Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review: World of Warplanes (PC)



Wargaming.net the developers of the massively popular and Guinness world record breaking World of Tanks released their second game World of Warplanes a few months back in an open beta form.  It garnered generally mixed reviews and after playing it I can see why.

Basically the game works along the exact same lines as World of Tanks in that you join a match, fight other players and earn experience and money toward upgrading your vehicle(s).  It's this simple format that has made WoT extremely successful in it's life and it's influences can be seen in many other free to play MMO style games out there today.  Mechwarrior Online, Star Conflict and Hawken are a few that follow these principles.  It's addictive stuff since getting kills is rewarding and the grind isn't so bad in the early stages of play as you work toward that new gun or engine to improve your vehicle. 

Planes look pretty at least
World of Warplanes as I said does the same thing, but the actual gameplay is just plain awful.  The planes all feel sluggish and unresponsive, even when you upgrade them with better engines and a new chassis it still feels the same.  Matches devolve into endless turning circles as you and your opponent hit a downward spiral until a third party comes along and shoots one of you down.  The tension and tactics of World of Tanks is missing here since there is no cover to utilise, ballistics and penetration isn't an issue and even ammunition is no factor.  Planes can fire infinitely with the only worry being overheating which is something you're unlikely to do since battles are over so quickly.

Death is something that creeps up on you slowly, rather than quickly and instantly like other free to play games such as this.  Planes can take a ridiculous amount of damage before finally brewing up and crashing and I am talking about tier 1 bi-planes here not world war 2 designs.  The maps are tiny with battles starting within the first thirty seconds, which is good for the lone wolf player, but I imagine for clan matches it's a detriment.  Generally the team that blobs up and strikes first wins due to to attrition, while teams that try to go wide and flank or attempt to destroy ground targets end up being fodder for the now numerically superior team.  Like World of Tanks, death means you have to either exit the match or watch as a spectator, something you will find incredibly boring since it's just constant circling with the odd bit of weapons fire.

The idea of "air supremacy" is a joke since the aforementioned small maps make it near impossible for a team to focus some ground attack planes on strafing/bombing runs while other fighters cover them.  There are too many ground objectives to hit and not enough space to navigate the map away from the furball so you inevitably end up being chased down anyway. 

The vehicles textures are great but the ground looks 2001
The tech tree's are also a joke.  Five nations are included at the moment which include aircraft from Germany, Soviet, American, Japanese and British air forces.  Germany and Russia both have massively bloated tree's that include many historical aircraft alongside numerous transitional and prototype air frames.  This isn't a surprise since World of Tanks has a heavy emphasis on Russian and German tanks, being the company that makes these games are based in Russia.  The American tech tree is good, but not as varied as the aforementioned Axis and Soviet trees while Japan has a straight line of planes and Britain gets two.  Yes folks the oldest and original military air force in history has two lines of planes, while Japan a nation that had a very formidable air arm has at best eight planes to unlock.

Now the comparisons between this game and War thunder are too many to count here and yes War thunder does owe a lot of it's functions and idea's to World of Tanks but War Thunder does it better.  Where Warplanes suffers from a weak air flight model that feels like your soul is being dragged from your physical body as you play, War thunder has planes that feel powerful and fast but also a sense of each planes traits and quirks.  The combat is more frenetic and visceral and you have to consider ammunition and fuel when fighting.  Bombers can actually perform their job across huge maps that take a few minutes to fly around.  The technology trees for the nations (which are all the same World of warplanes) is varied and stick to historical craft used during or just prior to the war.

Honestly War thunder outstrips World of Warplanes considerably in near every regard.  Even graphically War Thunder trumps it with each plane being beautifully rendered.  Damage modelling in Warplanes is at the moment at best poor with a few holes appearing in the wings when you take a few hits, where as War thunder shows multiple types of damage along with a fully realised damage model for the mechanics and flight model.  You don't have to outright destroy the plane to knock it out, just doing enough damage to the wings will down a better plane.

Marvel at Japan's only top tier plane at tier VIII
The maps are colourful but not very interesting to look at and on closer inspection (usually just before you hit the ground) the models are low res and ugly looking to put it politely.  The planes looks nice and are up to the standard of World of Tanks, but when compared to it's direct competitor in War Thunder there is no contest, they simply fall short in every regard. 

Even the audio is lacklustre with engines that all the sound the same, machine guns and canons that sound generic at best and music that just doesn't fit the setting.

Overall World of Warplanes is like a my first air combat simulator.  It holds your hand the entire time and once it lets go the game falls flat, like a five year old learning to ride a bike for the first time.  The combat is slow and painfully dull, the planes are nice looking but don't exactly pop out at you, the maps are bland and the mechanics just don't work well.  Wargaming need to get this to a new standard soon because it's losing ground to Gaijin's War Thunder every day. 

SCORE: 2.0/10

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