Modern role-playing games owe a great deal to miniature wargaming in general, and naval wargaming in particular; Dungeons and Dragons, the granddaddy of RPGs, began its life as a set of rules for gaming with fantasy miniatures, and the terms “armor class” and “hit points” were borrowed from naval gaming nomenclature that was in use at the time. RPGs and wargames, both of the pen and paper and the electronic variety, have exploded in popularity since then. In spite of that explosion of popularity, however, naval gaming has remained something of a niche, a thing played by a dedicated few with tape measures and protractors on the floor of the local gym, and the subject of very few video games, most of which have been submarine simulators. It sort of chugged along, kept alive by those of us who refused to accept that the days of the battleship ended with the conclusion of the Battle of Surigao Strait.
With the live release of World of Warships, naval gaming has taken a seat at the table of popular gaming culture. With tens of thousands of players from around the world, this watery counterpart to the insanely popular World of Tanks has enjoyed a tremendously successful launch, and we here at MMOGames were graciously invited to be part of the fun. As some of you will no doubt have guessed by now, I am one of those dedicated people who used to play with little ships on a floor somewhere with tape measures and protractors, so when I heard that we were offered the use of a press account, with all the bells and whistles, I leapt at the chance to make use of it and review the game. Now, for those of you who have already had enough of my wordiness, here comes the line of the review you are after:
World of Warships is a fun, free to play game with beautiful graphics.
From the moment I loaded up the game, I was impressed. The video that plays at the login screen alone is worth the time it takes to download and install the game. Signing up for an account is easy as, and their website is quite user friendly. I created an account because, although Wargaming were kind enough to give us the use of a press account, which I did make extensive use of, I also wanted to experience the game as a new player would actually experience it, in addition to being able to play with all the fun toys that were available through the use of the press account. I logged in and took my Erie-Class gunboat into my first co-op battle.
Players have a choice of two types of battles they can participate in. Co-op battles send a team of 8 players against a team of computer controlled ships, and the enemy fleet will have exactly the same composition as the player fleet; if you have 2 battleships, 4 cruisers, and 2 destroyers, not only will the enemy fleet also have 2 battleships, 4 cruisers and 2 destroyers, but they will be of the exact same types as the ships in the player controlled fleet. You might think that, as in most games, no team of bots can hope to stand a chance against a team of players… and you would be wrong. The AI is surprisingly good, and there were a few occasions where the team of bots actually won. Frequently, we would win with only a handful of our ships remaining. I suppose it is likely that the people who play primarily co-op games might not be quite as skilled as the diehard PvPers, but make no mistake; the bots are not stupid or pushovers. They will use tactics and teamwork, and as such, these co-op battles are a LOT of fun; they are, as of yet, my favorite type of battle.
Random battles are a fancy name for PvP battles, in which two teams of players fight each other. Each team will have 12 members, and while the game’s algorithm does its best to match teams to one another as closely as possible, the fact is that unless two identical sets of ships are in the queue for a battle at the same time, the teams will not be identical. Wargaming have patched an issue where sometimes, ships of a very low tier would be pitted against much more advanced opponents, so random battles should now be much more evenly matched. The rewards for random battles are considerably better than the rewards for co-op battles; in one battle I played earlier today, I landed only 8 hits with the Tier 1 German cruiser, and earned 360 experience and 15,000 credits. Earning a reward that sizeable in a co-op mission in a Tier 1 ship would be extremely difficult. However, do be aware that PvPers in World of Warships tend to be quite good. I almost always get sank within the first couple of minutes of a match, but I am steadily getting a bit better. You can also complete missions, which are little daily challenges for extra credits, by competing in random battles, and they’re a nice little boon.
Gameplay itself is pleasantly fast paced, and straightforward enough; you use positioning and teamwork to your advantage. Most of the maps in the game have islands, choke points and the like which players can make good use of, ambushing enemies with gunfire and torpedoes while trying to use cover and your own evasive maneuvers to mitigate the damage you receive. There are surprisingly few things to worry about in game, and the controls are simple. You use your keyboard to control your ship and select ammunition and consumables, and you use your mouse to aim and fire your guns and to look around. However, the fact that there are only a few things to worry about does not diminish the difficulty of becoming good at managing those things. Accurate gunnery is hard, and managing to cause critical damage to opponents through citadel hits, destruction of weapons, rudder hits and so on, is much, much harder. Experienced PvP players are irritatingly skilled at landing these sorts of hits, and it is cultivating this skill – along with use of teamwork and evasive maneuvers, of course – which is critical to success in battles in general, and in PvP in particular. I am pretty bad at it yet; if I learn to do it well, I’ll be sure to let you all know.
