Onsite at Wargaming America and Hands-on WoWP 2.0
The guys at Wargaming.net flew me out to take a gander at the newest World of Warplanes 2.0 patch, in what is essentially a re envisioning of the game. I got to meet with the developers and get a hands on with the new Bomber class and play with the Wargaming team on the new objective focused maps. Al King, Global Brand Director of Wargaming, also took the time for an interview about how the team reached 2.0 and their future plans for the game, which you can read here.
My first forray into the new improvements had me rudderly impressed. Be prepared for bad plane puns. If you want more detailed information on the improvements on 2.0, head over to their website.
World of Warplanes launched with fanfare on the heels of the popular World of Tanks. But the game was quickly abandoned by gamers and reviews of the game were less than stellar. It lacked immersion and while realistic, was visually unappealing while playing. The Hanger where players can customize their plane and get a good look at the excellent plane designs was a shining point, but those visuals did not translate to the game where other players and bots were never more than little black dots on the screen and red arrows on the minimap. Targets on the ground offered little else and killing them did naught but accrue a sad amount of points towards a victory in battles where victory almost always went to whichever team wiped the other out. The game was in a tailspin. With 2.0, a lot of that has changed. And Wargaming may have righted the ship--nope, wrong pun. With 2.0, Wargaming might have overcome World of Warplane’s turbulent beginning. There, that’s better.
To say World of Warplanes is fun is an understatement. My time in the gamelab at Wargaming was nothing short of energized, empowered by the absolute passion Wargaming has for their product. Adding bombers and varying map objectives creates a new tactical depth to the game that exponentially increases its fun by how many friends you have playing with you. Team composition plays an important role in success and caters to individual playstyle. Objective focused player or have a violent tendency blowing stuff up? Play the bomber and use the unlocked camera to watch as the ground erupts with your fiery blessing from on high. Using the tail gunner is an excellent way to get pesky fighters off your tail since it does double damage when you pilot it manually. But don’t expect it to save you every time. Dog fighter? There are still a variety of playstyles there, as well as the Multirole class that lets you sort of be a bomber but still not be useless when engaged on.
The old classes remain, but each one’s individual purpose in battles is more refined, more obvious. The battle loading screen has three short descriptions of your plane’s primary roles, helping new players identify how to play their chosen loadout beyond the tutorial. No longer are newbies launched into aerial battles blindly without guidance. These specified roles prove pivotal in adding depth to the game. The new gun emplacement objectives take next to no damage from fighter planes. But bombers can take objectives easily and quickly, annihilating multiple buildings and anti-air emplacements with a single bomb load. This glorious destruction is also how you capture the new points. Because blowing stuff up should always be a net positive. But the maps demand this new type of gameplay, which in turn allows players more opportunities to have fun.
Respawning has been a heavily requested feature for the game, from both critics and players alike. It’s finally been added to the game, and the airbase objective now allows players to change planes mid battle in an Overwatch style of counterplay and team composition adjustment on the fly. Respawning is disabled after several minutes, creating tense high stakes dog fighting near the end of the match.
The adjusted visual details of the battles feel like an entirely different game. Gone is the cluttered screen information. Gone is the red circle that tells you where to lead your target in order to hit them, making your knowledge of your chosen plane all the more important. Ground targets have new distinct looks so, for example, when you are in the bomber’s seat you can tell which building in the objective you are going to hit without needing a symbol to identify them (those exists, though). And the explosions are utterly satisfying. Planes are visually larger in dog fights and instead of original game’s quick explosions followed quickly by immediate disappearance of the debris, planes now tumble out of the air until they smash into the ground where the crater smulders indefinitely. Chunks of planes shred off until they are unflyable. Other planes explode outright and debris pelts your plane as you pass through where you opponent once was. All of these visual improvements make the battles feel fuller, more alive, more active and create an immersive experience. Watching planes careen from the sky while the rest of the air is full of dog fighting is like a scene out of a well scripted Hollywood movie.
The Wargaming team has proven their dedication their trinity of World Of games by not allowing World of Warplanes stall and free fall into oblivion without at least an attempt at correcting course. While I was at their office in San Francisco, their passion for the game was obvious. Top Gun blared from their break room. They took pride in the steps they’d taken to make the game more inviting, more fun, and overall, better. I can’t admit to knowing whether 2.0 will bring success to the franchise. But Wargaming has put a lot of study, time, and effort into making this new iteration of the game successful. World of Warplanes 2.0 is a better game than its original form. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have room for improvements, and the Wargaming team has a lot of ground to make up as they rebuild the Warplanes brand. Godspeed to them.