World of Warships PC Review
I had no idea what to expect from World of Warships when I clicked on the orange – also known as the best colour in the world – “download game” button. The about page showed me a rather monstrous battleship sailing on the open ocean, looking eagle eyed and ready to blast any enemy to pieces. The screenshots didn’t help much in deciphering how the game would play. They sure looked nice, with warships firing, ships exploding on top of water visuals that could activate polydipsia in a person, but just how does an online, free-to-play, multiplayer game work with warships – vehicles of destruction that are not known for their speed or agile mobility, but slow movement and incredible destructive force. Not knowing what to expect, I stuck on my admiral’s cap and took to the open ocean to see how World of Warships plays.
Starting from a fresh account, the beginning of World of Warships instantly throws the player into a training match with yourself and a bunch of AI controller partners and opponents. It’s a simple tutorial that helps explain the controls and the elementary substance of the game with a specific class of ship. I was given four ships from the World War II-era to play with, one from four different countries, USA, Germany, Russia and Japan, all which were part of the cruiser class, a group of warships that are the standardised unit in the game. Cruisers can do a bunch of different roles and have a decent amount of speed, manoeuvrability and firepower to be the go to ship for newcomers. After the tutorial, the game only allows cooperative games with other people versus the computer until you hit level 3, about 3-4 games. Once the level is reached, the meat of the game opens up with player versus player matches. Armed with my little collection of cruisers, I began to see how Wargaming had managed to make a game that I had expected to be rather boring and slow into something exciting and fun, with substance and tactical gameplay without overcomplicating what could have turned into a complex mess.
A lot of time is spent aiming down the barrels of the guns, but thankfully, doing that along with controlling the movement of the ship is incredibly easy. W and S control acceleration and deceleration, with variable speed settings to make sure the ship is travelling at the ideal velocity. The A and D control the rudder to alter direction, while Q and E do the same, but without locking the angle, returning to the default forward for easy tweaking to the ships propelled direction. These simplistic controls, along with a autopilot setting that allows for up to five points pinned to a map to leave the direction up to the computer systems, lets people focus on the speed and the key element of battles – aiming correctly and launching a load of artillery shells at your opponents. It doesn’t take long to learn how to play World of Warships, as even though it is somewhat based around strategy, it doesn’t bog down the player with a scary user interface or an overuse of buttons. This is very much a pick-up-and-play experience where the mouse and a few shortcut keys is all you need to know. The skill in this game comes from being able to calculate distance, timing and position to pull off damaging shots without getting yourself pummelled with incoming fire in the process.
Many variables have to be taken into account for each battle. World of Warships is no simulator, but that does not mean realistic attributes have been removed. This is not a third-person shooter, where twitch reactions are important, but instead, this is a game where you are commanding a 15,000+ ton ship, which does not exactly scream nimble. Turrets take time to position themselves where the reticle is aiming, turning angles are wide, acceleration and deceleration take time to kick in, turrets have to rearm and shots need to take into account distance, travelling speed and arc, making it hard to pull of pot-shots if you suck at estimating where an opposing ship is going to be positioned.
Without speed to help with evasion, it comes down to learning the role of each the vessel. There are four categories in total, with the cruiser class already mentioned, but along with those are destroyers, battleships and aircraft carriers, each one purposely featured for a specific role. Aircraft carriers are the most unique, due to their use of aircraft in battle. The standard camera view is changed to a top-down view of the map, giving a tactical view of the battlefield and making them play fundamentally different to any other ship type. Movement is still assigned to the same buttons, but rather than centred on manoeuvring a ship to get behind land and get a surprise jump on the opposition, the idea of the aircraft carrier is to use planes to do all the dirty work for you. In essence, you are a mobile base for planes to launch from and return to for rearmament. Aircraft carriers feature three types of planes at its disposal – fighters, dive bombers and torpedo bombers.
Taking a squadron of torpedo bombers does the most damage, as they drop a row of torpedoes across the ocean. It’s easy to miss the target if the torpedoes aren’t correctly aimed, as like with the rest of the game’s offensive mechanics, positioning and time is key to critical damage output. Fighters are on the opposite end of the spectrum, acting as dog-fighters, keeping enemy planes away from the fleet, but can also be used to scout ahead and uncover enemy placements. Dive bombers are a strange one, not really perfect for anything, but I found use to send them in before the torpedo bombers, as quick shots on the target would often set them on fire, causing the opponent to heal, then lead my torpedo bombers in for the main damage, leaving the poor battleship ready to sink as they can no longer repair due to the cooldown (*evil laugh*). The rest of the classes play similar, but increase or decrease their speed, armour and attack power. Battleships are mammoth machines with massive cannons that cause serious damage, can take a pounding and shred planes like butter, but moving their turrets and cruising on the ocean is snail pace compared to the destroyers, nifty little boats that make for great scouting companions in a fleet.
