Friday, 31 January 2014

Review: World of Warplanes (PC)

One aspect of World of Warplanes that the developers absolutely nail is the feeling of flight, at least on a casual basis because this isn't a flight sim by any stretch.

It makes me wish I still had my three-button Gravis joystick (circa. 1991). It also makes me wish there were more games that nudge up against that part of my brain that releases endorphins every time I think of X-Wing, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, or the Rogue Squadron games. Then World of Warplanes makes me wish there was more to do within the confines of the game.

The game has a low barrier to entry — it's free, for one — and the controls couldn't be simpler. With a smattering of keyboard buttons, the bulk of the action is handled with the mouse using small, smooth movements. (Granted, there are other control options.) The smaller, agile prop-powered planes handle differently than the giant bombers and jet fighters so there's some adjustment from plane to plane there but that's as complex as it gets. Given a short burst of practice even a small child could fly everything from the FJ-1 Fury to the Polikarpov I-5 to the Messerschmitt Bf 109E in and around some really wide-open and impressive environments.

Dogfights might be another matter. Those require planning, evasion, and some luck. Having said that, it's still easy to get into.

And it's very fortunate that the dogfighting is so accessible and exciting because that's the only mode available.

If you tire of the team-based dogfighting then World of Warplanes is over for you. If you're flying with a regular group of real people there's a social pull but if team-based deathmatch (no respawns!) with a smattering of optional objectives isn't enough game in your video game then pull a 180 and get going.

Of course, one hopes that developers Persha Studia and Wargaming will start building out gameplay modes. With the environments as large as they are, there's plenty of room for other modes.

I hate myself for saying it but even an escort scenario or straight-up deathmatch with respawns would go a long way to liven things up, especially because grinding is a necessity if players want to access new planes, upgrade current planes and crew members (who essentially act as buffs to attack and defense stats) and apply paint jobs and decals.

Wargame provided me with a press account which gave me the keys to Scrooge McDuck's money bin so I could mess around with the planes with no thought to economy or saving my experience points and pennies to acquire more gear. Hypothetically, one could climb the ranks of planes without spending a real-world nickel but that means a lot of grinding/dogfighting, which I experienced in my alternate "regular" account. Realistically though, many will buy gold with real-world money to accelerate the climb through the ranks. (I suggest you check out the official site for an economy breakdown if you're interested in the game as a whole.)

As something to mess around with for no money down, World of Warplanes offers a wonderful arcade flying experience even if the richness of the gameplay modes is about ankle deep.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Looks pretty darn impressive
- Free and easy to control
- If you like dogfighting, here you go!

The Bad:
- Shortage of modes
- A lot of grinding (in that one mode) if you expect to make progress

Score: 7.0 / 10