After far too long a wait, almost four years in fact, World of Warships (wot woz World of Battleships before someone decided that online gaming really needed another game with the initials WoW) has headed down the slipway into ‘open beta’… the sort of open beta that comes with a promise of no database wipes and an open cash shop, so I guess that means “this product isn’t really finished yet but we’d like your money, so come on in and try to ignore the wet paint and all the hammering and sawing going on in the background”.
Now I’m a sucker for anything that lets me command big ships – space or sea – and feels like a proper naval battle. I adored the ship combat in Pirates of the Burning Sea and Star Trek Online, although the shore portions of both games left something to be desired. I’ve also had a lot of fun from World of Tanks, so WOWS was always going to be an easy sell to me. When I say ‘sell’ however, what they’ve sold me so far is at the best price – free. Much like World of Tanks you can play the game quite happily without dropping a penny on it. I will do so soon enough though – I can use more ship slots, and maybe that nice tier 7 American cruiser…. or HMS Warspite if they put it back in the shop at some point as the only Royal Navy ship currently in the game.
So what’s it like? Superficially similar to World of a Tanks in a lot of ways – user interface, earning XP for the upgrades to ships as you work your way up the tech tree, steering with keyboard and shooting with mouse are all pretty familiar. Tactically though the differences will kill a player who expects it to be like WoT. The land game is heavy on stealth and concealment – when an enemy is spotted he’s usually well within weapon range. While WoWS maps have islands to hide behind, most ships will be seen long before they are in range for guns. The exception is destroyers, which due to their small size and ability to lay down smokescreens can get quite close to the big boys before they can be effectively targeted. And once they get close they can launch a spread of torpedoes that can ruin a battleship’s day. Unlike WoT which has a “food chain” whereby bigger tanks pretty much always kill lighter ones, WoWS has a rock-scissors-paper relationship. Battleships have big, long ranged, slow firing guns that can wreck a cruiser with a few well-placed salvoes. Cruiser guns are much faster firing and better at engaging the small, agile destroyers. Destroyers (and some cruisers, like most of the Japanese line) can launch torpedoes that do massive damage if they hit… And good luck dodging them in a slow, lumbering battleship. Aircraft carriers annoy everyone by sending in dive bombers and torpedo bombers whilst providing fighter cover to friendly ships.
Balance may be problematic, or that may be that with the start of appendix beta a lot of players are clueless. There seems to be a forum consensus that HE shells rule, as they start fires that DoT ships to death, and that battleships suck. My own experience is that well-aimed AP (armour piercing) shells can do a lot more damage if you land them amidships on the target. Aircraft carriers are dominating at higher tiers, but that’s partly because they’re all going for bomber heavy load outs and not providing much fighter cover for their allies. Doing that boosts the carrier captain’s kill total but might not be best for the team as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see how tactics evolve when clan battles get added to the game.
On the whole it”s been good fun so far. I just unlocked my first carrier last night, and as I’m off on a week’s holiday with the family it’ll be a little while before I really get to put her through her paces. Will definitely be playing some more when we get back.