Battles consist of taking a fleet of 12 ships and fighting against another army of 12 across oceans with spots of land plotted in for protection and hiding. The standard battles have two bases, one for each team, and to emerge the victor requires a team to either take the opposition base or kill all the enemy players. Encounter is a similar game mode, but the bases are reduce to one central base, again, with the same victory conditions. The last mode, Domination, can up the base amount to three, four or five, playing similar to conquest in Battlefield 4, where points gradually build up the more bases your team owns. Due to the scale of Domination, this is very much a see-saw battle for bases, due to the amount of them on the map making it easy for ships to sail in and capture without getting attacked by a group of warships.
Starting new with the lower tier ships, around tier one-to-three, will only include cruisers and destroyers, as it seems players don’t begin to use the bigger behemoths until later on. Matchmaking does a good job at keeping the tiers together, so you should never run into a battle that contains a tier two higher than yourself. However, this earlier tier action creates a falsehood in how the game eventually plays, as the lower tier fights are usually filled with gun-ho mad sailors. Once the tactical elements of the aircraft carriers and battleships enter the fray the game begins to favour more towards teams that work together with their ship classes, using each class to their advantage and filling in their weaknesses with the support class ships. It can suck when being stuck on team that doesn’t work together, seeing the carnage unfold around you, the outcome looking grim with each sunken battleship.
But thanks to one neat concept in World of Warships, I didn’t feel annoyed losing, as this game comes across like it wants you to be in a battle. Dying in battle gives the option to leave the battleground and take another ship into another water fight. The previous ship used in an unfinished battle is unavailable until the skirmish is finished, but victories, experience and coin are still earned once its over and the vessel has returned to the docks. This is a wonderful feature, as I could jump straight into another game without waiting for the match to be over, which can last around 10-20 minutes, depending on the mode. Since everyone starts with four ships, there should never be a point where people are waiting around for a ship to become spare.
World of Warships becomes about tactics and positioning than all out attacking on the higher tiers, and when a team is working together, the game is incredibly rewarding, and even if you do lose, pulling off kills with a well-calculated barrage still gives a sense of pleasure. It takes a few hits to sink these warships, but there is always something very satisfying seeing a ship sink in the distance. The reverse can be said for shots that just miss their target, as now you have alerted your positioning to enemy warships, leaving you praying for the guns to reload faster and popping another shot out before the enemy has turned its turrets towards you.
Free-to-play titles have been given a stigma throughout the years thanks to a lot of games drilling the user with constant messages about spending money on various in-game currencies to unlock content to make elements better. This has been dubbed pay-to-win, as companies can’t get right the balance between in-app purchases and the effect it has on the game environment and its players. The good news is that the content in World of Warships, apart from a very small amount of premium ships, is content that can be earned by playing the game. It will take you a very long period of time to unlock everything, as this game contains around 100 ships – all with a lot of history behind them, due to them being modelled on their real life counterpart. The unlock system requires the experience and in-game money earned from battles to research and then eventually unlock the new ships. Each ship features modules that can upgrade elements like attack, speed, defence or better recovery items to reduce impact from damage.
Of course, all this good news doesn’t come without any negativity. This is a free-to-play game after all and Wargaming needs money to stay alive, but at least it does this in a friendly and unobtrusive way. You have to go looking for the purchase option in the top left of the menu, and the game never springs nasty adverts to get you to purchase some doubloons (currency only bought with real money), premium ships or a premium account that offers more account experience, ship experience and credits per match than a standard account. That said, once you hit the middle ground, around tier 5 (out of 10 tiers), things start to grind in terms of unlocking these war machines – lots and lots of battles are required, and if you do want to go the cash route, expect to spend lots of cash unlocking the highest machines….we’re talking over £100 to build through up to one of the top end boats…that’s a lot of hard earned cash for a digital ship, no matter how it ranks in the tier list. While the boat costs are Wargaming’s prerogative, these ships can still be earned from playing the game. One thing I really didn’t like was the limited space to store boats without paying real cash. This means that once you hit the dock cap, you have to cough up money to buy more space or sell a ship to create a slot. It’s not as costly as buying a boat, but it’s a shame that this is one of the only times in World of Warships that felt it was locked behind a paywall.
Once you get past the idea of being a ship collector with its limited storage space and World of Warships’ free-to-play expensive shenanigans, which shouldn’t be that much of a negative against the game’s great gameplay, World of Warships ends up a refreshing title. This is thanks to the exciting naval combat, a wide collection of warships, engrossing class types and pretty visuals, all which blend together in a rewarding time to bring a very unique type of combat to multiplayer team-based games, making this Wargaming’s best World of title to date. World of Warships does not feel right being this engaging, but that makes it more easy to recommend the game to anyone wanting to participating in tense naval battles, plus, World of Warships won’t cost you a penny to try, you won’t need a 200 page manual to learn how to pilot, and the only bad outcome is that you might just find yourself converted into a sea dog with a bad case of scurvy and an addiction to blowing up ships until three in the morning.