By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), General Manager
Wargaming is back at E3 yet again with one of the most massive and impressive booths of any free to play publisher. This year is particularly exciting though as not only did I go hands-on with the long awaited World of Tanks Blitz, but live gameplay of World of Warships was finally demonstrated right before our eyes in a private demo.
I’ll get the news on World of Tanks Blitz out of the way because there isn’t much to be said, but the little that is to be said is pretty damn exciting. It’s in soft launch in the Nordic EU now and queue times are popping like pancake bubbles on a hot griddle. If all goes according to plan, we should see it launching stateside and to the wider EU area by June 26th. The game plays just like World of Tanks and the controls are quite satisfying. All your turning, camera adjustment, scope zoom, ammo hotkey, and UI information is there in a nice compact touch format that’s doesn’t require you to have an eight inch thumb to operate. I actually performed better on the iPad than I tend to on the actual PC edition despite not even owning an iPad.
Players can expect all the platoon features to be in-game at launch alongside 96 tanks split between German, Russian, and US factions. There is also an astounding 8 maps already implemented to keep gameplay fresh. The economy is completely separated from the core PC and console titles as well, so Blitz can be treated as a fresh start for those interested in building platoons out on equal footing with their rivals.
One last piece of news that’s interesting to note is matches fought in the Nordic region thus far have averaged a ridiculous 17 minutes. Talk about long for a game designed for mobile gameplay. However with how popular the soft launch has been, it seems pretty clear that the playerbase doesn’t mind so much. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new scary world where we all laze on couches playing on iPad instead of slouched over a PC!
World of Warships
Sometimes I swear Wargaming labels the state of their titles as being in alpha just to infuriate potential competitors in the military strategic shooter market. World of Warships looked fantastic in the pre-prepared demo at E3 last year and was even mightier in this year’s live alpha demo. Rendering quality seems to have been the major focus for improvement over the past year, as now you can witness in real-time as your battleships’ hundreds of guns rotate in perfect synchronization with your actual aim. And when they all fire at once, it’s an impressive sight only further accentuated by the propellers that reflect your nautical velocity and the damage physics that can disable guns visually. Granted one most players will quickly take for granted, but the level of detail for the sake of detail put into each ship model warrants appropriate awe.
What players will likely give appreciation for long after launch is the work that has been put into game on attack trajectory tracking. Unlike the more instantaneous gratification of World of Tanks and Warplanes, torpedoes and missiles fired in World of Warships often travel for five plus seconds before impacting the ocean or intended vessel. Alongside the grid segregation of the map, I had a bit of nostalgia of the Battleship boardgame watching as missiles landed near misses on the broadside of hard turning ships.
The weight of the vessels clearly has received some tweaking as well, as we witnessed just how devastating a chunk of ice could be to the Yamamoto. Our driver was so focused on landing a perfect line of torpedo spread that he never saw the miniature iceberg until it was too late. Once stuck against the sheet of ice, it took roughly a full minute to reverse and turn the ship back into the open seas. A lifetime in any Wargaming title and certain death were it not for the heavy support the driver was offered by his teammates over the duration of the demo.
Speaking of the torpedoes, a new feature demonstrated was the ability to set the spread of a barrage of torpedoes as either wide or narrow. High risk high reward is the name of the game, as a full line or torpedoes can greatly reduce a large ship’s buoyancy, a rating separate from armor that can result in disabling components of a ship or even sinking it outright, or sink a lighter cruiser or destroyer outright. Though the speed of destroyers makes landing a perfect line of torpedoes highly unlikely, making a wide spread a more assured way to at least deal some damage, which under the combined effort of another couple ships can result in a sunken vessel.
Another element that separates gameplay from the basis of World of Tanks is that the weapons are no longer on a universal cooldown. Instead you can fire torpedoes while waiting for your rockets to reload, or any other type of weapon they manage to think of in the meantime. These powerful weapons are packing unlimited ammo in the current build as well, as the developers assured me that matches never last long enough to necessitate an ammo system that made sense.
Furthermore, we got a better idea of how the carrier class of ship will operate. Sitting ducks was the exact term used. But now we know they are packing four variations of planes to give tactical players the tools they need to turn the tide of battle. First up are speedy and hard to take out scouts that will be the eyes in the sky affording your team the tactical info they need to land the first missiles. It’s your little sister sneaking a peak at the opponent’s side of the Battleship board all over again! Next is your bombers ideal for disabling opponent’s weaponry to leave them wounded and vulnerable for your allies to finish off. If you want to play truly aggressive you can send in the heavier torpedo planes to sink your unready opponents. However if your allies are getting picked apart by enemy carriers, you can summon dogfighters to begin a battle for aerial superiority. These planes are all AI controlled and complete their missions via rally point markers on the map so you are still able to focus on keeping alive long enough for your aerial friends to finish the job.
To my great surprise, Wargaming expects beta testing to arrive later this year. They’ve confirmed US and Japanese boats will be ready for it, though once they’re happy with the current balance between the four archetypes, they plan to start building out plenty of other nations. I even managed to squeeze a hint out of them that they are looking at building out a crew system akin to World of Tanks, though it’s still very much an idea stuck in the think tank, with no concrete details confirmed as of yet.
Wargaming seems poised to have another stellar year, and I can’t wait to join my tank loving friends at last on the open seas rendition where I belong.