War Thunder Review - Reach for the Sky!
By Isaac (Afromania) and Mike (Mikedot) Sagoe, OnRPG Journalists
Ah yes... World War II, one of the most historic turning points bestowed upon this planet. It was the second Great War that defined the essence of black and white, good versus evil, freedom and tyranny between the Allied Forces and the Axis Powers. It was an era that allowed our grandparents to call them “the greatest generation” as they rose to become heroes and pushed the United States to become the leader of the free world. It was also a time where game developers and publishers continued to remind me of the “greatest generation” during my high school years because on the fact that every month, they would throw a new WWII game at my face because they knew we’d never get tired of running up the beaches of Normandy for the hundredth time. Alas, I now have the chance to relive those moments from the lesser treaded path in Gaijin Entertainment’s War Thunder, a free-to-play MMO that’s set in iconic WWII planes. Players will do battle in the skies as realistic recreations of iconic battles occur all around them including tanks firing into the sky and ships battling over the seas.
When starting the game up for the first time, players are given a personal hanger with a fresh aircraft and are given a slew of options before heading into the battle. Gamers can pick between five mighty nations that occupied the time period: United States, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Great Britain and Japan, with each nation having their own distinct aircrafts.
Players can go through purchasing upgrades and modifications for their planes. Upgrades include stronger guns that carry more ammo during combat and shoot farther distances and setups for various layouts like attackers, bombers and fighter planes. Players can then test pilot many of the aircraft types to get a feel for their performance prior to purchase. Besides hardware, players can upgrade their crew’s pilots and gunners with betters stamina, vision, accuracy, healing and reloading speeds. All these additions are available through purchase with in-game currency (Silver Lions) as well as Golden Eagles which can be earn through progression of the game modes and/or purchased with real money.
Players will have access to tutorials to get familiar with the controls, as well as their plane’s strengths and weaknesses. It is important to spend some extra time here because I (stupidly) chose to ignore the tutorial sessions and headed straight into combat. Here was my chance to live my top gun fantasies trying to pull off loops, spirals and aerials, only to see my planes hit the dirt, all within 5 minutes.
Wanted to fly high in the sky like Tom Cruise and instead went crashing into the dirt like Lindsay Lohan.
In the beta, I had the choice between playing through missions or jumping straight into multiplayer pvp. Playing through missions (accompanied by 3 human players or the AI Bots) is filled with re-creations of battles that were pivotal moments set between Allies and Axis. Players are given primary tasks to complete along with secondary tasks that can be tackled during these missions. Most of the tasks will revolve around players having to occupy strongholds, or destroy the enemy post and vehicles.
This game is a tad bit different than its obvious rival at Wargaming as you have as many tries in a mission as you have planes that can be brought into combat. Once you lose all your planes, you’ve failed the mission. I can see with a little bit of teamwork via voice chat that epically choreographed strike plans could be performed to really ace these PvE missions. But in reality just shooting down enemies without any coordination is usually enough to clear this training exercises so you can jump into the real game, pvp.
Multiplayer modes will give players the options to partake in ‘Historical Battles’ that have two nations from opposing factions go head-to-head with realistic situations. Players only have access to aircrafts of these two battling countries. Realistic physics and limitations are placed on the aircraft, meaning running out of fuel or wings coming off from pushing your engines past recommended speeds are a real threat. Arcade mode is the more simplified head-to-head match style where players can use any planes of their choice on various maps. I began my first multiplayer experience with arcade mode, and the queue times to get into a match just seemed to take forever. Once you do get into a match, expect to get acquainted with the clouds, since you’ll be spending more time traveling to your battle destination than battling enemies. By the time I reached the combat zone, most players had already dropped out of game after going through their reserve aircrafts.
In term of visual presentation, the strongest visuals stand out among the aircrafts themselves. It is apparent that the developers spent proper time to make sure each aircraft is portrayed closely to their real counterparts. Metal textures like chrome, aluminum, and wooden gloss finishes start to glisten when placed in proper lighting in contrast with their iron flying relatives. Every decal, rust, and bit of scraped paint is depicted with such clarity that the planes displayed in your aircraft hangar are very gorgeous to look at. Landscapes however, take the opposite route out from being gorgeous. From afar, they look moderately nice, but when you get close to a certain point, landmasses, foliage and buildings come off looking smudged and blocky.
Sound production in game is done well. Players enter the game with an orchestral greeting when you enter its halls or just as you look through the game’s menu options. The music tries its best to get you pumped for the battle ahead, but becomes short lived once players head into game. The aircrafts sounds are distinct and they did a good job with fitting the engines’ sounds with the planes, such as an American P-26A-33 Peashooter fighter engine sounding differently from a British Gladiator Mk IIF. The distinctiveness and detail in each plane is something that can be appreciated by gamers, plane fans and war veterans alike.
Overall War Thunder has some very interesting ideas that can make for intense and fulfilling gameplay. There’s plenty of planes to be unlocked and missions where players can hone their pilot skills, along with experience and credits that can be bought to purchase upgrades. Gamers who are into aircraft simulators will feel right at home in this section of the game. The only downsides I had was with the waiting times for getting into a match and what you will be able to do once you get in. If you are not into WWII, you might not be interested in paying for the game’s war mission packs. If you are a history buff that likes to experience the art flying combat over the sandy beaches, Than War Thunder could be your fancy.