough damage to constitute a real threat and lastly you are better off sowing confusion on the front line which trust me you wont survive to do.

      -Medium tanks are where it is at because they have the manueverability to use proper tactics, guns that seem to be of equal size to TD’s in the matches you get thrown into, they have enough armour usually to survive a near miss by an artillery shell, they are not SLOWER than the light tanks for some reason and lastly they do not suffer from an inability to hit a target when occasionally a track gets blown off from behind meaning it has the ability for M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction).

      -Heavy tanks i haven’t played as yet but if you don’t know to shoot them in the drivers window your an idiot and the fact that while they can take more hits than most their a big target so a fast target should be able to stay behind cover and keep taking off their track by edging shots.

      -Tank destroyers. others may disagree but i’m only up to the hetzer and the Marder II seems one of the best because it has a 90degree turret turn meaning even at mid range you should not be getting outflanked if you know your position in the line. If you don’t have a huge turret turn the TD is a waste because scouts usually won’t last long enough for your targeting reticule to minimize at distance (therefor real use will usually be that of mid range), the size of the open ground in maps makes them relatively useless in comparisson to the medium tanks, the positions you start at in the map meen it’s pretty obvious to the enemy which direction they need to keep covered from and lastly if their not gonna be matched with tanks they can punch through with one shot they’re not exactly a tank destroyer… more like a tank maimer and should be reclassified as would be appropriate. By that i meen that if all they have as an ability is to punch through armour (not manueverability or survivability) then it makes no sense to balance them as if their a harder hitting medium, if they seem unbalanced most likely people are using them properly.

  23. as for the stug. i still got mine and i got 9 kills with it in 1 battle i just love the tank. it is fast and you can shoot from great range at enemy’s. together with the Ferdinand it is my favorite TD.

  24. Hi General,

    Very nice review, has definitely given me some pointers on becoming a skilled TD commander.

    Your opinion of the gameplay and overall likeness of the game is much the same as mine, as well as the few bugs that need rectifying/changing.
    I have waited most of my adult life for such a game,(the first time I saw my nephew playing World of Warcraft, the first thing I asked was ‘can ya get tanks?’) so as a beta I think it has all the hall marks of a classic, with a few tweaks.
    I do however accept the matching system ‘most’ of the time. On some occasions it can be a bit unfair even in a Pz III, but that is the nature of the beast, and war is by no means ‘planned’.

    All in all, I enjoyed your review, and more importantly I enjoy the game, so keep up the good work all involved, and keep taken the fight to ’em.


  25. As a GW tiger and a JT user on the EU side, I have to say that TDs are the first things that gets targeted when Im in my arty because the GW tiger can one shot a JT even with its unupgraded gun.

    When Im in a JT I find myself pushing forward more often than Im sitting back defending, could be that I play in a platoon most of the time and have 2 other JTs with me and cruising side by side on maps usually causes people to try and run away.

    This is an icon mod I use so I can see the hull armor and health of an enemy tank by pressing ALT, and seeing the health without having to aim at the enemy is great when you get pissed off on the cowards on your team. πŸ˜‰