After spending a few hundred battles taking to the skies of World of Warplanes, it is apparent that the game is set up to capture the same approachable yet nuanced gameplay that defines World of Tanks. Numerous improvements to the game have helped make it more intuitive for new players, and a new mouse-centric control scheme has made it easier to wield. The game is still slated for launch this fall, but even in its current state, there isn't much that separates it from the quality of a finished product.
As we have covered in the past, World of Warplanes doesn't deviate too heavily from the formula used in World of Tanks. The planes are assigned to successive tiers, from one to 10, with new players starting off at Tier 1. Through gameplay, players unlock new planes in each nation's tech tree. Currently represented are Germany, Japan, Russia and USA. British planes are set to be included in the game before release, but an exact date is not known at this point.
The planes run the gamut from the biplanes of the 1930s to the prop planes of World War II and up to the jets used in the Korean War. This centers all of the planes in the era of the golden age of dogfighting, where taking down an enemy plane required the use of machine guns rather than the missiles of modern combat aviation. Most of the planes in the game are famous in their respective nations, such as the German BF 109s and the American P-51s.
While attending the WarGaming 15-Year Anniversary event in Minsk, Belarus, we had the chance to take refuge in an old Soviet Army tent and chat with Ivan Kulbych, the lead game designer behind World of Warplanes. Among other things, we talked about how planes are added to the title, how upcoming features are going to pan out, and his thoughts on the game's development so far.
The selection, creation, and inclusion of a new plane is a long, iterative process. The planes need to have a basis in realism, though not all of the planes featured in the game flew in real life. Just as it has been with World of Tanks, some of the planes only existed as a prototype — or more obscurely as little more than a blueprint or plan that never went into production. While it can't be known how well such a plane would have handled in real life, the developers try to suss it out for the game based on known characteristics. If the designs used the same engine or a similar fuselage as an existing plane, that helps guide the process.
That's not to say that every plane makes the cut; after many iterations, some planes simply wash out for one reason or another. For each plane, the idea is to give them unique handling and performance characteristics so they don't feel just like another plane. For example, both the American F4F and the Russian I-16(L) are considered "turn and burn" fighters (planes that are adept at maneuvering for advantage in dogfights), but each has a different feel. This "feel" plays a big role in how well a player embraces a plane, and it's entirely possible to fall in love with using one based on how it handles.
While World of Warplanes already feels solid, there are some incoming features planned before launch. Planes can currently take damage to different systems that affect the combat capabilities, but the crew is essentially immune to the rigors of dogfighting. In an upcoming patch, this will no longer be the case, and crew members can become wounded and are no longer able to perform to their best. A wounded pilot affects a plane's ability to fly, whereas a wounded tail gunner can't accurately lay down a bead of fire on pursing enemy planes. This puts further emphasis on avoiding enemy gunfire, and it opens up the game to some new tactical situations.
Upon release, the clan battle system will be put in place, allowing players to form and join clans and duke it out for control over a strategic global map. This is not only the same system that's currently in World of Tanks, but it will literally be the same map. A tank clan can capture a territory, and a plane clan can capture that same territory for the air. This also plays a strategic role in clan matches, so a tank crew can call in airstrikes. Details to this extent were scarce, but it seems that tank and plane clans can interact with one another, if not directly.
One thing that is not changing is the fact that the minute-to-minute gameplay of Tanks, Warplanes, and the upcoming Warships will not be integrating for matches. This is due to a variety of issues, such as map size and layout. For one map to support all three games, it would need to be relatively huge and feature significant bodies of water. While this would be fine for aircraft, it would be limiting for ships, and it would mean that tanks must traverse large swaths of land to engage enemy tanks. Thus, the idea is to have each game focus on its own discipline of combat, and clans can have the ability to indirectly fight across the global map.
World of Warplanes may be a few months away from its projected fall release, but it already plays in such a way that belies its open beta status. A few features still need to be added, but fans of combat aviation and old-fashioned dogfighting should download the game and check it out. The action is fast-paced and nuanced, and the interface and controls are more approachable than they were before. As a whole, World of Warplanes is shaping up to be just as much of a juggernaut as World of Tanks has been.
Previewed on: Intel i5 2500k, 8gb RAM, nVidia GTX 660 Ti
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