Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match is a vehicular combat game from Bandai Namco. While I was only vaguely familiar with the franchise, the promotional material captured my interest. The drifting tanks looked ridiculous, but also rather fun. Not all tie-in games are masterpieces, but this one looked like it had the potential to be pretty good. The game is not currently available in my region, but an English version did release in Asia. Since the PS4 is region-free, importing it was a simple enough process.
*Game purchased by reviewer.
There are two story modes in Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match. The main mode takes place after the events of the first film. In an effort to boost enrollment at the school, Oarai’s student council president has decided to create a promotional video using footage from the recent battles. She also recruited the help of every team that participated. While everyone is together, they decide to engage in some mutual information sharing. Over the course of the story, the cast go back over recent events and provide insight as to what they were thinking at the time.
Since the primary story mode recaps the film from the very beginning, it is easy to enjoy it without needing to see the movie first. Before things really get started, the game opens with a succinct introduction to the world of Girls und Panzer, so it also works as a good entry point for those who are completely unfamiliar with the property. The franchise in general takes rather absurd premises and plays them completely straight. This is a world where participating in mock tank battles is the most feminine thing a person can do, and no one thinks anything of that. Similarly, the film contains some impossible, over-the-top stunts, yet they portray them as convincingly as they can and offer seemingly logical explanations. On the other hand, the girls are rather affable and the dialogue is full of levity. It is an interesting combination that I quickly grew to love.
Obviously, Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match is full of spoilers for the movie. However, it reduces many of the more miraculous moments to mere still images. As such, I ended up wanting to see the film for myself despite knowing how things would unfold.
For those who have already watched the film, the main story mode does not offer much in the way of plot. Still, the interactions between the eccentric characters are fairly entertaining. The writing is pretty lighthearted overall and while not every joke is comedic gold, the atmosphere is quite pleasant. Depending on how much fans care about the girls, the story may still be worth checking out.
Aside from the main campaign, Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match also includes Domination Match. In this mode, players can select a school and participate in a short tournament. Each school has their own story that plays out between battles. The matchups during the tournament are random and there are extra dialogue events between the competitors before and after each battle. While this mode does not offer a ton of content, it still gives fans a chance to see more of their favorite characters.
For the most part, the localization seems alright. While there are a few grammatical errors here and there, everything is still understandable. In fact, the typo density is actually far smaller than recent games from certain professional American companies.
I am not an expert on tanks and do not know how realistic the game looks. However, the tanks in Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match do seem to have a good number of details. Weak points in the game tend to be small components, and activating abilities that highlight them make the level of detail obvious. There are also quite a few tanks in the game and they all look unique aside from some custom variations of the same vehicles. Furthermore, many tanks have unique displays when aiming in first person which is a pretty nice touch.
The game provides plenty of options for those who want to make their tanks to stand out (or blend in) even more. Players can unlock a wide variety of colour schemes to paint their tanks with, and the game’s cell shading works well with each one. Players can also add and change decals with an even greater variety available. However, they can not place them wherever they want. Only decals of a certain shape will fit in certain locations. These cosmetic items unlock at random, and since there are so many of them, it may take players a while to get the ones they want.
There are not many levels in Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match, but the ones that are present all have their own unique feel. Attacking enemies through the trees in a small, dense forest is quite a bit different than navigating the streets of Oarai. In addition to locations from the film such as the golf course and parts of the amusement park, the game also includes battlefields from the show such as snowy land where Oarai fought Pravda.
The UI makes it fairly easy to distinguish between friends and foes. Each match has pink and blue teams and elements of the HUD will reflect which one the player is on. Allies have icons above their tanks for the entirety of the battle that show their commander and allegiance. These icons also pop up for enemies with known whereabouts, even if it was someone else on the team that found them. This makes it easy to attack through light cover such as the leaves in the hedge maze. It also helps flag tanks know when to flee without having to monitor the map. Another helpful HUD element is an orientation display that appears when aiming in first person. This helps players adjust their position without having to leave the targeting display.
On the technical side of things, the game has a relatively small draw distance. Seeing vegetation constantly appearing out of nowhere or changing textures while moving along is rather noticeable. Still, not every object is invisible from a distance and there is still enough foliage to somewhat obscure the enemy’s vision.
