The latter part of 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting quarter due in no small part to Wargaming's newest release: World of Warships. I've been playing since the closed-but-kinda-open-beta phase, which was basically a soft advertising release the moment they started to sell shit. Now the banner ads are plastered across every for-profit review site in existence, which means its absolutely fair game in terms of reviewing what Wargaming deems a release ready product.
Yeah, about that...
While World of Warships isn't as launch ready as Firefall was - that is to say not a flaming pile of ass stank -Warships doesn't meet any industry standard of being release ready aside from the fact they'll happily allow you to pay while you test their product for them. In other words, welcome to free to play gaming, enjoy your stay.
So let’s get the bad out of the way first, if only because there's a lot of good to look at. Probably the most glaring issue Warships suffers from is ship balance. It's atrocious at the moment. Of the destroyers, cruisers, battleships and carriers currently at your disposal, the game heavily favors cruiser to such a degree that they pretty much dominate player populations. They invariably have the rate of fire and maneuverability to inflict substantial punishment. When combined with the broken fire mechanism Wargaming insists isn’t a problem, they are the ideal class. Carriers have likewise struggled to find a home, an issue aggravated mainly by Wargaming’s policy of pigeonholing aircraft into specific loadouts by nationality. If you’re playing a United States CV, you get worthless dive bombers and fighters. If you take the Imperial Japanese Navy, learn to love torpedo bombers and the inevitable pendulum of nerfing that comes with them.
The next major obstacle to your enjoyment of WoWS is the economy. Now none of us really have any right to complain about the grind. It’s a fact of free to play life. Where Wargaming goes horribly wrong is in the upper tiers, where you cannot regularly afford to play unless you are a premium, real-money paying player. As a free to play gamer, you will lose money even in winning, forcing you back down to the mid-tiers in order to afford high-tier gameplay. Even their latest premium ship offering, the Tirpitz, will cost you nearly $65 to purchase in the here and now. Yes, for the price of a 100% complete game by a first string developer anywhere else, you can buy a single ship.
What. The. Fuck.
And not even that great of a ship. Can I afford $65? Sure can. Am I going to throw it in Wargaming’s direction to buy a fraction of a gaming experience that frankly isn’t even complete yet? To answer that, please take this moment to imagine me at the Waragaming homepage, flipping my monitor off.
Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world. As long as you can accept that you can’t play in the upper tiers indefinitely for free, it’s not like you have to buy a $65 ship, and juggling port slots for your ships is doable. There’s still quite a bit of experience to be had sans payment, which brings us to the good stuff.
The graphics have only gotten better with each patch. As silly as it may sound, water textures and movement are an integral part of what is, in effect, a naval warship lite simulator. World of Warships has the best I’ve seen, period. The skies likewise have their own mutating patterns, even if actual weather has yet to be implemented. The lighting is superb and ship models a joy to admire. A map or two is usually added with each new patch, which is the main reason I didn’t list the currently limited map rotation as a detractor in the bitch rant above. Eventually there will be a ton of them, I imagine, even if it’s hardly enough for a ‘release ready’ title.
In any case, it’s hard not to forgive Wargaming the moment you pulverize another battleship into broadside versus broadside submission and watch your opponent’s fiery hull slip beneath the waves. It’s just that good.
Audio is likewise great for the most part. It has its quirks here and there and also seems to undergo varying degrees of adjustment from patch to patch- not always for the better –but it’s still high quality stuff. Ambient noise, battle damage, and even the sound track are all well done. Patch adjustments aside, I really can’t ask for better.
The ships models themselves are wonderful when balance isn’t an issue. Individual components, such as turrets, rudders, torpedo tubes and the like can all take damage. Fires can and inevitably will break out aboard your ship along with flooding, forcing you to affect simplistic damage control. As long as you can deal with the healthy dose of arcade in this simulator lite, you should be able to deal with it and the occasionally obnoxious random number generator working behind the scenes to infuriate you.
As of the moment, there are only two Navies—The United States and Imperial Japanese Navy. Other nationalities exist, but mainly only as premium ships. Destroyers represent the glass canons of the fleet with low visibility and the potential to nuke other ships with their torpedoes. Cruisers play the role of assault and damage while battleships make up the backbone of fleet with their ability to take punishment and sledgehammer blows… Between lengthy reload times and terribad turret traverse. Carriers, on the other hand, are the real time strategy component of WoWS. Your firepower is in your air wing, which you can control and target like a real-time strategy game. Some like it, while others call it “sky cancer”.
From a purely gameplay standpoint, I would like nothing better to categorize World of Warships as a win. While not release ready by any stretch of the imagination, each patch and subsequent update has shown measurable progress forward, not simply dicking around with meaningless systems. Balance continues to elude the title in many areas, but its obvious Wargaming is trying…
…Which is ironic since it is Wargaming itself that I hold the biggest reservations about when it comes to recommending World of Warships. Like many Free to Play games, the intrinsic desire to ass-fuck the player’s wallet over is present everywhere you look. We all understand these people have to make money, but $65 for a ship reeks of profit whoring. I also cannot state this enough: Just because you bought that premium ship doesn’t mean it’ll actually be worth anything. Witness the IJN cruiser Yubari, sold as part of the Closed Beta promotion. The ship is a buggy, nerfed POS that meets none of its advertised criteria, let alone behaves as a "premium" ship. In other words, don’t be the early adopter. Let others get burned first before you pull the trigger.
Then there was the entire Murmansk debacle, where Wargaming advertised a Russian Tier 5 cruisers, port slots and gold as a reward for taking part in the E3 Humble Bundle promotion. Once it was over, Wargaming claimed it was only for the trial period and promptly revoked the aforementioned loot, much to the outrage of the player base and repeated assurances that players would be able to keep the ship permanently. It took nearly two weeks and constant pressure to get Wargaming to keep the terms they advertised, not the ones they retroactively decided upon.
When combined with adversarial late game economy that tries its hardest to skirt the ‘free’ in ‘free to play’, it’s hard to actually say that I trust the company to do the right thing in regards to its users as matter of policy. To point, we still haven’t seen the shared economy like the one that exists between WoPlanes and WoTanks, even though it was one of the first things players were promised.
World of Warships is loads fun, even in the partially completed state it launched in. It certainly has tons of potential and is imminently playable… That is if Wargaming as a company can get its head out of its ass and stop trying to screw the player base over just because it thinks it can get away with it.