World of Warships Submarines Preview: Hardly Sub-Par

Over the past few years, World of Warships has managed to grow into something special all its own. Hardly a World of Tanks on the high seas, the franchise has managed to create something significant with its naval battles and continues to grow each day with its available ships, online capabilities and strategies. Not to mention it’s performance on console, now that World of Warships Legends has a full release on PlayStation 4.

So what’s the next step for the PC release? How about a new layer of strategy, literally? For years, fans have been asking for submarines to be added to the game. We’re not sure if it’s just the idea of being able to attack destroyers from underwater, or just replicating the notion of being like Sean Connery in The Hunt For Red October (or, like the game’s director tells us, the captain from the legendary film Das Boot, which is well worth checking out), but the team apparently decided they would make this key addition to the game. Soon players will be able to take them for a test run. Wargaming Austin invited us down to take them for a test run.

Since players have been requesting submarines for some time, and considering Warships’ base has grown to 30 million active accounts over the past four years, Wargaming has been paying very close attention to players aspirations for the game. With 300 warships to choose from above the water, the team decided to sink to the depths to see what else it can offer. This new class does change things up a bit, as players can do quite a bit both on the surface and beneath it.

For this new addition, the developers actually had to do a bit of rebuilding with the maps. That’s because, beforehand, they actually had everything set to go on the surface, but not beneath it. So they had to create the depths below on each individual map to make this happen. It makes sense since there was no reason to go beneath the water beforehand, but it’s necessary with submarines as you’ll want to see the destroyers you’re sneaking up on and prepare your attacks accordingly.

Over the course of the next few weeks, submarines will enter beta-testing within the game, across various classes. It will start in three key countries: the United States, Germany and the USSR. You can see the available classes below, as broken down by the publisher:

  •  The United States: the Cachalot (Tier VI), Salmon (Tier VIII) and Balao (Tier X).
  •  Germany: the U-69 (Tier VI), U-190 (Tier VIII) and U-2501 (Tier X).
  •  USSR: the S-1 (Tier VI), L-20 (Tier VIII) and K1 (Tier X).

Tiers vary depending on skill set, so those that are just getting the hang of them will want to start with something on the lower set, like the Cachalot. As they become more experienced, Warships vets will want to try their luck with the K1 and the U-2501, just to see what they’re capable of. They’re really something, based on our hands-on time with the models in the multiplayer tests.

When it comes to submarines being on the surface, there’s an advantage with conserving oxygen. However, that also makes you visible to not only enemy ships, but also attacking planes from the sky. You’ll want to make sure you’re doing this only when you’ve got minimal enemy presence around you, or you need to regather for a moment while you figure out your next move. Once that’s done, you’ll want to move down to the next level, periscope.

Periscope level does bring your speed down a bit, but that doesn’t sink you too far into the depths where your oxygen depletes too badly. This also gives you the access you need to target enemies and fire torpedoes, using an effective targeting system once you get someone in range. The targeting system does take a little bit of practice, as it’s not as typical as the firing range on a destroyer. However, you’ll see how effective it is once you get used to its range and timing.

Something to keep in mind; the game doesn’t have a mode where you can attack other submarines, at least not yet. For the time being, the beta that will launch over the next few weeks will simply have submarines going up against warships, and vice versa. Wargaming did note that, in the future, there’s the possibility of an update in which it could launch full-blown underwater warfare between ships. For now however, you’ll want to keep warships firmly in your sights. Keep your periscope firmly trained on targets above water, because it won’t do any good trying to fire at anything beneath it.

Now, back to torpedo firing. When you do use a targeting system, you’ll use what’s called an acoustic pulse. This enables you to see what lands within your range, though you’ll set up shots properly so you can hit something. It’ll take time to get this down, so be patient.

One other note about the acoustic pulse is that it makes you very vulnerable. By activating it, some enemy vessels will be able to see you on the map. It’s just for a short while, but it could be just enough time for them to figure out your position, so make sure you’re ready to move.

Speaking of movement, one thing you’ll want to keep in mind with water depth is how it can affect your speed. I talked above about how oxygen can be depleted depending how deep you are underwater and speed is affected as well.