Much like the series, Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match features many popular marching tunes like The British Grenadiers. As such, players can expect a lot of snare drums, fifes, and brass. The game also includes a lovely rendition of the Säkkijärven polkka, a song the Finnish played in the Continuation War to disable mines. In addition to mostly keeping with a military theme, the upbeat melodies help take the tension out of fighting and create a more fun atmosphere.
The game only includes a Japanese audio track. As one may expect, all voice actresses from the series and film reprise their roles in this game. Overall, they sound decent enough. None of the dialogue stood out as particularly praiseworthy, but none of it was bad either.
Throughout each battle, the player’s crew and friendly commanders report on various things to keep the player aware of what is going on. Thankfully, text accompanies these verbal cues. Naturally, sound effects also help the player stay on top of things. The sound of a round detonating against a nearby tank is distinctly different than the plink of a glancing blow. A tank’s engine will go quiet when it stops which makes the revving more noticeable when performing a boost. A distinct jingle plays when someone activates a special skill. The sounds themselves are not especially impressive, but they get the job done.
Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match takes some liberties with reality for the sake of making the game more fun to play. I am not an expert on tanks, but it seems fairly obvious that a CV33 tankette should not be able to damage a super heavy Maus. However, that is very possible in the game. This turns the game into a well balanced game of class warfare. Light tanks can easily avoid the wrath of the heavy tanks with slow rotation speed and eventually take them out. However, medium tanks do not struggle as much with targeting. Since medium tanks outclass the lighter ones in raw firepower as well as armour, they have the clear advantage. Of course, heavy tanks do not have much trouble taking out medium tanks for the same reason. That is in theory, anyway.
These advantages are not absolute. While the CV33 will crush a Maus in close combat, the Maus still has the potential to snipe the CV33 long before that happens. With the right tactics, any vehicle can win against any other. While the Maus is sturdy enough on its own, hiding behind cover makes it that much more difficult to destroy. Depending on their positions relative to an incline, a medium tank can gain an advantage in damage output against a heavy one. No matter what the player brings and what they are up against, there is always hope for attaining victory.
Some strategies rely on cooperation. During most single-player matches, the player can pause the game and order their allies around. The AI behaves well enough that I rarely felt the need to use it, but it is nice to have the option of letting the enemy pulverize someone else for a while.
Destroying tank treads is another viable tactic in Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match. Doing so makes it easier to hit vulnerable areas for greater damage. However, just because the enemy is immobile does not mean they can not fight back. Furthermore, it is only a matter of time before repairs are complete and the victim can move around again.
In addition to enemy fire, falling off cliffs or bouncing around on rough terrain can also damage treads. Should a player flip their tank completely, they can respawn nearby after waiting for a moment. The controls can be a bit quirky at times, so these systems that punish poor play without being too harsh are good to have.
Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match also includes some unique mechanics. Most notably, all but the slowest of super heavy tanks are capable of drifting. In addition to improving the vehicle’s handling during the turn, drifting also improves offensive capabilities. While drifting, tanks receive a damage boost and the turret becomes more stable. As such, drifting as much as possible during open conflict may be a good strategy. Still, it is difficult to land precise hits on weak points while in motion. There is a lock-on system that lets the AI aim for you, but it does not go out of its way to avoid thick armour. In some situations, taking advantage of the sloped armour principle for defense and aiming manually may be the better option. Thankfully, the game lets players rotate to the best angle relative to their target by holding a button.
A special meter fills over time. Once it is full, the player can activate special skills. Each commander has their own ability that provides various buffs for their tank or team. These range from temporary stats boosts and damage repair to methods of avoiding detection. All characters also have access to the Panzer High skill. This grants invulnerability, enhances damage output, and highlights enemy weak points. However, it does not last nearly as long as a commander’s personal ability. Players can also equip one skill card to each tank. Cards have effects similar to commander abilities, but they are available at any time. The catch is that players can only use them a certain number of times per battle. These powers can potentially turn the tide of battle and add a little more depth to the game.
