I’ve spent a decent amount of the past week’s gaming time enthralled with my Arado Ar 68 and my AGO Ao 192 Kurier. Before this past week, I didn’t have a clue what either of these were, but now I have a newfound love and respect for German aeronautical engineering, that’s for sure. World of Warplanes recently hit its open beta, and as we well know in the F2P world that means the title is as good as launched. I’ve put in more than 20 fights (which go by quickly even if you manage to last the entire battle), and I can’t wait to sink in more time with this game. WoWP has the same breadth of persistent progression through tech trees as World of Tanks, only the action is far more fast-paced and, to me, more fun. It’s not going to please the flight-simulation fans out there as the action is decidedly more arcade than realistic, but Wargaming’s sophomore effort is much more my own personal speed than their flagship title.
The basic setup of each battle is identical to what you’d find in World of Tanks. Fifteen on one side versus fifteen on the other, and the teams can be made up of any number of German, Japanese, Russian, or American aircraft. There’s a really slick matchmaking system in place that makes sure pilots are kept relatively close in plane level (Tier I, II, and III won’t find themselves often fighting against the modern aircraft of Tier X for example). This is of course subject to how many players in any given tier are online, but so far I’ve rarely had to wait longer than ten seconds or so to start a match.
The game’s action will be easy to pick up and manage for just about anyone who’s ever played a flying game with a mouse and keyboard. I’m told the Joystick support is in, but I’ve not tried it yet. The mouse controls take a little getting used to, but once you come to grips that where you mouse points is the direction your plane will move to (and each plane has its own maneuverability score making this easier or tougher), and that the reticule of your guns has to catch up to the direction you’re flying you’ll be ready to start dogfighting.
And while WoWP doesn’t have a cockpit view, holding right click allows you to look around the environment without moving the plane itself. This takes a little practice, but is also essential when you’re using a heavy fighting or bomber to take out ground targets. Victory in WoWP is achieved when either all fifteen of the enemy planes are destroyed or via Supremacy. What is Supremacy? If you destroy hostile ground or air targets and hold that score long enough without a member of your team being shot down or a ground target of yours being destroyed the Supremacy score will hit 100% and you’ll win by default. It’s almost like a catch-all in case the last plane you’re looking to take out goes on the run, but your team has the upper hand. This means eventually, that last runner will lose unless he can destroy one of your planes or ground targets. But I’ll be honest, every match I’ve taken part in so far has ended like a traditional deathmatch.
I’ve been focusing so far, and I’m not sure why, on the German aircraft. I just kind of like the aesthetic of their WWII era planes. But there are literally dozens of planes across all three nations to unlock and progress through. Each one has its own set of modules to change out (new guns, engines, additional bombs, etc.) Changing these will affect the plane’s damage capabilities, speed, maneuverability, and even hit points. Wargaming has wisely done away with having only a limited amount of ammo on each plane, though you can only have as many bombs as your plane can carry and once they’re spend, they’ll need to be refilled in the hangar between matches. Ammo is “refilled” too, and both can be set automatically or done manually, as can repairs to each plane. I leave these on automatic right now because my stable of planes is few enough that there’s no point in leaving some damaged unsupplied. But I can imagine as you get more and more planes and play the game more and more you’ll want to save some credits to buy further upgrades.
In the hangar, you can also check out each plane’s paint and decal job, though admittedly there are only a handful for each plane right now. What would be nice, and someone can tell me if this is the case already, is if Wargaming allowed players to submit their own skins to use, and have them vetted through the community. It’s not like the game’s going for 100% historical accuracy with its fantasy battles, so why not let me skin my AGO with Spider-Man visuals? I’m only partly kidding.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no “Pay-to-Win” in WoWP either. The most you can buy is accelerated progression for your pilots and planes, and some “exclusive” planes as well. These premium aircraft aren’t really any better or worse than the regular free aircraft either, but they’re the one thing in the game that you can’t obtain without tokens: the real-money currency in Wargaming’s world. But these tokens can be earned in the game via regular logging in and playing, and converting your in-game XP into tokens. So there’s actually quite literally nothing you can’t earn just by playing, but I’m quite sure most folks would rather spend a few bucks than grind out tokens. And chances are Wargaming knows that. Still, no amount of money is going to hand you a victory in a game so dependent on skill and one’s teammates.
I’m really and honestly enjoying World of Warplanes right now. It’s the perfect quasi-MMO for short gaming sessions, and ideal if you like arcade flight games like this. I can see myself playing it casually for years if they keep adding to the maps, the planes, and the like because I have a bit of a fondness for historically based games that don’t take themselves too seriously either. The real magic will be to see just how Wargaming can take Tanks, Warplanes, and eventually Warships and combine them into one mega-game of permanent territory control and conquest. Until then, I’ll happily work my way down the German tech tree to my Me P.1101.
Have you tried our World of Warplanes’ Open Beta yet? If so, share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.
More of our recent Wargaming coverage: