The Average Gamer

World of Warships – First Look

World Of Warships - Deck TurretsWargaming were showing off the alpha build of World of Warships behind closed doors at gamescom and I got some time with the game and Mike Fedorov, Wargaming’s head of publishing.

World of Warships (WoW) is the third game in Wargaming’s highly successful free-to-play “World of” series. It features tried-and-tested gameplay of the previous games focusing on big online PvP battles. The current closed alpha features two nations (America and Japan), six maps and seventy five ships spread across three classes – destroyers, cruisers and battleships. The fourth class – aircraft carriers – is still under development.

I asked Fedorov about the differences between the ship classes. He said “Battleships are the biggest ones and have the biggest cannons but are slow and highly armored. The cruisers have precise weapons and move faster than battleships but slower than destroyers. Also destroyers only have 22mm thick armor but they are armed with torpedoes which can be devastating to any kind of ships.”

When it comes to controlling your ship it’s surprisingly easy. Once you’ve picked your craft from your dockyard, it’s straight into the action. Navigation and gun control are split between keyboard and mouse and if you’ve played any FPS or World of Tanks/Warplanes in the past you’ll feel immediately comfortable with the controls. If your ship is equipped with torpedoes there’s a simple cone-shaped target superimposed on the water to help you aim, then it’s down to your own prediction and judgement to hit what is frequently a distant enemy.

In Warships the focus is less on navigation and more on tactics and predicting enemy movements, although you still need to avoid running aground and other ships. A ship autopilot is available, but as it’s based on a series of way points to navigate enemy ships can quickly work out your heading making you vulnerable to attack.

Fedorov mentioned that “The big challenge for the game designers was to make a shooter that was playable on the flat surface of the ocean. Currently you can shoot up to 10km and more. However, you have to calculate in your mind and predict the manoeuvre of the enemy ship to hit it. In terms of game speed, it’s technically slowly moving with slow-rotating turrets so it’s less about reaction and more about tactics and predicting enemy manoeuvres.”
World Of Warships - Dock
As far as ammo is concerned the alpha includes two different types – high explosive and armor piercing, both of which were in short supply during my game. The general idea is to fire the high explosive shells at the upper elements of the ship deck, like the turrets and bridge, to inflict most damage. This is easier said than done, especially when the seas are packed with other ships and islands. Although the battlefields are big there’s always a risk of a potentially fatal collision as you focus too much on firing and reloading your deck guns. This isn’t a slow paced game.

There’s also been a change to how you “see” the enemy on the battlefield. Federov explained that “the visibility system was totally reworked and a ship can only see enemies within radio range of itself or with its own scouting plane. Most classes have those (scouting planes) except the destroyers. The visibility planes play a key role in this game because the further you can see and start shooting will help you to deliver some significant damage to the enemy.”

In a departure from the other classes, controlling the aircraft carriers will be more like a real-time strategy game. Or at least that’s the plan as the class is still under development. Federov said that these carriers “demand different skills from the player as they will spend less time controlling the ship and shooting. Sometimes [on the ship] there are no main caliber guns at all. The players control the aircraft to avoid the enemy gunfire where possible. Reloading, refueling and deck management (i.e. landing and take-off priorities). You don’t fly the planes like World of Warplanes but you control them like in a real-time strategy game.”

He also said that “you give them [aircraft] navigation points, targets and set up the target attack angle. You probably know that the enemy ship has less anti-aircraft defense, flak cannons on the tail so let’s approach it from the rear. A lot of things happen in real-time.”

All the hardware (ships and aircraft) in the game will be reflective of their real-life counterparts, including the effects of battle damage. Federov explained that “we are recreating models with placement exactly as according to the history. Some damage can affect the actions of the ship. For example if you hit the engine and propeller it will reduce the speed or stop the ship. If you hit the main gun powder room you can get an instant kill or you can seriously damage one of the turrets to disable it.

World of Warships takes large, complex military machinery and makes them easy to control in large and surprisingly pacy battles. It will be interesting to see how the balance of the game is affected by the inclusion of the RTS-focused aircraft carriers as both World of Tanks and Warplanes revel in their all action approach to gameplay.

Look out for World of Warships when it’s released for PC in 2015.