One of the high points of E3 2012 was swinging by the Wargaming booth. Wargaming has seen massive growth in its flagship game, World of Tanks, with over 30 million registered players and 80 percent of that growth occurring over the last six months. Building up that success, Wargaming is set to release its next game, World of Warplanes, near the end of this year. They also mentioned some details regarding World of Battleships, though it won't see the light of day until 2013.
We sat down with a few of the Wargaming guys to learn more about World of Warplanes and ask a large amount of questions about the game mechanics. Much like in World of Tanks, you have a hangar of planes that you purchase using the in-game currency, which are set up in successive tiers. The aircraft selection spans from the biplanes of the 1930s up to the jet fighters of the 1950s and the Korean War. The planes are from the Germany, Russia and the U.S., and there's a variety of types, such as ground attack planes, heavy fighters, light fighters and even some carrier aircraft.
A small novel could be devoted to the detail that has been put into the game's flight model. While it doesn't require a deep dive into aerodynamics, the flight model is set up to be both nuanced and accessible. The number of mounted armaments and the weight of your plane affects its handling, so it'll handle differently before you've dropped your payload of bombs than it does after. There is a feel of momentum and physics at work, with the planes still exhibiting their nimble outward grace while still feeling like they have substance. You can also remove guns from the plane to decrease the weight, trading firepower for aerodynamics.
Much as World of Tanks made it easy for novice tankers to get into what is otherwise a complex tank simulation, World of Warplanes's UI and controls make it easy to get into a dogfight and have a clue of what you're doing. The familiar ring is central to the screen and has details on your flight speed and altitude as well as the location of detected enemies. A smart targeting system shows a picture-in-picture view of the current or last enemy to grace your crosshairs and shows their orientation in relation to your plane. You can also orient your own camera to the target.
A similar damage system is also in place, with your plane able to take damage to specific components, such as the engine, exhaust and propeller. You could even potentially lose a wing. The crew of a plane is usually one person, and unlike a tank, you can't exactly make repairs during flight, so while some crew may have repair abilities, there are some hits that you can't recover from, no matter how handy your pilot is.
The pilot and plane progression system is also set up similarly. Each plane has a set of historically accurate parts that it can mount, and as you progress through unlocking the parts for a plane, you eventually unlock the next plane. As your pilots complete missions, they gain experience; this time around, it's set up like a tree of potential skills that your pilots can learn. In addition your gold, credits and free experience can carry over to and from the two games and into the upcoming World of Battleships via your Wargaming.net account, allowing you to use the same resources across all three games.
The spotting system works much as it does in World of Tanks, and only enemy planes that someone has eyes on will show up in the minimap and on the central circle as detection arrows. Canyons and mountains obviously obstruct detection, but clouds and smoke also serve as concealment to hide your plane from detection. This allows for the same level of cat-and-mouse gameplay for smart pilots to pursue, even though the planes are flying in a massively open 3-D space.
We got some hands-on time with the game and took our choice of planes into the fray. In the pilot seat of the venerable P-51 Mustang, we managed to quickly get a feel for the controls and wobble our way toward the tons of enemies coming at us from the other side of the map. The ensuing combat was a fast-paced mix of chasing down enemy targets and trying to line up volleys of fire, helping friendlies by getting enemies off of their tail while at the same time evading tails of our own as bullets whipped by and damaged some components. We ended up getting the first confirmed kill of E3 before accidentally slamming into a mountain a short while later, and the whole time, it felt like an absolute blast.
There were some sparse details provided on World of Battleships, and we were told that combat in that game will feel a lot like how the self-propelled guns handled in World of Tanks. With the resources shared across all three games, the intent is that players can pick the game with the pace that matches their mood, and then carry some of that progress into the other games if they choose.
World of Warplanes is cleared to land sometime near the end of the year, allowing both veteran and novice pilots the chance to take to the skies for some old-fashioned dogfighting. Even with gameplay as complicated as flight can be, Wargaming has found a way to make it both fun and accessible while delivering a surprisingly deep experience. Look for more in-depth information on the game as the closed beta progresses.
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