World of Warplanes Review20 Dec 2013  by
Everyone knows about World of Tanks, it helped thrust Wargaming into the mainstream with its attention to detail and tactical online tank battles. The “World of” series is being planned a trilogy; we’ve had the tanks and now we’ve got the planes, with the battleships to come. It’s this triplicate of free to play titles that will no doubt keep Wargaming’s coffers full for some time to come.
World of Warplanes was in beta testing for quite a while and I’ve dived in and out of it throughout the year. The testing phase showed the game had promise but Wargaming had a lot to sort out with the visuals and flight controls.
I’m a bit of a flight sim buff so WoWP piqued my interest when it was announced. I had dabbled with World of Tanks and could see the appeal with its huge variety of tanks and tactical battles, but how would that style of gameplay translate to aerial combat? It was something that I always felt even Wargaming were not sure about when I’d talked to them at various industry shows.
With the final release of World of Warplanes, Wargaming launched their unified account system so World of Tanks players could easily access the new game with a single account. It was just as well, as things could otherwise have got a little confusing. Unfortunately, this didn’t mean the games were going to be joined. There won’t be any planes swooping over the battlefields dropping bombs on tanks. For now at least, the two games are separate.
Like World of Tanks, players have to grind and research their way through the various tiers of aircraft, enhancing them (by making them more resistant to attack or more effective in the air,) or even souping them up with a paint job. If playing to progress all sounds a little to time consuming then you can drop some cash into the game unlock what you need. That’s pretty much how Wargaming make their cash to keep their games going.
All air battles include similarly tiered aircraft, so there is an attempt at balance. What I’ve found is that there are more battles from middle tier V/IV and below than anything higher than that. There are always loads of tier I battles, which are effectively biplane battles, with players who have probably invested less time in the game. With access provided to the higher tiers for the purpose of this review, I was hard pushed to find a game if I wanted to play anything above tier V. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that if you want to get into a game quickly jet fighters are generally not an aircraft to go for. Unless you like hangingabout in the lobby for an eternity. You can try the training mode to mix it up a little, but where’s the long-term fun in that?
World of Warplanes appears to be very much in its infancy and that’s apparent by the fact that battles solely consist of dogfighting other aircraft one battle after the next. There is the the odd ground target thrown but these have little consequence to the actual game.
In World of Tanks the maps, terrain and buildings play a part in your tactics. World of Warplanes unfortunately doesn’t include those elements in the gameplay. It’s a simple matter of flying about and shooting down other players. The maps looks lovely but, due to the nature of the game, they play no real part in the aerial tactics aside from the basic requirement of not crashing into the ground.
This goes back to what I mentioned earlier, there is a core game here that still needs fleshing out. The menu systems, pilot/aircraft advancement are all reminiscent of World of Tanks and they’re easy to understand and function well, but beyond that the game at the moment is a basically dogfighting with a simplified aircraft flight model.
One of the features WoWP left out, though it may not be important to everyone, is a cockpit view. Playing a flight game without a real cockpit view does take away from the immersion. Playing with a simplified HUD, which is the same for every aircraft, or in third person, feels a little lazy. All aircraft also start mid air. There’s no takeoff or landing here, which also detracts from the feeling of being an actual pilot.
Wargaming are going for accessibility with WoWP, so they’ve opted to make the flight model simple and the controls as easy as possible. The intent, it seems, is for a control model that even someone who has never played a flight sim before can pick up and start playing. It’s a model that has worked well with World of Tanks, in the sense that it means more people play and will ultimately spend money if they like what they see.
The problem with WoWP right now is that lack of variety with just one mode of play. I was a little surprised to see the game launch without at least more objectives so that there would be a more of a role for each aircraft type. I’m sure this will come eventually, but at the moment it’s lacking.
There’s also the ever-present issue of microtransactions. To progress up the tier without sinking hours upon hours dogfighting, cash will have to be spent. But I’m just not convinced that there’s enough value at the moment to make opening the wallet worthwhile.
Wargaming have a decent foundation for World of Warplanes, it looks solid enough, the progression system is well thought out, and the more casual arcade flight buff will probably be engrossed for a while. It’s enjoyable and does what it says on the tin. It does, however, still need work to build on the core concept.