World of Tanks is a global phenomenon, and its success has become a new genre of sorts: the World War 2 vehicle shooter. World of Warships, the newest entry in the series after 2013’s World of Warplanes, is finally out of drydock and officially launched. Its mix of ponderous warships and huge guns—the biggest guns ever fired in anger by mankind—is beautiful, polished, and a joy to play. Warships is the most thoughtful Wargaming game so far, but its economy continues Wargaming’s pattern of expensive, exploitative freemium prices.Planning ahead is key for Warships.
For those not familiar with series,Wargaming is studio making free online games with epic battles and struggle for global supremacy.Either you fight in tank battles,airplane dodges and now you get to play warship naval combats on a wavy sea.
Full steam ahead
Ships are controlled from an overhead view, as though the captain was hovering twenty feet over the central tower. Wargaming continues to be a dab hand at making controls that turn a complicated war machine into an accessible, keyboard-friendly vehicle. The rudder and throttle controls are designed to be set and forgotten, as though a subordinate had an order yelled at them while the captain worried about other things.
Planning ahead is key for Warships. Especially in larger boats, bringing guns around to face an enemy takes a minute. Knowing that enemies will most likely come from the East, and planning accordingly, gives captains time to get pointed in the right direction with the explodey-parts facing the bad guys. This same slowness also makes flanking especially effective in Warships: sneaking around an island to come up behind a ship gives the crafty tactician a solid 30 seconds of free punches while the victim’s cannons rotate around to counter.
I had one particularly tense battle at the helm of the USS Montana, a truly monstrous battleship with guns as big around as my car tires. An enemy cruiser flanked our lead position and started making trouble, so I rotated my twelve barrels of kickass and started aiming down the gunner sights. In my narrow field of view, he sailed straight toward me. As the distance closed I measured his range on tiny hashmarks, leading the target from ten kilometers away. His profile was tiny and constantly shifting. Though it pained me, I kept taking single shots instead of unleashing my entire battery at once, trying to get my aim just right. Each time, my shot fell just short or just off to the side of his vulnerable hull.
Then, he made a mistake. To better engage me, he turned his fat broadside my way and stopped closing the distance. With a huge, wide target sitting at a set range, I took one more targeting shot. When it landed smack amidships, I enjoyed an evil smile and fired all four batteries at once. Twelve 16-inch shells, each weighing about three tons, arced across the sky and dropped on his head like the fist of an angry god, sinking his ship in one volley. If this had been Counter-Strike, I would have just landed a head-shot with the AWP. I got the same sense of satisfaction, even if it did take about five minutes to fully play out.
There’s an art to angles in Warships, and it tickles the tiny, forgotten part of my brain that experiences math as a form of pleasure. (I’ve tried to subdue that part of my brain with booze, but alas, it remains.) With guns mounted all down the body of a ship, facing broadside to an enemy is the best way to unload on some poor sucker. Unfortunately, going broadside also shows the enemy team a huge target to shoot at. There’s a sweet spot at around 30 degrees that brings all guns onto a target while minimizing exposure. Instead of doing a barrel roll or hiding behind a bombed-out church, this mental geometry is how captains stay safe on the oceans. And because boats can’t pivot instantaneously, it takes pleasant intuition to pull off.
I’ve mentioned it in passing already, but Warships looks incredibly good. Even as pretty as it is, it comes packed with graphics options that should tone down enough for less powerful rigs to run it. It includes support for multiple monitors and a variety of native resolutions. “Sky and Clouds Quality” and “Sea Rendering Quality” would sound like esoteric settings for minutia in any other game, but in Warships half of what the game renders is water or sky. On my GTX 970, I had no problem getting a solid 60 frames per second on the highest quality settings.
There’s a huge variety of gadgets and weapons to play with, from scout planes to emergency repair crews. Each of Warships’ four ship types (destroyer, cruiser, carrier, and battleship) drive differently. Some are slower, more powerful, or pack smoke screens and deadly torpedo spreads.