World of Warplanes – MMO Closed Beta Report
World of Warplanes. MMO game, a closed beta report. Publisher: WarGaming.net.
World of Warplanes is WarGaming.net’s follow up to their acclaimed World of Tanks multi-player MMO online game. Upon first look, it shares many of the same strengths and some of the weaknesses of the previous game design. The following notes are based upon a closed beta version in which I flew and do not necessarily represent the final version of the game.
In World of Warplanes, the players set up their account, after a somewhat large download that can take a very long time with a slower Internet connection. A nice dynamic hanger then allows the player to examine and modify his airplanes as well as review his pilot history and set up the options for playing the game. Wargaming.net says the pilot training tutorial is being overhauled at present, so there is no tutorial in the version I’m currently playing.
The airplanes in the game are broken down into Fighters such as the American P51; Heavy Fighters such as the hypothetical German jet known as the Me P 1099.B; Ground Attack Planes such as the Russian TSH-3; and Carrier Based Planes such as the Japanese “Shinden.”
The four basic starting airplanes are the Ar-65 from Germany, Type-91 from Japan, I-5 from Russia and the P12 from America. All are either late biplanes or early pre-World War II–era monoplanes. As the players advance in experience and accumulate money, they can purchase other, more advanced airplanes that cover the more popular prop planes of World War II, including the Me109 and P40. If the players are good enough, they can advance to jets such as the Me262 and the aforementioned Me P 1009.B. The point of view of the player is from the rear of the airplane and, as of this time, no in-cockpit view seems to be active.
Outside of the cloister of the hanger, the players are given the option of flying limited training missions against bots or with other players or entering the arena of combat to shoot down other players over beautifully designed, immersive battlefields as divers as a harbor or a North Africa–inspired desert. Ground and sea targets can be attacked (or defended if they belong to your team) and other airplanes can be blasted out of the sky.
The graphics in World of Warplanes are amazing, and the frame rate is fast even on a slower connection such as a Clearwire modem. There is very little lag.
Example of Play in World of Warplanes
An example of a game in which I flew a few days ago is as follows: For this flight, I picked a Russian I-5 biplane. The plane handles well and can take a good bit of damage before it falls to pieces. I flew out over a harbor that was under attack along with four wingmen. Below us fires burned and smoke flowed up into the air, obscuring some of the buildings and ships. While two of my wingmen dived in low and strafed some anti-aircraft guns and buildings, I gained altitude to keep a combat air patrol over the area. Then I spotted at least six enemy planes approaching. I dived in on one and tailed him. The twists and turns were like something out of the biplane battles of the First World War. After three minutes of shooting and turning, I saw my prey burn and watched as the plane nosedived in to a mountain. I pulled back up to gain altitude, but another pilot spotted me and hit my plane hard. I lost control and started to burn. My plane got hit again and suffered a catastrophic structure failure as it took its final nosedive and plummeted to earth. I restarted back in the cockpit and picked another plane for my next mission. After six combat missions, I had two kills on the board—both with the I-5.
After my fifth kill, I purchased a Heinkel 100 monoplane. It was very fast compared to what I had been flying, so I had to adapt the tactics used by P40 pilots against Zeros and do a zoom and scoot with a slow turn in order to line back up on the early war planes.
Players have the option of using a mouse, keyboard or joystick, but as of this closed beta, the joystick has many issues including no ability to align and calibrate the joystick even though the option button is on the screen. Using the keyboard to perform all functions including banks and pitch is unwieldy, so as of this preview the only viable option is using the mouse to control the plane. This option is serviceable, but for us tried-and-true flight simulator fans, not terribly desirable. (Wargaming.net says controls for the current update were optimized for mouse control rather than joystick.—Editor)
Additionally, as of this closed beta, there are no bomber-intercept missions, which could have been a great way to have multiplayer training options.
Unfortunately, as in World of Tanks, teams can be comprised of both Allied and Axis airplanes, lending a strange alternate reality feel to the game. I wish both designs had stuck to matching teams from various factions such as an all Luftwaffe team or an all American Army Air Corp team. Personally speaking, I find this lack of authenticity to be distracting, but it obviously hasn’t hurt World of Tanks—as of last month (March 2013) Wargaming.net reportedly broke its own Guinness World Record with 800,000 players simultaneously using the Russian WoT game server.
While World of Warplanes shows great promise, there are still some gremlins in its works. Hopefully, most of them will be banished from the final release.
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!