I have a love/hate relationship with free to play games, but World of Tanks has always been a personal favourite. It’s a great arcade-style game that has just enough realism to add some nuance and keep the hardcore gamer in me eternally satisfied. Unfortunately, when Wargaming.net tried expanding into the world of warplanes, it was a bit of a mess. Now they’re taking a crack at Poseidon’s mum with World of Warships, and while it’s enjoyable, it’s no World of Tanks… But it is.
If you’ve played any of the other Wargaming games, you’ve played World of Warships. The game revolves around quick battles between teams of WW1 and WW2-era naval warships, just like the other Wargaming entries but with ships. These ships are acquired by gaining experience and in-game money from battles or using real money, but (of course) it’s a long grind to get everything for free. Everything from the other Wargaming games are present in World of Warships, so you’ll feel right at home if you’ve played any of the others, but you might find it all a bit too familiar.
Saying that WoW is a lot like WoT is like saying an apple resembles another apple. Sure, one might look a bit different, and the taste is a little stranger to the first one, but at their core, they’re practically identical. WoW feels and plays like WoT to a T, and while there are positives to that, it doesn’t help in getting my eyes off of WoT. The same arcadey feel and controls are there, and the basics game modes are the same, which means you’re just playing WoT with ships. Still, there are some nice distinctions to between the games.
As similar as the games are, you are commanding a naval vessel now, so there’s more emphasis on thinking where you’re going. If you get all gung-ho without thinking about where torpedoes could be coming from or where the other team are, chances are you’ll feel the wrath of both. It’s a nice departure from hiding behind rocks and peeking ad nauseam; every movement you make needs to be more calculated. It’s not like you can just pump the brakes and immediately stop, so you need to plan ahead a bit, but not much more than an arcade game would make you.
One of the big gripes I have with the game is that it can feel too arcadey. WoT melded reality and simplicity together nicely, but WoW feels too dumbed down. You aim, shoot and make sure you don’t get hit by torpedoes, and that’s all there is. You don’t need to think about what section of the enemy to shoot, which side to be hitting or how the wind will affect your trajectory; you just need aim and shoot. There’s no room for subtlety because alpha striking works just as well, and there’s no reason you wouldn’t go all out to bring those health bars down quicker. The problem doesn’t go away as you go up in the tiers either because everything just stays the same.
As you start progressing up the tiers, you’ll notice that nothing changes, including all the differences. While the ship classes feel consistently different to one another in each tier, which is good, the only difference going up seems to be getting more turrets and torpedoes. This might sound like a pretty significant addition, but since everything takes longer to reload, is more armoured and moves slower, new impedances mitigate any improvements. Once you get to tier 4, there isn’t much incentive to keep going; you’ll just be getting more of the same with higher maintenance costs per battle. Of course, you’re probably going to be playing with friends, but there isn’t a lot of point to teamwork.
For a multi-player game, WoW doesn’t do much to reward playing in groups. Not once, not even once, did I care about what my team was doing, and I was on a freakin’ Skype call with them. Missions are given to you, not your team, and the dumbed down mechanics means that there’s no need to employ team strategy. It’s only victory or defeat, nothing about ensuring fewer casualties or quicker battles, and there’s no point in flanking or formations, so teamwork doesn’t feel necessary. That said, a multi-player game that focuses on people that play alone also means you don’t have to deal with the salty vitriol synonymous with LoL. Everyone’s pretty chill when it comes to these games, so ensuring the competition doesn’t outweigh the fun factor is a positive in my eyes.
What isn’t so nice to the ol’ looking holes are the graphics. At a glance, everything looks pretty good, and the detailing of the ships is top notch. However, once you start looking around in-game, you’ll notice that the ships are the only things that look halfway decent. The islands look like they were puked into existence by an omnipotent child, and the lack of anything worth looking at (like, oh, coasts) is alarming. Weirdly, everything feels smaller than you expect, so everything looks like toys in a bathtub, including your ship. When you pair it up with the great sounds, it’s makes for an odd mix of realistic warfare with the sense that you’re just fighting in a puddle. It doesn’t detract heavily from the gameplay, but it’s odd nonetheless.
Despite all the flaws and niggly things WoW comes with, it’s still pretty decent. It’s nowhere near WoT’s level of quality, but WoW gives us something different to try out. Ships are, by their very nature, not tanks, and the gameplay is reflective of a different approach to the old formula. It’s not a big leap in any new directions, which is a shame, but it is an approach that’s worked a whole lot better than World of Warplanes ever did. It’s a single-player multi-player game for the lurker in us all, and if you were looking for something like that after years of WoT, then maybe you should give WoW a go. It is free, after all.