If you’re right above the surface, oxygen doesn’t run out too quickly, and you can move at a pretty moderate speed. However, if you go deeper, the oxygen does start to run out much more quickly, and you’ll be forced to go much slower. If it’s stealth you’re going for this might be a good tactic, but you don’t want to stay underwater for too long, lest you run the risk of damaging your vessel and being forced to surface way too quickly, possibly setting yourself up for a counter-attack from enemies.

Once you get used to a submarine’s movement, it can make quite the team player in World of Warships. Not only are torpedoes effective to destroyers and other ships, but you can use it to “spot” other ships and report to fellow teammates above water. It can be used to “spy” from lower depths, as well as possibly set up damage for someone to come along to finish them off.

Ah, but that does not mean that the other team won’t be ready for you. Remember earlier when I mentioned something about depth charges? The heavier warships in Warships are more than packing for this occasion. If they know that submarines are in the area, they’ll have the option to drop a few of these. If they manage to hit your vessel, they’ll do a significant amount of damage to the hull. By reading “pings” in the water, they can gather a good idea of where to drop, so don’t think it’s going to be peaceful going on the hunt.

Some warships will also have anti-submarine mortars as well. These may not be as damage inducing as depth charges, but they’re highly effective once they have you in their sights. Be prepared to get out of the area quickly if you see one of these set you up.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about lighter ships attacking subs. The destroyers seem to be the ones that can do the larger amount of damage. Do keep a look out though. They can even ram submarines if they surface, and that can leave quite a mark, as we learned from one particular skirmish during a match.

You can go fully underwater if you want to creep along the ocean floor and there’s a positive and a negative to this.

The negative is you won’t be able to see your enemies. However, you will be able to use what’s called a hydrophone. With this, you can see which way the nearest enemy ships are going as well as objects and such. From there, you can determine what their trajectory is, and figure out your next move. That could mean sneaking up to the surface and firing a couple of torpedoes, or alerting your fellow teammates to prepare for an attack.

Again, this will take up a whole bunch of oxygen, but those who literally go deep with thier strategy, or those who want try something stealthy may want to give it a go to see what it offers. It’s a pretty neat trick, provided you don’t run out of breathing air first.

As far as control set-up goes, submarines handle pretty smoothly in Warships. Steering is about the same, and you can set up a pretty moderate speed on the same level as you could with destroyers and other vessels. The main difference here is that you can utilize the C button to dive and the F button to surface. Keep in mind that like the speed buttons, these are gradual so you won’t rise or drop right away. You’re going to go slow in these situations, so if you’re beneath the water and want to get up to the surface, it’s going to take a few seconds. Likewise if you’re looking to drop on some foes so you’ll need to plan ahead. This isn’t exactly like sinking a stone. A submarine requires some time to sink to the ocean floor in reality and in game.

Wargaming took its time redesigning the particular maps for the upcoming World of Warships beta that will utilize the submarines, and it shows based on the levels that we played thus far. The ocean floors look absolutely beautiful, and blend right in with the overhead action that took place with previous World of Warships sessions. It’s almost like it didn’t miss a beat, and considering all the rebuilding that had to take place, that’s really something. What’s more, the level of design on the submarines themselves, as you can see in the screenshots, is cool as well. Here’s hoping that the team adds some classic models over the next few months, including that Das Boot model that the director was talking about. (We’ll take a yellow one too please because, well, you get it!)

As far as when submarines will be fully integrated into World of Warships, the team expects them to arrive in 2020, once beta testing has successfully been concluded. They expect the game to go through that over the next few weeks, as well as make the rounds at a few trade shows, including this week’s Gamescom event.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like World of Warships: Legends will be getting submarines. The team does have a “never say never” sort of approach to the game, but considering they set up those versions of Warships with more of an arcade style, they’re likely going to stick with above-the-surface action for now. Still, you never know.

Wargaming has something special here. While submarines do require a greater deal of strategy to soak in, and a lot more balance when it comes to survival, it’s pretty cool stuff once you get things figured out. The visual style is great, adding a layer to the game that we never thought that we’d get to see. Fans are sure to love what it has to offer as it goes into beta over the next few weeks and into full launch sometime next year.

World of Warships is available now on PC. We’ll keep you informed once a full beta schedule becomes available.

(Wargaming Austin flew us down and provided accommodations for the hands-on preview. We thank them for their hospitality!)

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