There are four types of ships in the game, and each has unique traits which dictate how they are best used. Cruisers, the basic all-round gunboats, are relatively fast and maneuverable, and they have enough armor to take a few knocks, but they cannot duel with battleships. Cruisers should take advantage of terrain and higher speeds to engage enemies while mitigating threats to themselves. Destroyers are extremely fast, but are paper-thin; a single salvo from a battleship, or a couple of solid hits from a cruiser, and you’re toast. They are hard to spot, however, and they carry sets of torpedo tubes that can destroy most other ships with a couple of hits. Battleships are essentially long range snipers. They have low speeds, horrid maneuverability, and low rates of fire, so you will want to be quite accurate with your shots if you decide to play a battleship. However, they can soak up just an insane amount of punishment, and they can fire farther than any other vessel in the game by far. Lastly, aircraft carriers are so different, they’re almost like a completely new game. When using an aircraft carrier, you play the game in a map view, not the 1st person view (is it appropriate to call it “first person” when you’re playing as a ship?) that you use with the other sorts of vessels. You must keep your carrier well in the rear, safe from enemy guns and torpedoes, while sending your fighters to intercept enemy aircraft, and your dive bombers and torpedo planes to sink enemy vessels.
There are several nationalities of ships which you can use, but as of today, the only nations with completely developed ship trees are the United States and Japan; for Germany, only cruisers are available, and for the Soviet Union, you begin with a cruiser, but can only progress up the destroyer tree. Premium cruisers are available for purchase for the Soviet players, however. It is my understanding that eventually, fully developed ship trees will be available for all of them. A player earns experience by using a ship, and upon amassing enough experience, you can unlock the next ship in the tree, either moving to the next higher tier of the ship type you’re using, or moving sideways to unlock new branches of the tree, such as destroyers or battleships. Regardless of nationality, you always start off in a cruiser. Once you have unlocked a ship with experience, you must then purchase it using credits, which you earn through participating in battles.
Credits are also used to repair your vessel, and it is here that we move into a discussion of my very few complaints about the game. For starters, repairs get more expensive (and rapidly so) as you go up in ship tiers, enough that for a player like myself of mediocre skill, the higher tier ship’s repair costs were several times what I could earn from completing a battle with them. Now, I expect that this is largely due to the fact that I was able to simply jump into those higher tier ships through the use of the press account, and that I am very inexperienced; a more skilled player will certainly do better than me during battles, thus earning more money, and will get blown up a lot less, thus spending less on repairs. Since moving up the ladder of ships is not something that happens fast, players will have ample time to learn to use a ship type very, very well. I have been working toward a Cleveland-class light cruiser, both because they are very good in game terms, and because it has always been a ship type that I just like. I am still in the tier III cruiser after several days of play, and with my daily casual play, I very seriously doubt I will have a Cleveland within the next month. That’s ok, but selfish me wants to look at a sleek, racy World War II era cruiser, not those boxlike, 4-pipe scows from the very early 20th century.
World of Warships is free to install and play, and as such, they have to have a way to pay their developers and maintain their servers; like many games today, they have a premium shop which players can make purchases from. The items are all sensible enough; some premium ship types, signal flags which give small buffs, and premium account status, which gives +50% credits and experience. All of the premium shop stuff is nice, but nothing seems particularly game breaking. I did play with the Atlanta class cruiser quite a bit; being Tier VII, its repair costs were not too extravagant, and its armament of 16 5” dual purpose guns in 8 dual turrets, along with torpedo launchers, is potent and responsive. It is a great ship, fast and just a lot of fun to use, if perhaps a bit expensive to purchase. The historical Atlanta class cruisers were marked with both immense success and great tragedy; while the San Diego was the second most decorated vessel in the United States Navy, the Atlanta and Juneau were both sank during the 1st Naval Battle of Guadalcanal with heavy loss of life. Many of the other vessels depicted in the game have similarly intense stories; I hope that the game inspires players to learn a bit about them.
As I said at the beginning, World of Warships is fast paced and fun, and the graphics are quite pretty; the water effects in particular are stunning. My only complaints are little ones; the length of time it takes to get ships past tier 3 or 4 being chief among them. It’s fun, it’s free, it’s multiplayer, with PvP and PvE modes, and it is pretty. What else could we ask for? My rating of 8/10 would be higher if advancement were maybe a bit more rapid, if trees for the other nations were fully developed, and in particular, if Great Britain were represented at all. The decision to add a tree for the Soviet Union, whose naval impact on the two world wars was marginal at best, and whose largest member state’s (Russia’s) biggest contribution to the history of naval warfare was a stunning loss to the Japanese at the Battle of Tsushima, over Great Britain, the mightiest naval power in the world prior to World War II, is frankly rather puzzling, but I’m sure the Royal Navy will make its showing soon enough.
Now, weigh anchor, and go blow each other up!
+ Stunning Graphics
+ Easy to Understand
+ Incredibly Fun
– Slow Advancement
– Gameplay gets repetitive
– Cash Shop prices seem high