Total Tank Simulator Review

June 4, 2020
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Whenever video game history starts getting taught in high schools, kids are going to have a hell of a time learning about the late 2010’s. Although it’ll be easy for them to memorise whatever useless facts they’ll need to know about Call of Duty and PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS, it’ll require a few nights of researching to figure out what exactly was going on with all of the games that parodied those popular titles. Between the Borderlands’, the Totally Epic games and now Total Tank Simulator, there’s a weird trend of games that try to make fun of the overly serious money-makers that the industry relies on. And while some of these games will make great research paper topics, Total Tank Simulator will likely be forgotten by everyone but that one weird teacher that kids pretend to like because he gives them cookies.

Like with Landfall’s Totally Epic Battle Simulator, Total Tank Simulator sets out to poke fun at the strategy-action games that are somewhat the rage these days. Instead of giving you a gritty battlefield on which to send hundreds of innocent soldiers to their deaths, you’re given a set-up that’s more akin to playing with toy soldiers in your room. At the start of each level, you’re given some currency that you spend to spawn as many of the game’s World War II units, realistic or otherwise, as you can afford. Your exclusively AI opponent does the same, and as soon as both of you are ready, your battle starts.

The battles that then take place across one of the game’s insane amount of maps are as straightforward as can be. Both your units and those of your enemy rush towards preset objective points. Once they both arrive, they fight to the death, and whichever team survives is the winner of the battle. Past the initial phase of putting down units, however, there’s no strategy involved in these fights. You can’t order units to move to specific spots, you can’t spawn more units down mid-firefight and you can’t tell units to use specific types of ordnance.

Annoyingly, you can only spawn up to 100 infantry units, meaning you can't recreate stereotypical Soviet infantry charges.

Instead, the only thing you can do during the battles is to take direct control of one of your troops. Doing this gives you a generic first-person shooter control layout where you can do what you do in every other shooter on the market. You can point and click on your foes until they’re dead, give yourself a healthpack, run around with a knife before getting shot by an enemy that’s 300 meters away, and in the case of the flyable planes, drop bombs on random buildings before reenacting that one scene from 1917 where the pilot crashes into a farmhouse. 

All of this fun in its own right, but the main selling point of it is that the units you can take control of come from a huge roster. There are six playable factions in Total Tank Simulator, including the rarely seen countries of France and Poland, and each have their own unique set of units to spawn. From France’s bolt-action wielding riflemen to Russia’s war bears, the vast amount of units in the game allows you to figure out whichever one makes you want to become a history teacher and play with them to your heart’s content.

Russian war bears are easily the dumbest but most enjoyable unit to toy with in the game

All of this is made better, too, by the game’s destruction physics. Total Tank Simulator gives Battlefield a run for its money with just how much you can destroy its levels. Anti-tank rockets blow holes in buildings that can expose enemy troops, bombs make huge craters in the ground and flamethrowers can set entire forests on fire. Being able to destroy anything that you see means that when you take control of an individual unit, you can sometimes make a noticeable impact on the battlefield even when you’ll likely get shot after a minute or two.

However, for as enjoyable as taking control of a unit and blowing a hole in a house is, it doesn’t offset the game’s total lack of strategy, which is something that’s especially noticeable in the game’s campaign mode. Like in most strategy games, Total Tank Simulator features a campaign for each one of its factions that can take hours to complete. Each one has a unique set up, including a briefing in the country’s official language, and in all of them you can research new units to make your army stronger while also managing the country’s wartime funds. But because there’s no way to command units after a battle has started, your progress in the campaign can be wiped out in one battle if the enemy spawn more units than you do. This means that the game’s campaigns, and it’s unique “shadow” mode wherein you try to beat your previous battle’s winning set of spawned units, are hardly worth touching. Playing the sandbox battle mode is still enjoyable in its own right, but it’s disappointing that it’s the only mode that’s actually playable.

A few of the guns have weirdly high-quality reload animations, the best of which is with the Soviet revolver.

It’s a shame, too, because Total Tank Simulator has a number of convenience features that are totally absent from the games it tries to parody. When you hover over a unit, the game tells you what class the unit is, which means that you don’t need to memorise the difference between a D.520 fighter and a LEO 521 dive bomber. You can also put on a filter that will show you where your frontline is and where exactly your troops are. Most convenient of all, whenever you hover over anything in what passes for the game’s command menu, it tells you what that thing is, which means that you don’t need to keep the game’s wiki up in another tab.

The game’s graphics also make the battles a lot more visible than in other, similar games. Although they look like they’re copy-pasted from Unturned, they are still enjoyable to look at, and more importantly, ensure that you can always see what’s going on in the explosion-riddled battlegrounds that you’ll be controlling units on. You won’t have to get centimetres away from your computer to see what’s happening in Total Tank Simulator, which if you’re familiar with other strategy games, is a welcome addition to say the least.

Dogfighters are a lot of fun, but planes have very tank-y controls that makes pulling off any cool manoeuvres almost impossible 

However, all the convenience features and cute visuals in the world don’t make a difference when there’s nothing to do with them. Because there’s almost no strategy involved in Total Tank Simulator, the game boils down to little more than Battlefield without any of the gravitas. When the simple ability to command units could easily make the game one of the best strategy games to come out in years, the inability to do so makes the game nothing more than something that high schoolers of the future will include in a paper about video games of the early 2020s to fill up a word count. 

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Total Tank Simulator could’ve been something great, but because it lacks the depth of strategy games and the charm of parody battle simulators, it offers little more than whatever enjoyment can be found in sending fifty Soviet war bears into battle against a hoard of German conscripts.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.