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World Of Warships

Platform(s): Android, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Release Date: Sept. 17, 2015

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


PC Review - 'World of Warships'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Oct. 12, 2015 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

World Of Warships is a free-to-play naval action MMO based on sea battles of the 20th century that complete the "World of" war trilogy.

With the release of World of Warships, Wargaming has finally realized its goal of a trilogy of war-themed games. While World of Tanks continues to be a juggernaut, World of Warplanes has had a much harder time trying to establish itself. In many ways, World of Warships represents what Wargaming has learned from its past games. It plays well, and a ton of thought has gone into many aspects of the design.

Though separate teams have worked on each of the games in the trilogy, there has always been a lot of similarity between them. Warships is styled in the trappings of the other games, with two teams of players duking it out while captaining a vessel from one of four classes of ships. Each ship class is defined by its purpose, and this system is more important in Warships than in any of the other World of games.

Destroyers are fast and capable of dealing great damage with torpedo launchers, but due to their fragility, they must use their mobility to stay alive. Cruisers are frontline ships and are balanced in terms of durability, firepower and speed. Battleships have the biggest guns and the longest ranges but are nearly the biggest and slowest targets. That honor goes to the aircraft carriers, which must manage aircraft squadrons while also trying to stay hidden.

Warships has more of a rock-paper-scissors mechanic going for it. Generally, each of the ship classes is most easily defeated by the one after it. That's not to say that it's a done deal; a competent cruiser can still beat a poorly captained battleship. Classes of ships also have other roles, such as cruisers having strong AA to screen against enemy aircraft.

A lot of this dynamic is due to the more methodical approach of ship combat. In Tanks, death can come at a moment's notice, but ships move slower and often across unbroken sight lines along the water's surface. You'll almost always see the ship that is shooting at you — and well in advance. It tends to be a good way to get players to stick together and use their combined firepower to take down enemy vessels.

There are some balance issues when it comes to certain ships. Much as it is in World of Tanks, it's difficult to be successful with some ships. Though this can be due to your play style, it also can be due to the ship being outclassed for its tier. For example, some Japanese battleships have only three sets of guns, and each one has high dispersion, so if you fire a range-finding shot, you've already used one-third of your salvo. Even with such high dispersion, your follow-up shots will likely miss their mark. On the flip side, there are some ships that just seem to do well in a variety of situations.

The ships are slow, but the gameplay doesn't feel that way. You watch the minimap to see how the battle has shifted and where you feel is the best spot to position your ship in the coming fight. Deck guns take time to swivel, so you'll fret over getting them into position.  You'll also maneuver around a landmass or orient your ship to present the smallest profile to the enemy. That last part is important, as every ship has its guns arranged in different positions, and their firing arcs may not overlap.

Even with deck guns that can shoot for kilometers, your ability to land shots every time is far from guaranteed. Each ship's guns have their own ballistic properties, and some have flatter trajectories while others arc up like artillery shells. You must account for that travel time, which is somewhat easier thanks to the lock-on system.

While in binocular mode, your camera keeps tracking a locked enemy ship, so you can pan it further ahead and hold at that distance. This lets you fire one shot, see how it lands, and adjust before firing others. You have to compensate for a ship's change in heading or speed, but it makes it feel a lot less like guesswork.

Ships have a series of subsystems that keep them in the fight. As your ship takes enemy fire, any number of calamities can result. Guns can get knocked out, or your engine or rudder can seize up. HE shells can also cause fires that burn down your ship's health. Meanwhile, AP shells are more likely to penetrate your armor and deal critical damage. Every ship has a repair crew ability that instantly fixes current issues but does not heal its overall health. This ability has a cooldown, so there is much strategy in when to use it, as using it too early or too late can be disastrous.

Ship classes have abilities that can only be used a certain number of times. Destroyers can use of their speed boosts to move even faster, and their smoke screens break line of sight. Cruisers have detection abilities to detect ships in the water via sonar, and some can launch a single fighter to protect them. Battleships can restore ship health, though it's done over time and has a long cooldown.

Aircraft carriers are a different animal. Much of their gameplay is done via a top-down map that shows all friendly positions and all known enemy positions. You are able to give your carrier waypoints to follow while you micromanage your aircraft. This is useful to keep your carrier close to the rest of the force, so you aren't alone when a destroyer finds you. Each carrier has different types of squadrons available and in different numbers. Based on the ship, they'll have some combination of fighters, torpedo bombers and/or dive bombers.

To get them airborne, you press a button to launch them, and from there, you control them as you would in a real-time strategy game. Fighters are best used to scout for both air and sea targets, then later protecting friendly ships from enemy bombers. While they can also engage other fighters, it is usually best to do so over friendly ship-based AA. All planes can have movement orders queued up, which is useful when organizing squadrons of bombers for a coordinated attack.

Dive bombers can fly over and drop their payload onto enemy ships, but they don't usually inflict heavy damage. Torpedo bombers have to drop a spread of torpedoes at range, but torpedo hits can do colossal damage. Skilled players can also manually control where the torpedoes and bombs are dropped, resulting in tighter spreads but placing all the attack effort in the hands of the player. It's rewarding to pull them off but requires a high level of finesse.

One aspect of carriers that is a frustrating is the lack of control over the types of planes you bring to a battle. Though ships can be outfitted with different flight control modules, which replace some squadron types with others, it's not the same. This problem is most impactful in early carrier play, where U.S. carriers are fighter-centric and Japanese carriers are based around torpedo bombers. At that tier, ship-based AA is quite ineffective, and to make matters worse, the U.S. fighter squadrons have six planes versus Japan's four. The ability to select your carrier loadout has obvious balance implications, but it would be nice to be able to tailor it to cover your weaknesses and fit more into your style of play.

Between rounds, there is an overarching progression system, both in your profile and through each nation's tech trees. Currently, only U.S. and Japanese ships are present, but German and Russian ships are in the works. Leveling up your profile unlocks more facets of the game, such as ship commanders, who level up and have their own perk trees. You'll also unlock signal flags in combat, and you can use them later as one-time buffs. Unlocking these things doesn't take much time and is a nice way to slide into new aspects of the game.

You are able to upgrade your ship using experience earned by playing rounds. The tech trees allow you to upgrade areas of your ship to enhance firepower, performance or survivability. Hull upgrades often increase your health points but may also change the number of guns or add a new combat ability. These aren't always straight upgrades, as you may also trade one area for another. To that end, it boils down to how you want to outfit your ship. For the most part, you are going to want to get all upgrades as quickly as possible and make your ship as mean as it can be.

There is always a stigma with free-to-play games, and it's true that many of them err on the side of "pay to win." In Warships, you can spend money on things such as more harbor slots to have more ships or for premium time to make more money and experience in battles. However, there is little that affects the gameplay. The only ones that do are the use of premium versions of consumables, such as the repair crew, and even then, they offer little more than a cooldown reduction.

Much as was the case with World of Tanks, World of Warships does a lot of things really well. Its gameplay is easy to get into but allows for a fair amount of depth in how you approach each battle. I've reviewed many games that I never touch again, but  I've kept coming back to Warships with my friends. I'm not sure there is much better praise than that.

Score: 9.2/10

Reviewed on: Intel i7 4970k, 16 GB RAM, nVidia GTX 660 Ti

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