Total Tank Simulator is a game that's been in development by studio Noobz from Poland for several years already. As the title implies, it's a game that involves tanks and is in a way a simulation game. However, don't expect an overly serious or realism-oriented game here: this is a so-called Massive Battle Simulator that's all about physics, destruction, and ragdoll effects. So who is this game for and what's to like about it?
According to the developers, the Massive Battle Simulator is a very particular genre. The emphasis here is not on player strategy or fighting cunning AI adversaries, but rather it lies on enjoying the ragdoll physics and the moments it creates, with Totally Accurate Battle Simulator and Ultimate Battle Simulator offering similar experiences in the same genre. This understanding of the game's aims matters, as during our initial playtesting we were a bit confused as to what we were actually supposed to be doing. Turns out, we didn't have to overthink it all that much and we could just enjoy messing around with tanks and other units!
In Total Tank Simulator, you fight out battles against the AI opponent(s) on a wide variety of square maps. For example, there are sandy desert plains, snowy mountains and quiet autumn villages with big pumpkins growing around them. The maps are colourful with lots of cute-looking trees and other vegetation. The units in the game are a mixture of historically and physically accurate infantry units, tanks, artillery and aircraft. These are balanced in a sort of rock-paper-scissors system where one counters the other. If you know the difference between a Soviet ISU-152 and a SU-76, you'll understand what kind of historical units we're talking about. Even though all units look kind of plasticky and are coloured like toy army men, they actually look good with nice attention to detail.
At the start of a battle, you use credits to pick a combination of units to your liking, place them on the map, before pressing the start battle button. As soon as everything kicks off, your units and the enemy's start looking around the map for predefined points of interest to occupy, scanning for enemy forces and looking around for cover. According to the developers, units will actually form groups, attack, retreat, take positions inside buildings or assault if they feel stronger than the enemy. Basically, you could just sit back and watch the battle unfold, with units blowing each other up, infantry getting overrun by tanks, and buildings and trees getting obliterated by artillery.
Initially, being unfamiliar with the genre we must admit we had no idea what to do: you can't select groups of units and your impact on the battle once it starts seems minimal. However, it's entertaining that you are able to take control of every individual unit. You can do anything from hunting enemy tanks with an anti-tank gun, strafing opponents from the skies in a ground-attack plane, or going into the first-person view as infantry. There are definitely some fun moments created by the sandbox, for example assaulting a building full of enemies with your plasticky buddies, shooting your rifle and throwing Molotov cocktails. It's a game that reminded us that it's alright just to play around and have fun.
The game's sandbox mode lets you choose a map and then fill it up with units and mess around with them. How about ten rocket launchers against a horde of cheap infantry? Or an army of weak BT-7s against a couple of super-heavy Maus tanks? If you like trying out stuff like this and just watching what happens, or jumping in to take control when you feel like it, there's much to enjoy in Total Tank Simulator. However, if you're looking for a sense of accomplishment in a game, you're unlikely to find it here.
Luckily, adding some purpose to the experience is the campaign mode. Here you earn and spend credits to battle the AI in historical missions. In the final game, there are going to be six different nations, all with unique units and campaigns. During the preview, we invaded Western Poland as the Germans, for example. The missions vary from defending against successive waves of enemies to taking out enemy VIP units. Unfortunately, the missions don't always work well. We got obliterated by the AI on several occasions without feeling there was much we could do, and at other times we completed missions within a minute, for example, because our units quickly killed the enemy VIPs. Nevertheless, the campaigns are a nice addition where you're forced to fight with limited means, creating slightly more memorable gameplay moments.
In our experience, Total Tank Simulator is a game that can keep you entertained if you enjoy watching ragdoll physics, explosions and a rather cute version of total war playing out, taking control of any unit whenever you feel like it. There's some strategic planning to be found in the campaign, but even there it's mostly a matter of watching the battle unfold in front of you.
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