PREVIEW: World of Warships [PC]

World of Warships is the third game in Wargaming.net‘s free to play “World of” series, the first two being World of Tanks and last year’s World of Warplanes. Warships has been in closed beta for around a fortnight now, and I have been lucky enough to play in both previous alpha testing weekends. Watching the progress from then to now has me cutting out time on other games to take to the seven seas more and more.

The first thing you’re going to notice when you open the game and see the dock is how beautiful the game is. This is consistent across every aspect of the game from the Tier 1 cruisers to the mighty Tier 10 battleship Yamato – not to mention the water and the rest of the environment.

Your first two ships are Cruisers: The American Erie and the Japanese Katori. Both of these ships are fairly similar, great for learning and more importantly fun to play. Cruisers are the only ship type that spans Tier 1 to 10 in the current build. In general, the cruisers are in the middle of Destroyers and Battleships in pretty much all aspects – speed, gun size, armour and manoeuvrability; and the same can be said for their role in the game. With their medium sized guns and good manoeuvrability, Cruisers can engage Destroyers quickly before they can launch deadly torpedo barrages into Battleships and Aircraft Carriers. That said, Cruisers with their speed can also outflank Battleships to unleash their full rate of fire safely.

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After Tier 1 you can chose to stay with Cruisers or go down the Destroyer line. Destroyers are the smallest class of ship in the game, which also gives them the highest acceleration, top speeds and manoeuvrability at the cost of armour and heavy guns. The two key traits of the Destroyer are its torpedos (which some cruisers may also have), and the unique ability to lay down smokescreens. With their stealthy profile, Destroyers are much harder to spot by enemy ships – as long as you don’t give your position away by shooting – and the smokescreen can also be used to cover your entire team.

The play style of these small Destroyers is to remain hidden and unspotted until you can close the gap enough with your target to unleash a devastating torpedo barrage that can sink even Battleships with a single, well-placed salvo. The feeling you get from landing torpedo hits is highly rewarding as you need to be patient and wait for the right timing to launch your attack to get the ideal angle and distance.

Battleships are currently only available to the Japanese (Americans will be getting theirs down the track soon), from Tier 3 onward off the Cruiser line. Battleships are on the opposite end of the spectrum to Destroyers, being slow to accelerate and difficult to manoeuvre, and their large size makes them easy gunnery targets. This is balanced by them having the biggest guns and thickest armour. With big guns (reaching 450mm on the Yamato) comes big ranges, and this game captures firing at these extreme ranges perfectly.

Compared to World of Tanks, shooting at targets takes a lot more thinking in Warships, as engaging targets at ranges of well over 10km means you need to seriously consider shell travel times and how much lead time you need to give your target, which is where the skill in playing a Battleship lies. To assist you in this the game allows you to lock on to targets, so your cruiser will retain the same position in refraction to your enemy. What this means? When your first volley misses, you can then adjust your aim in relation to how much you missed, in an effort to achieve hits on the second volley. (Note: Of course, if your target is turning and changing speeds, you still need to take that into account.)

Regardless of whether you are top tier or bottom tier in a Battleship, you feel like king of the ocean and can have a huge impact on any game, as your skill in gunnery is more impactful than your ship. This is true for all vessels in World of Warships, but most of all for the Battleships.

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Aircraft Carriers are available from Tier 4 onwards on the American tech tree (coming to Japan down the track), also off the Cruiser line. They are as big as Battleships but lack armour and any offensive guns. Instead, they gain a flight deck which completely changes the way they play the game. Playing one of these ships is more like playing RTS, your view is shifted to a bird’s eye view of the battlefield where you command both your ship and aircraft with controls you would typically find in an RTS. Depending on the specific Carrier, you will have access to a combination of planes. Fighters are for taking out other aircraft and scouting; Torpedo bombers are able to bring torpedos in on angles Destroyers can’t achieve; and Dive Bombers bring in bombs from above – best against other carriers.

Each Carrier can select from a different “Flight Control” module that allows them limited choices when it comes to the combination of Aircraft types they have. The most typical combination is probably a Fighter escort, typically two or three fighters and one torpedo bomber – this configuration is great for gaining air superiority over other carriers. The other two variants typically have only one Fighter squadron and a combination of Torpedo Bombers and Dive Bombers.

I personally enjoy playing Air Carriers to break up the gameplay, but I could never play them all the time. That said, I can see people playing them exclusively and not enjoy playing other types of ships at all – just because they are so different!

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The big elephant in the room for me early before I first played World of Warships was how could Wargaming achieve a high level of re-playability? How many different configurations of islands can you really have? Turns out: A lot, and they are all different while still accommodating each of the ship types’ play styles.

Even with the strong map pool the game already has, WoWS would fall over if it did not also have different game modes. The first is base capture, where each team has a base to defend and the goal of the match is to capture the enemy’s base by holding it. There’s also encounter, where there is only one capture point around the centre of the map that both teams are trying to capture. Both of these modes are won by wiping out the enemy ships. The third mode is the most interesting – each team starts on 300 points and wins by getting to 1000. Teams capture strategic coordinates, which passively generate points, all contributing to the total. Sinking enemy ships will also help you gain points, while losing friendly vessels loses points, which makes for really edge of your seat games.

I can go on for page about this game, but for now I hope I have painted a good picture of how diverse the ships are in World of Warships, and its overall depth.

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