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War Thunder

War Thunder and the Royal Guard

We take a closer look at the British tanks.

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Recently Gaijin Entertainment has introduced a large update and added a new add-on pack to their popular free-to-play MMO, War Thunder. Update 1.55 is being referred to as the 'Royal Armour' update, while the premium pack in question is the all-British tank set; The Royal Guard Advanced Pack, which users will have to purchase to be able to access.

The free update comes bundled with plenty of content, most important of which is the addition of over thirty armoured ground vehicles for the British, making them the latest country to be given the tank option in battle. On top of this there are also nine new aircrafts and two new North African locations to fight across. Gaijin began implementing ground vehicles into War Thunder back in 2014, when the USSR and Germany were each equipped with a range of different tanks. Later on the U.S. was given the ground vehicle treatment, and now it's the turn of Great Britain (leaving only Japan as the final remaining country sticking to War Thunder's original aerial roots).

The update comes bundled with a large variety of different tanks, such as the T17E2, which is currently the fastest vehicle available in the game, or another peculiar vehicle that we liked, the Archer, which has its barrel pointing backwards, creating the opportunity for some interesting tactics, but making smooth traversal somewhat of an issue. There are plenty of new vehicles to choose from with this latest expansion, adding more things to experiment with when selecting a tank of choice.

On top of the new tanks (literally) comes new aircraft, and underneath their treads there's also a couple of new maps. In place of tanks, the US, USSR, Japan and Germany have all received at least one new plane, although three of them (the Kpfpz. Churchill, Ki-44-II Otsu and the T-44-122) are premium vehicles. Once again each have their own pros and cons, some are better suited for speed rather than defence, and others it's vice versa. With many of the vehicles in War Thunder it comes down to a personal preference more than anything else. The two new maps that are available are for ground based matches, and the maps in question are Tunisia and 'The Second Battle of El Alamein', both of which are situated in North Africa, making them particularly sandy.

Not only has there been a large free update to War Thunder, but also a new set of premium vehicles to celebrate the release of the British tanks in the form of the 'Royal Guard Advanced Pack' DLC. Within the Pack, players will have access to the four following ground vehicles to be used in game with the British:

• A43 Black Prince
• Sherman IC
• Mark IV A13 Mk.II
• M10 Achilles

All of them are Premium vehicles, meaning they grant bonus Research Points and Silver Lions if you used in battle, and come automatically equipped with all available modifications. We've had a hands-on look at the expansion and how all the new tanks play in Gaijin's war-simulator.

A43 Black Prince - The Black Prince is a large and powerful tank, its slow speed can mean you'll fall behind other team members, however with a well-placed shot you can inflict a lot of damage on your enemies. The tank comes equipped with four types of shells that can be used in combat, three armour piercing and one explosive round. While the armour piercing may be the more effective way of taking out crew members, explosive rounds can stop a tank in its tracks, leaving it vulnerable to attack. The Black Prince is very resilient, its only major weak points are on the front, so it's hard for an enemy to efficiently attack you from behind.

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A43 Black Prince (left) and Sherman IC (right).

Sherman IC - Nicknamed the Firefly, the Sherman IC is a tank that comes equipped with the ability to call in artillery support fire, allowing you to command a barrage of air attacks on a location of your choosing, which can be handy if an enemy is swarming your objective. The Firefly is similar to the Black Prince in that it has four different kinds of shells, three armour piercing and one explosive, and it moves similarly too. However the Firefly is a lot faster, yet at the same time more vulnerable, its weak points cover a wider area and therefore are easier to hit.

Mark IV A13 Mk.II - The Mark IV no doubt the best vehicle to choose if you want to get to your objectives fast and need something quick to evade enemies. While the Mark IV may be quick, its shells suffer for it, as they aren't the strongest and there are only two varieties, so it may become troublesome going up against some of the stronger tanks. On top of this, the vehicle becomes difficult to control in some of the snowy maps due to how slippery it is across the surface. It may be hard to hit this tank, but if an enemy manages to get a shot in then it could spell trouble. However, like the Firefly, the Mark IV is able to call in artillery fire, which is good against crowds of enemies.

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Mark IV A13 Mk.II (left) and M10 Achilles (right)

M10 Achilles - The Achilles is another fast moving vehicle that can traverse terrain pretty quick, but again suffers poor handling and can leave you sliding around on some maps. However, unlike the Mark IV, the Achilles comes equipped with four different kinds of shells, making it far more suitable in different combat situations, although given its fast movement there are only around ten of each shell in the ammo deposit, so it is limited to what it can do. The Achilles also has an open roof making all crew members highly vulnerable to shells hitting the top of the tank, or any artillery fire, so it's best to stay in cover when using this one.

These new additions to the game each come with their own advantages and disadvantages, some are fast yet weak, others are slow yet strong, and they all need a little bit of practice to get to grips with properly. With there being four tanks of varying abilities it allows players to choose from different play-styles suitable for different approaches within War Thunder. Those who feel the need to rush to the objective first may be best using the Mark IV while those who prefer to eliminate enemies from a distance may be better off using the Black Prince. Plus with the pack bundled with 30 days Premium membership you'll be able to rank up these tanks quick at first, making them even stronger on the battlefield.

With DLC like this still coming out it shows that Gaijin are keeping War Thunder interesting and fresh. Whether in the air or on the ground, the game is still enjoyable (though we have to say, we prefer the action on the ground), servers are nearly always full yet never take long to get into, and the game is still going strong.

War Thunder is a decent combat simulator that doesn't grant players advantages based on their tanks but rather places emphasis on skill. Getting the best tanks is more about personalisation, based on how a user wants to play the game. The tanks do have major differences and getting the premium ones can help, but only so far. The real way to win is by planning out your attacks carefully and being one step ahead of the enemy, which is really where War Thunder shines. You'll rarely have that one player who's miles ahead of the rest because it's all evenly balanced, giving each team a fair chance at victory.

There's nothing wrong with the gameplay either, combat is tight and satisfying and there's never a moment that feels unfair; if you get hit then it's your fault (or your teams). And we're not even discussing the airborne portion of the game, where you take to the skies in a fighter plane and wage war above the clouds. It's relevant to the tanks because there's the option during tank matches to momentarily take control of a plane and take down tanks from the sky (of course you'll find a lot of players adopting a more Kamikaze style behind the cockpit of a plane when there's a sea of tanks directly below). It adds a lot of possibilities.

Overall the Royal Guard Advanced Pack is a good addition to an already solid game. War Thunder's British tanks add something new for players to enjoy, especially those looking to rub a little nationalistic pride into their tank-blasting experience. However, it's best to keep in mind that while these are premium vehicles, they won't shoot you immediately to victory; you'll still need a fair amount of skill to master these vehicles and dominate your way to the top of the leaderboards. It's also worth noting the price of admission, with the Royal Guard Advanced Pack costing between £62 and £66 depending on which platform you're playing on. That's no small investment, and on those terms you'd have to be a committed War Thunder player to get to most out of the purchase. Does it represent value for money? We'll let you make your own minds up on the front. Still, there's plenty of new, free content in the update, which means even if you don't dip your hand in your wallet, there's still plenty of new Brit-themed tanks to get to grips with in the weeks and months ahead.

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REVIEW. Written by Sam Bishop

"Over the years Gaijin has added a huge amount of depth to this sprawling war sim."

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