The social features in World of Warplanes are sorely lacking. You can create squads with your friends and engage in team training exercises but since it all feeds into the single game mode, there is little incentive to do so. There are no clans and nothing special to do with them if there were. Voice and text chat is virtually non-existent, despite being built into the game.
In a general sense,World of Warplanes is well-polished. The game is very stable. The sound effects are well done. The damage modeling is impressive: when you're shot in the wing, you can both see and feel that you've been hit. The UI and menu systems are functional. When it comes to adjusting mouse controls, however, Wargaming has opted for the brick wall approach. Adjusting this all-important area involves tweaking a number of poorly described sliders and a line graph. Yes, a line graph, because nothing says accessibility like plotting points on an axis.
As the awards on the game's title cards clearly indicate, World of Warplanes was a highly anticipated game. Tying the progression systems of World of Tanks with the aerial dogfighting of last generation's single-player games is an absolutely novel idea. Yet the progression systems, the real heart of the game, are from World of Tanks. They are not innovative. The real innovation comes from bringing air-based warfare to the free-to-play space, and while the concept is promising, the delivery drags on its potential. Should the game be tied with World of Tanks as Wargaming has promised, this may be a section worth revisiting, but that date is currently not in sight.
Ultimately, World of Warplanes offers a lot of game while asking nothing in return. It is entirely possible to play through all ten tiers of planes without spending a dime. Even if the execution fell short of its mark, no one can question that Warplanes represents a solid value for players seeking free entertainment. The real question is how it stacks up against its competition. With Gaijin Entertainment's still-in-beta War Thunder providing such a similar, and arguably better, experience, it is hard to rate Warplanes' current value above middling.
At the end of the day, World of Warplanes is a solid game, but one that suffers from poor controls and a lack of options. If there is one thing that Wargaming has shown us, it is that they support their games with post-release updates. That is promising. In the future, many of the issues currently plaguing the game may disappear entirely. Others, such as its soft-edged art style and poor sense of speed, are likely here to stay. But, as is the case with all free-to-play games, your best bet is to try it for yourself and see. There is a good game here, if you can get past its wrinkles, and one that will only get better with time.
Christopher Coke / Chris has been an MMORPG player since the days of MUDs. He enjoys dabbling in every genre, even the newfound -RPG-less MMO. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight and read his blog of the same name today!