World of Warships – MMO Game Preview
World of Warships. MMO Game Preview. Developer: Wargaming.net. Downloadable for free at http://worldofwarships.com. Free to Play. You can buy your way into the Closed Beta via premium packages starting at 29.99.
Promising: Fast-paced action. Intuitive controls. (Mostly) well-balanced ship classes. Lovely graphics and good sound design.
Worrying: Ahistorical details and arcade feel will turn some players off. Too many matches end in draws. Lots of “grinding” for XP and credits.
World of Warships is the highly anticipated sequel to the smash hit World of Tanks and the troubled World of Warplanes. After WoWP’s disappointing debut, many in the community were worried that Wargaming.net only understood tanks. They can put those worries to bed – not only is Warships good, it’s a blast. The arcade pace and deviations from history mean it won’t satisfy every grognard with saltwater in his veins, but it’s promising balance and sheer fun factor will make it popular with multiplayer gamers and the pro gaming crowd. The game has had some fits and starts as it has gone through various patches, but I have every reason to believe that it will leave beta as a solid, well-balanced game.
Like in World of Tanks, you can play using various vehicles from different nations, separated by role into different classes: Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Carriers. By playing you gain experience and credits used to upgrade your ship and “research” the next ship up the tech tree for that class. A player starts in a slow, barely seaworthy gunboat and progresses up the long ladder to the mighty Yamato and other formidable ships. In an interesting twist on the World of ___ format, you also advance as a player through different ranks. New players can only fight the AI in PVE mode until they’ve ranked up, which helps prevent experienced “seal clubbers” from playing in low tier ships and beating up on newbies. More experienced players unlock new upgrades and options, like ship modules and bonus-granting signal flags, allowing new players to focus on fundamentals before being overwhelmed with details. This attention to the experience of new players is a welcome change for Wargaming, who has previously mostly been content to throw newbies into the deep end to sink or swim.
The ship classes are (mostly) well balanced and complement each other. Rather than merely reskin the roles from WoT, Wargaming has come up with unique niches for the different ships. Battleships duke it out at long range, but have trouble hitting fast targets close in (like destroyers). Destroyers can use stealth and their torpedoes to sink capital ships, but are fragile and weak when exposed. Cruisers are fast and maneuverable and can target enemy destroyers with their fast-training guns, but can’t stand toe to toe with the battlewagons. Finally, carriers provide valuable scouting planes, and their bombers can wreck enemy battleships and cruisers, but they are vulnerable in gun and torpedo range. A word on a contentious issue—artillery-haters from World of Tanks can breathe a sigh of relief—CV’s are not artillery. They are not ruled by the Random Number Generator and can’t one-shot your ship without giving you a chance. You always see planes coming and have the opportunity to deal with them through planning, cooperation, or maneuver. I also appreciate how the different nations’ ships play very differently. For example, American destroyers and cruisers are gunships, while the Japanese are more reliant on long-range torpedoes. These differences in design philosophy between nations were well drawn in World of Tanks and I’m glad to see that national flavor carried over here.
That said, as of the 0.3.1.1 patch, which introduced Japanese carriers and American battleships and rebalanced the American carriers, the carrier class as a whole changed to a direction I don’t like. In short, air group compositions are more restrictive and inflexible. If you’d like more details, iChase Gaming does a great video summarizing his concerns about carriers in 0.3.1.1, which align well with mine. Finally, the new Japanese carriers are generally uncompetitive—their outnumbered fighters get eaten alive by American planes of the same tier. All of these problems are hopefully transitory, because carriers were very well balanced and fun before 0.3.1.1.
If I had my way, captains would be free to set the air wing of their carriers however they wished, allocating hangar slots between fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers in the same way World of Tanks players fill their ammo racks with a mix of AP, APCR/HEAT/HESH, and HE rounds. I also wish the various classes had access to their historical plane models; it’s weird to be sailing a 1940s-era Bogue or Independence loaded with biplanes, but that’s excusable in the name of balance. And again, all of these are subject to change as Wargaming seeks the ideal balance and takes in player feedback.
The presentation is overall very nice. The guns sound meaty and the ship models are loaded with details. If I have one quibble with the graphics engine, it’s that it has scale issues, having been adapted from World of Tanks. It doesn’t always seem like you’re looking down on a large ship from on high, but instead standing above a tiny toy ship. The effect is especially noticeable on maps with towns and buildings. It’s not a big deal, but once I saw it I couldn’t un-see it. Your mileage may vary.
The pace of the gameplay is not for everybody. I find it to be fast-paced and invigorating (faster paced than Naval Action), but it’s slow compared to, say, World of Tanks or Call of Duty. On the other hand, grognards whose idea of a smashing good time is a game of Gary Grigbsy’s War in the Pacific or Harpoon will find the physics cartoony and the game too unrealistic to take seriously. If you can’t suspend disbelief and accommodate Wargaming’s fast and loose interpretation of historical details for the sake of game balance, WoWS will turn you off. My other concern is that too many of the games end in draws, especially in Standard Battles; you’ll often have one side unable to win because the last surviving ship is hiding and the winners don’t have enough time to capture the point. Finally, this is a Free to Play game and a Wargaming.net product: come prepared to spend a lot of time grinding for XP and silver credits and possibly to pay for premium accounts and other bonuses. F2P is not for everybody, but at least it’s free to try the game to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Overall, World of Warships is a promising game; War Thunder’s naval component, when it comes out, has a high bar to clear. If you’re a World of Tanks fan, a naval history buff, or just like naval arcade games like Battlestations: Midway or Pacific Fleet, you’ll likely enjoy it. Is it worth paying $30+ to get into the Closed Beta? Probably not, unless you’re a rabid WoT fan—just save your money and wait for the public release. But if your idea of a good time is dodging 16-inch fire to deliver a salvo of torpedoes, this game will long have a place on your hard drive.
About the Author
Matt Richardson is a freelance social media consultant and web traffic analyst in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has a degree in History from Davidson College, with a special interest in military history and the Civil War. He has rotted his mind with video games since childhood. You can follow Matt at @MT_Richardson or read his blog at Ritalingamer.com.