World of Warplanes has some seriously big shoes to fill. From the developers of World of Tanks, Wargaming.net’s latest free-to-play, multiplayer extravaganza looks to cash in on the success of its predecessor, but take the fight off the ground and into the air. In this, players will find a game ripe with the excitement of dogfights and the perfect opportunity to use the phrase, “do a barrel roll” over and over again, without sounding like too much of a complete tool.
So, in case it was missed, World of Warplanes is a game that has players piloting airplanes. Though, these aren’t the modern contraptions we see soaring overhead these days. No, WoW (yep, that’s right, we now have ourselves a second “WoW”) sets players up with a variety of planes that range from rudimentary single-engine biplanes to 1950s fighters used in a variety of wars around the time. Right at the beginning of the game, players are introduced to the mechanics via a tutorial. Unfortunately, this acclimating session was about as helpful as a blind service dog assisting a blind person across a busy sidewalk in the heat of evening rush hour. Perhaps this will be remedied when the game is out of closed beta, but as it is now, players sort of just have to learn the game on their own, which probably won’t bother most people. Or if you’re like me, you skip tutorials anyway, so it’s typically no big deal.
Regrettably, flying by the seat of your pants is not ideal in World of Warplanes simply because this is a rather complex game. Up front, learning to do the basic maneuvering skills is easy enough. Going deeper than the sheer fundamentals is where it gets tricky, however. For starters, planes feel sluggish in their movement, particularly in their turning, and aren’t all that responsive, so it takes some getting used to. Perhaps this was purposefully implemented as a way to maintain authenticity and exhibit an appreciation for how some of these jets really were almost a century ago, but as far as gaming is concerned, I’m not sure it makes for a very enjoyable experience. Nevertheless, once players become acquainted with how these things get on, it’ll be off to some dogfighting action.
Shooting down a plane in WoW is equivalent to shooting down a bottle at the local town festival. It feels tricky, sometimes unnecessarily difficult and occasionally maddening. However, this isn’t because the systems being utilized are broken in any way; in actuality, the hardship of taking down an enemy fighter speaks further to the game’s rather steep learning curve. It’s easy to give chase to an opponent only to suddenly realize you’re stuck in a rapid descent, unable to pull up and are all but certainly dead. Stalling is also a dastardly foe to combat, and if you’re like us, bodies of water are a surprisingly formidable enemy. But once players have tried their hand at it a few times, they will probably find themselves settling into a rhythm, and enjoying the intense action. Fights usually last only a few minutes, so despite how slow the planes can plod along, once the bullets start flying, it gets frenetic, and quite honestly, intense.
Whether or not players stand tall or hang their head in shame after a battle may strictly depend on which fighter they take into the skies. World of Warplanes has almost 60 aircraft from which to choose, though which ones are available will depend on which nation the player decides to play. The United States, Germany and the Soviet Union are all represented here, and gamers can expect each country’s respective technology and fighters to be present. Regardless of which banner players will fly under, there are three types of fighters to pilot: attack planes, single-engine fighters and heavy aircraft. Each style specializes in something, such as the heavy aircraft playing a supporting role of sorts with their ability to attack ground units with bombs and artillery. Make no mistake, though, all of the planes will not be available from the get-go. Most will need to be purchased in-game through earning credits from accomplishing certain battle directives, and it’s likely that others will be attainable via some kind of microtransaction.
Right now, the game is in closed beta. As a result, it’s missing a certain number of features most take for granted, especially those coming from World of Tanks. There is no clan support or the customization options for planes feels restrictive at the moment, which is a glaring issue. Though it’s been reported that planes will be customizable, giving enthusiasts a chance to tinker around with upgrading airframes, cannons and engines, on top of using acquired XP to research parts and further enhance one’s death-dealer. It doesn’t seem like this is fully realized in the current beta, but in general we’re hopeful that these features will be put in-place for the final product, or at least open beta. So, currently we’re not passing judgment for the lack of these components – merely hesitant and possibly concerned, but at the same time optimistic that Wargaming.net knows what they’re doing with kind of thing.
Any competitive game is really only as good as its matchmaking system. Without one that works, the experience can easily become a disaster and ultimately fail. Warplanes takes caution in its approach to the concept of balancing by using something similar to the one used in Tanks – one that balances players based on their plane’s decided tier placement. This system worked well most of the time, though it had a few glitches and would improperly place planes of inappropriate tiers on the same team, leading to some rofl-stomping matching. With these higher placed planes, the anxiety over this free-to-play title becoming pay-to-win with individuals dishing out exorbitant amounts of cash for the best aircraft is worth mentioning.
As far as production goes, it’s hard to accurately assess Warplanes. Since it’s only in closed beta, the graphics can’t be fiddled with, so players are stuck with the default settings. The game certainly isn’t a bad looking game — not by a long shot — but sometimes it feels lacking or sparse. Perhaps this will be taken care of once we have full access to the graphic options. In terms of sound, the game is a beast: shots whizzing by, metal getting torn apart by a hailstorm of bullets and the sound of an enemy fighter zipping right by never gets old. It all is loud and concussive; just the type of thing needed for this kind of game and immersion.
World of Warplanes definitely feels more like a simulator than World of Tanks does. Because of that, developer Wargaming.net may limit their audience, who could be looking for another pick-up-and-play experience like the studios previous title. As it stands now, it seems solid in its build and rewarding for folks who like piloting old-school planes to the tune of bullets and dogfights. Be on the lookout for more World of Warplanes as the year progresses and it flies into open beta.