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Getting Airborne Again in 2.0

Gareth Harmer Posted:
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Not every game gets a second chance at success. Then again, Wargaming.net isn’t your average studio, but a developer-turned-publisher managing a growing stable of titles across PC, console, and mobile. When the team behind World of Warplanes decided that the current version wasn’t working out, they knuckled down on a fresh experience that made flight combat more interesting, more accessible, and ultimately more rewarding.

Version 2.0, which launches October 11th (that’s tomorrow), aims to keep existing players on-board while opening it up to a wider audience. It’s a tough nut for the studio to crack but, as operational producer Michael Zinchenko explained, it’s all about providing more than one style of gameplay. While the original was built around high-skill dogfighting, the new version is “focused on capturing and controlling territories through different actions that correspond with class-specific roles,” adding more strategic depth to airborne combat.

In the new World of Warplanes it’ll still be possible to play a fighter and do classic dogfighting, but other classes will also have a purpose by helping to clear and capture ground targets. Bombers have been added as a new aircraft class to support this objective, with straightforward gameplay that’s suitable for newcomers. Zinchenko explained the difference, saying that “Now some players are busy attacking ground targets, others are dogfighting, while the rest are intercepting huge NPC bombers - and all of that, when done correctly, can tip the scales of battle.”

Conquering the Skies

Most of the changes in World of Warplanes 2.0 are based around ‘Conquest Mode’, a gigantic multi-node version of capture-the flag where the map is loaded with territories to control. Capturing an airfield enables aircraft repair, while a command center might call in flights of AI bombers to attack territories in enemy posession. Plus, instead of having a single life, players can now respawn up to five times during a match, allowing newcomers to learn more during the battle and get back into the fight.

The shift to Conquest also needed a new scoring system, which is where Influence Points come in - hit the target number of points first, and your team wins. All territories under a team’s control provide a slow uptick in points, but locations like a Power Plant give a surge of points every two minutes. It means that there’s incentive to dominating the map, but it’ll be tricky for a team to be everywhere at once and they’ll need to pick their battles carefully.

Even the territories themselves will have a bit of a tussle over them, as each one uses a Capture Point scoring system to award it to a team. Destroying ground objects will earn a healthy enough collection of points, but the big scores come from taking out enemy aircraft above the defended territory. In practice, though, it’ll take a mix of work from fighters, bombers and attack aircraft to flip a territory quickly. Oh, and each territory has its own blend of anti-aircraft defences, just to make things more challenging.

The Beautiful Horizon

The changes in World of Warplanes 2.0 don’t stop at a new game mode, but also include a number of ‘under the hood’ updates. Most visible among these is the graphics bump, as Zinchenko explained. “Colours, effects, camera modes; everything works better now to show high speeds, high altitude and convey the feeling of flight.” In order to put the new visuals front and centre, the UI has also been revamped to reduce clutter.

Aircraft handling and feel have also been adjusted, with a focus on making it more understandable and natural, particularly when learning how to lead an enemy target. But there’s also more control - aircraft with rear guns can now be used manually by the pilot. Bombers get a rangefinding view of the ground below so that they’re not dropping bombs blindly.

Ultimately though, World of Warplanes 2.0 establishes a framework for the future by moving away from pure dogfighting, while still retaining it as a component of more strategic and objective based play. Future updates are already in the pipe to build on this, including a separate endgame mode for veterans that encourages researching top-tier aircraft. By widening the gameplay experience, while retaining that dogfighting experience, World of Warplanes 2.0 will hopefully find a new legion of players wanting to take to the skies.


Gareth Harmer

Gareth Harmer / Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.