Outside of battle, players can change their crew for each tank. Each person specializes in one area or another and provides stat bonuses. Certain characters will even reduce some functionality for improvements elsewhere. Depending on the commander, certain combinations of crew members can activate additional bonuses and penalties. There are quite a few tanks available in the game and this system allows players to further tune them to fit their style. However, players unlock characters and cards at random after winning battles, so it might take a while before the best combinations are available.
In addition to mission rewards, the game also includes hidden collectibles. In most game modes, players can find a number of BOCO bears hiding amongst the scenery. For each BOCO that dies during a match, the player will unlock a decal or paint colour. Every excursion has a time limit, so trying to grab every bear is not always feasible. Still, players can go back through a level as many times as they want. Since destroying a BOCO in the same spot as previous battles will still yield results, those who want everything do not need to worry too much about finding all the spawn points. This turns hunting for BOCO during regular play into more of a fun diversion than a stressful necessity.
There are a few game modes available in Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match. In Annihilation matches, teams achieve victory by destroying every enemy tank. However, the destruction of the player’s tank during single-player matches will result in an instant loss which stacks the odds in the AI’s favour. On the other hand, many story matches only require the player to defeat a portion of the enemy’s tanks. During Flag battles, one tank on each team has a flag. Whichever team destroys the other flag tank wins. Survival matches are less common and only require one team to stay alive until the timer runs out. There are also missions that require players to pass through a series of checkpoints on their way to a goal marker. While this goes on, the other team will try to take them out.
Story missions tend to be very easy. I even had a few games in which I ignored the enemy completely to look for BOCO, only to have my search cut short by my AI allies winning the match. For the most part, Domination matches are not all that hard either. Still, the randomization can make for some difficult matchups. Destroying five of Black Forest Peak’s heavy tanks in five minutes using only Jatkosota’s lone BT-42 is quite the challenge.
Aside from story matches and free play, Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match also has a few extra missions. These include every battle in the series, including the initial all-Oarai skirmish and the fight against Anzio. There are some fun bonus scenarios as well such as a five on five fight with nothing but CV33s and a solo battle against five Maus super heavy tanks. These matches have three difficulty options and can provide a proper challenge for those who want one.
Multiplayer modes in Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match only consist of Annihilation and Flag battles. Still, there are a few different types of matches. Those looking for a casual battle can enter a lobby for either mode. The map for each changes every 30 minutes, though the two options change 15 minutes apart. During casual matches, players can pick any tanks they have unlocked and will join a random team. There are also event battles. These only change once per day and will consist of either a Flag or Annihilation battle. The thing that makes these matches special is that every player must use the same tank. Those who are not interested in any of the standard options can choose to join or host a custom game. It seems odd to have map rotation and custom battles, but there is nothing wrong with doing so.
The rules for Annihilation work a bit differently in multiplayer. Unlike the single-player version, each team has a life bar. Whenever a tank goes down, the meter for its team drops. The tank will then respawn. Allowing people to continue playing helps prevent boredom after an early destruction. Different amounts drop off the meter depending on the class of the tank that was destroyed. The heavier the class, the more the gauge drops. While light tanks may have an advantage over heavy ones, it still takes a while to actually destroy them. On the other hand, light tanks often stop functioning after one hit. As such, this system seems to be good for balancing the amount of effort it takes to win.
Since other humans have access to support cards and special crew combinations, it can be interesting to see what strategies they come up with. I have encountered a large number of other players and there does not seem to be any one tactic that sees more use than others. People seem to be operating just about every tank in the game and the variety in matchups makes multiplayer pretty fun.
While Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match is a tie-in game, it still serves as a decent introduction to the franchise. More importantly, the game is pretty fun. Some aspects are not entirely realistic, but they provide a better balance and make more strategies viable. This also keeps multiplayer fresh as everyone employs their own tactics rather than bringing the same set of tanks to each match. The story mostly recaps the events of the first film, so the plot probably will not appeal to many fans of the series. However, there are plenty of entertaining interactions between the cast which may be enough for some. I enjoyed the game quite a bit and feel safe in recommending it to anyone who thinks it sounds interesting.