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Human Tanks, Charge! War of the Human Tanks Review

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On 09/20/2012 at 12:00 PM by Travis Hawks

D’awwww, wook at the widdle corpses!

Not worth suffering awful narrative to get to a middling strategy game.

We all know that war is ugly.  But what if someone found a way to make it so freaking adorable that any moral qualms you might have about the whole concept went out the window?  Well, War of The Human Tanks sure does its best by making battles across the oh-so-fictionalized land of “Japon” into a cute-fest on a game board. It's a game board with fun mechanics if you can endure the painfully boring and long-winded story that stands between you and each match.

The battles between the titular human tanks are fought across an overhead layout of spaces where you and the enemy must first discover, and then attack each other until one side’s commander is defeated.  Each round starts with you selecting and placing chibi military units onto the battlefield, strategizing based on how the game board is laid out or on the weapons you think are hidden behind enemy lines.  Every space outside of your units’ field of vision is covered with an “unknown” label, and only becomes visible when you move a unit in close enough or perform some longer-distance recon.  This “fog of war” mechanic isn’t anything  unfamiliar to anyone who’s played an RTS game, but in War of the Human Tanks, it is a definitive element.

Having those “unknown” spaces spread across the board means that you have no idea which units are waiting for you, how large they are, and what exactly will be needed to eradicate them.  This uncertainty forces you to send out a variety of units -- recon specializing scout units, fast moving and lethal assault units, and long-range barrage units -- to try and reveal as much as possible while destroying the opponent’s human tanks before he gets yours.  The death of each human tank results in the sweetest little death animation and scream of pain ever created, making for an uncomfortably adorable series of slaughters.  

You’ll be firing lots of blind shots off into the distance just in case that huge swath of “unknown” area contains some hidden baddies. Firing blindly gives clues about hidden enemy locations, because all shots can be seen--even if all of the involved spaces are still “unknown.”  Typically, this makes strategizing and critical thinking about where a unit could be based on your opponent’s last shot an enjoyable challenge, but if you blindly lob a rocket from a barrage unit on your first move and happen to nail the enemy commander it sure feels like a cheap win.  Such is cuddly war, I suppose.

As you move through the narrative-backed missions, your options for developing new tanks and modules increase, forcing you to frequently adapt your tactics.  You’ll start to build units that fill four spaces instead of just one and can fire their weapons across huge areas of the board to wipe out your opponent’s units (as well as your own if you’re not careful).  The modules help bolster existing tanks with increased speed or vision, but most are pretty pricey and unnecessary.  The constant shifting of weapons and techniques kept me engaged in the game throughout the entire five hour campaign.

That’s five hours total time on the clock.  You must keep in mind that possibly three to four hours of this is filled with some of the most irritating slide-in character text box story telling I’ve ever endured.  If you’ve been wondering what the heck a human tank is anyway, it’s a silly idea that I can only assume was created to avoid the moral qualms players might have with shooting real humans on a battlefield as part of a game. Human tanks seem to be man-made humans that are not quite humans, are most definitely not real humans, and also are certainly not humans.  Did I mention that human tanks are NOT HUMAN?  If that’s not clear, don’t worry: the dialogue will constantly remind you of this fact.  The story seems to have been born of this morality dodge and then had a narrative hammered around it with some weak jokes thrown in.  It’s all told in front of a rotating series of still photographs with a photoshop paint filter laid atop.  The only joy to be had from any of these sequences is the huge variety of written laughs, for example: “Hyo Hyo Hyo,” “hi hi hi,” and my personal fave, “kya kya kya!”

Unfortunately, you have to endure the story to unlock all of the tanks and modules in the game.  Once you’ve suffered through a cut scene, you can skip it if you have made the right choices in the game’s menu.  While you’re fiddling with the menu, you’ll also want to turn the “movie mode” off unless you want to watch an opening theme song and closing credits after every battle that takes place (trust me, you don’t want to).

There are also free battles available at any time too, where you can earn more crates (the game’s currency) to build more units without any insufferable storytelling.  You’ll only be able to use units you have from the main game in these free battles, so you’ll want to get fairly far in the campaign before tackling many of them.  I never lacked crates to buy units during the campaign even though I didn’t spend any time in free battle mode until I had concluded the story. Likely, this is the designers’ intent, since at completion a new game + mode opens up where you can repeat the story with all of your accumulated tech and crates.  This makes those early battles hilariously easy -- so much so that there is really no fun in completing them a second time.

Apparently you are expected to plunge through the story at least another time since I was told I had only completed 25% my first time through, and I only know of a few missions I skipped (called detours). I just couldn’t make myself linger on my way through in the story, so I plunged ahead on a straight course to the end.

If only the dreadful story was abbreviated or left out entirely, I would have come away from War of the Human Tanks much more content.  The actual game is pretty fun. It's seemingly simple with enough thought required to make it engaging, but when I think back to all of the long-winded chatter between each battle, I find myself disgusted at how many hours I spent reading all of that garbage.  That required time sink keeps me from recommending the game to almost anyone until they port it to smart phone with the story amputated.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

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These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Travis Hawks Senior Editor

01/10/2014 at 09:21 PM

Just noticed that this is now available on Steam. I'm commenting to float this to the top of the site for a little so people know what to expect. 

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