Wargaming.net’s MMOPG business model is reminiscent of the old Franklin Mint Civil War chess set: get the board and a few pieces cheaply but pay a small fortune for the rest of the set.
To be fair, Wargaming.net allows players to use the base game and models for free but World of Tanks has shown that, once hooked, gamers will buy into this money sink for tank upgrades, repairs and new vehicles. Does World of Warships – downloaded from https://worldofwarships.com/ – induce gamers to spend money the same way?
World of Warships continues Wargaming.Net’s standards of detailed and exquisite graphics. Ports are shown in detail with docks, wharves and buildings. Ports are where the different modules for improving vessels are shown and serve as entry to the tech tree. Here, different tiers of ship types and classes are researched for purchase with experience points (XP). Players’ selected ships are moored there showing values for survivability, artillery, anti-aircraft capability, concealment and maneuverability along with earned crates containing supplies and bonuses. These locations are often decorated with seasonal and holiday themes accompanied by the appropriate weather effects. As with any posts of call, friends can be contacted and clans joined.
The battle maps are also photogenic Areas include polar regions, large islands and archipelagos with appropriate landscapes. The sea seems calm but wakes and bow wave are pronounced. Weather is shown by clouds and precipitation enhanced by bird and wind sounds. Weather can diminish visibility as can smoke screens laid by destroyers. No battle is fought on the open sea but the settings work for game play.
The real graphic stars are the ships. Carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers from Japan, the US, Germany, Russia and Britain are depicted. Vessels from both world wars are represented. Sailing clumsy, slab-sided four-pipers is interesting as they strain to reach twenty knots. US carriers start with the Langley while Japanese carriers start with the venerable Hosho, the first purpose-built carrier. A zoomed-in omni-directional view displays details on every ship down to deck planks, halyards, bridge wings and davits. Camouflage can be obtained as consumables to add spice to hulls. In battle, the animation is astounding as turrets swivel, flags wave, smoke billows, holes appear in blackened decks and superstructures, debris flies and flames cover both enemy and friendly ships. Foundering vessels turn turtle, showing their keels. Torpedoes launched from destroyers and cruisers leave wakes on the way to their targets. When carriers are present, aircraft make their runs amid storms of AA fire. Shells from primary batteries leave smoke trails to mark their path; their explosions help players judge range and elevation. Ships are not the only graphical weapon platform delights. Zeppelins share the sky with squadrons of bi-planes and monoplanes from aircraft carriers along with spotter planes from capital ships.
Climbing the Ladder via Slaughter
The basic controls are simple: “W” and “S” to accelerate or slow with “A” and “D” for port or starboard. A compass rose on the map shows heading and view. When an enemy comes into sight, it becomes circled and SHIFT brings up the close-in binocular view with an aiming bar. “R” puts out fires and repairs damage. Single shots are fired by a left-click, ripple fire by holding down the left mouse button and a full broadside by a double click. The game can be played well with just these controls but more detailed controls can be viewed here. The same screen shows damage in silhouette and color, horizontal bars indicating how the primary turrets are loaded and icons for ammunition type, torpedoes, and planes.
Two kinds of battles are fought. Co-op battles are fought between a team of eight to ten online players and a similar number of bots. These clashes are good for learning the basics, getting a feel for a new ship and leveling up. Random battles are the real test of players’ skills. Fought between teams of online players, the rookies will be able to see how the big boys play. Victory in both battle types is decided by either sinking all enemy ships or having enough friendly ships in the enemy base area to capture it. Campaigns, opened at Level Eight, consist of several missions, each of which has many tasks with different goals. The length of battles rests on what tier of ships are involved. While ships are reasonably historical, the battles are not, resembling rugby scrums.
Players begin with a Level One cruiser, the first rung of the tech tree. The tree goes to ten levels but, on Level Two with enough XP, destroyers can be researched and battleships on Level Three. Aircraft carriers appear on Level Four. Parts of the tree can be skipped by buying premium ships from around $17 up to a bundle of almost $100.
After enough players have gathered, the scene goes to the battle map where players have time to set speed and view their position in their team on the mini-map or a larger tactical map. The physics of the game becomes noticeable when the acceleration begins. The time to reach each quarter-speed depends on the type, size and age of the craft, acceleration is slower for vessels laid down before 1940 and large ships are slower than smaller ones. The same concept applies to turning radii. Under way, players must decide whether to stay with the pack of friendly green ships, charge ahead or sail along islands to ambush foes. Ships with spotter planes can launch them to increase the range of the primary batteries. Soon, orange symbols of enemy ships appear on the horizon. Players move aiming reticules onto them and then go to binocular view. Depending on the speed, course and aspect of the target, using the aiming bar and a ranging shot will indicate if aim is ahead, behind, long or short of the target. Correcting aim will result in hits but the type and amount of damage done depends on the type of ammunition used. Firing at long range allows plunging fire on targets behind obstacles. Armor piercing shells will cause tremendous damage if penetration is achieved; otherwise the enemy is just scratched. High explosives can set fires and damage superstructures while being the only effective shell against destroyers. The giant killers are torpedoes where the smallest ship or torpedo plane can wreck the mightiest ship. Torpedoes can be used either in narrow or wide spreads and have a minimum arming distance. The only real defense against them is to turn into (comb) their course. Hits during battle produce battle ribbons for the player on the battle map. Ribbons mark spotting, setting fires, hitting critical sections and sinking enemies.
Larger and modern ships have secondary and anti-aircraft batteries. These weapons open up automatically if an enemy ship closes. Players can direct these batteries with CTRL-select. Extreme cases call for ramming but can damage players’ ships as much as their target. As in many tactical games and in real life, the greatest danger for a player is target fixation. Shelling an enemy to bits is so engrossing that other bad guys can sneak up and sink the player’s ship; destroyers are especially bad about doing this move. Therefore, players should leave binocular view regularly to check the overall situation.
After the battle, the rewards are shown. Players earn XP and credits. These elements are key to the major attraction of the game: leveling up. Players can achieve nineteen ranks with new abilities and bonuses with each advance. XP and credits also buy modules and upgrades for ships. Level seven gives each ship a captain who can also get better skills as that ship gains XP. Signal flags can be obtained and grant ships different attributes if flown. Finally, players can earn up to three “goody” containers if they gain enough XP. Be aware that fines in credits an XP will be levied for friendly fire incidents.
Is World of Warships a money sink? Not necessarily. Tier I, II, III and IV battles are challenging and will pay for themselves without buying a premium account, doubloons or premium ships. On the other hand, lives there a captain with heart so cold that he can resist buying Bismarck or Essex? Naw!