Russian publisher / developer Game Insight is primarily known for making successful hidden object games and city builders on Facebook and mobile. That is to say, it's super-rich and super-casual.
But in the last year or so the company has been making games that belong to the category industry types like to call mid-core.
First there was MMORPG Dragon Eternity. Then there was primarily single-player space-trading game Starborn Wanderers. And from the end of September these 2D titles will be joined on the App Store by the 3D, Unity-powered, tank-based MMO Tank Domination, which I played very briefly on Tuesday at GDC Europe.
The game is set in 2023, and it involves driving a range of present-day tanks in a future war whose cause is extrapolated from current geopolitical tensions. If Game Insight is right, we can all look forward to an "all out global war" (quoted from the fact sheet I was given) in which states have been smashed by mercenary armies employed by corporations.
Tanks a lot
My own virtual foray into the end times took place in Iraq, though Korea was also available. Using a virtual stick on the bottom left of the screen to move and another on the bottom right to swivel my turret, I set off to find a group of enemy tanks that appeared as red targets on my mini-map, accompanied by a few friendly tanks, all of whom were being controlled by real people - in this case Game Insight developers in Russia.
The controls were fiddly at first, and I didn't find the 'auto-accelerate' button particularly helpful as pressing it resulted in my getting flustered and driving through a wall, but once I mastered the initially twitch camera / turret controls I was able to follow my fellow tanks fairly easily across a hilly, detailed landscape, pressing the 'binoculars' button every now and again just to demonstrate to the man from Game Insight that I was indeed aware of it.
After a couple of minutes I found the enemy tanks skulking in some ruins and hammered them with a few shots, necessarily stopping and taking my time with the reticule, before one of them took out my tracks and all I could do was await annihilation.
As we watched my beached tank going up in flames I asked the man whether the tank models were accurate. Would it have been advisable, for example, if I had tried to manoeuvre behind my target and attack its weaker rear? He said, "yes", and explained that all of the tanks are modelled realistically on their real-world counterparts, but I wasn't able to ascertain the extent of this fidelity during our brief session.
Yes, you cannon
Tank Domination will contain more than 30 types of tank and artillery unit, and these will be customisable with upgrades like night vision, rocket launchers, and so on. According to the fact sheet, there will be more than 100 of these upgrades, all of which you'll presumably be able to buy with in-game currency.
In the game's current form the meat of the gameplay is in real-time PVP battles involving a maximum of ten combatants on each side. A matching system will ensure that teams are evenly balanced in terms of ability, and Game Insight promises that players won't be able to buy their way to success through IAPs.
It plans to add rooms, teams, friends, leaderboards, and various other multiplayer features in the future.
I didn't get to spend very long time with Tank Domination, so I can't tell you much in terms of gameplay. But I can attest to some very solid, chunky, professional-looking 3D graphics and tank-driving action that - reassuringly - looks and feels like the tank driving in games like Call of Duty 2.
Tank Domination will be a freemium game, so it won't cost you anything to find out whether it's any good when it comes out at the end of September.