In the worlds that game designers create, there are very few that can cause a nostalgic moment for a gamer. Because let’s be frank, most games are meant to take you out of reality and immerse you in a fun adventure. However I had one of those moments when I met with the team designing World of Warships and they put me in command of a ship and set me to sea. The historical accuracy in the design models of the ships and the breathtaking effects of the water and light instantly teleported me back to the bridge and smelling the salty air. As a Retired Navy Chief I was skeptical of how well Wargamming.net could possibly understand Naval Warfare and be able to capture the feeling, but I have to say that for such an early Alpha build they are on the right track.
World of Warships is the next in line of free-to-play War fighting games from the Wargaming universe which is set in the first half of the 20th century with eye on historical accuracy in all technical aspects of the vehicles. World of Tanks and Warplanes led the way to this new title that puts you in command of legendary ships, making you the Captain. Set sail, join a Fleet and head out to dominate the high seas. With a wide variety of ships types, real-world battle locations, you have the foundation for some strategic and tactical battles of epic proportion.
The level of dedication to getting the ships' models struck me so profoundly. Taking 8 months to create over 200,000 polygons which in turn made the 500+ individuals pieces that make a single ship begs the question if the developers are crazy. But I have to admit that the results speak volumes. The ships feel real, water deformation when the guns fire and splash brings the world alive. When your ship catches fire and the smoke billows into the air, a sense of danger occurs. Marrying historical accuracy and fun can be a challenge, but I love what I am seeing thus far.
Just as in the other titles, you take command of a vehicle, control its movement with WASD and combat prowess via hot keys and the mouse. Speed is controlled in ¼ power increments which iconic of telegraph commands, slow ahead, half ahead and so on. However they have added some interesting features like waypoints, where you can set up to three marks on the map and the ship will drive itself along the route allowing you to focus on the fight. Taking control back for an evasive maneuver is simple. The system of firing weapons and repairing damage is cooldown based and each action you take will have a time effect prior to being able to activate again. Depending on the type of ship you command, you will have defensive guns that just do their job and and you don’t have to worry about them. Also some ships have planes you can launch to provide air support or torpedoes you can launch. Complete awareness of your battlespace is crucial. With the ability to have guns firing at multiple targets, fore and aft, you have to step up your game to a new level that is not needed in a Tank or a Plane who can only ever fire in one direction.
While maps are massive, some liberties have been taken with how fast you travel to keep the combat fast paced and exciting. Utilizing the islands, deploying smoke screens and evasive maneuvers are all important when deciding how to engage in combat. Once you engage the enemy’s fleet, controlling your weapons is intuitive but has some nuances that new players may not appreciate at first. But as you get more experienced cooldown management will be crucial. Scrolling the mouse wheel allows you to zoom out, aim your guns, however be aware of the direction you guns were pointing to where you want them to point, it takes time for them to swing around. Just tapping once will fire a weapon. However you can also tap and hold to fire all available guns on the target in sequence. Want to do an alpha strike? Double tap and unload everything in a single shot. A shell follow cam has been added to allow you to ride it to impact to help determine if you aimed correctly. Both you and your target are moving and shells take time to travel, so getting the height, distance and range takes practice. With cooldowns that can take 30 seconds to reload guns, you better be confident in your ability to land an alpha strike if you choose to employ it.
Damage is being handled in an interesting way. You have the total damage of your ship and once that hits zero, you are destroyed. However you can have damage to individual systems which goes even further; unavailable due to any number of reason, partial damage that may or may not repairable and fully destroyed. These subsets of damage can have a tremendous impact upon the battle whether you are causing the systems failures or taking them. They are still adjusting the damage zones and impacts of that damage but what I seen it is very granular already. It will be really interesting how we see the tactics of combat change to include individual weak points of ships are learned and actually aimed at rather than just trying to go for a full kill.
While Wargaming has a way to go before World of Warships can set sail, it has come out of drydock very strong and made a statement with their Alpha presentation. I will be keeping a very close eye on this title and look forward to taking command of numerous Naval Vessels to continue to spark the nostalgia. And while the USS Midway (CV-41) is mid-20th Century vessel, I can hope that one day it is added to the game as it was my first command and would I love to go back and take to the seas aboard it again. Fair winds and following seas shipmates.