When I logged into World of Warplanes a couple of weeks ago, my profile told me my last match had been in January 2014. You could be excused if you wrote the game off over three years ago like I did. But if aerial combat is your thing – and even if it isn’t, but you still like to occasionally live out the fantasy of being a World War II ace pilot – you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t check out World of Warplanes 2.0, which went live last week and made wholesale changes to the game, nearly all for the better.
I was invited to Wargaming America’s headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. last week to meet with Wargaming and try the new WoWP out for myself. To sum it up: When I played a few matches from home before the 2.0 changeover, it felt like an obligation – I had to play, to regain some experience so I could better judge the new version. With World of Warplanes 2.0, I want to play. It’s a big difference.
Today, I’ll be looking at the game itself and how the 2.0 experience has changed it for the better. Tomorrow, we’ll have our interview with Wargaming, to get into the hows and whys of the changeover. (UPDATE: Here’s that interview!)
So how the heck does it play? The short answer: better. The longer-but-still-short answer: better, but I’m not totally sure why and there’s still work to be done.
It may not seem like much, but the most important change is probably the clear delineation of different “classes” of planes, each with its own purpose, which are highlighted in your garage and in match preparation. They give you a much better idea of what you should be doing in battle.
It may not seem like much, but the most important change is probably the clear delineation of different “classes” of planes, each with its own purpose.
I sampled the game’s newest addition, bombers, at the Wargaming office. While it can be fun to rain down death from (very) high above, it can also be a bit dull, at least if nobody comes after you. The other types of aircraft are fighters, fast and nimble dogfighting specialists and probably my favorite class so far; heavy fighters, which are bigger, slower, and better-armed versions of fighters; attack aircraft, which specialize in low-altitude attacks on ground facilities; and multirole fighters, who combine the aerial talents of fighters with some of the ground-targeting abilities of attack aircraft. Each plays in a distinctive fashion, and, like me, you might find it easier to specialize in one or two types as you’re (re-)learning the game.
The maps themselves are much clearer, too, with a handful of objectives and capture-and-hold mechanics familiar to anyone who’s played a PvP game with control points. Some of the points have in-game functions, such as airstrips that provide another respawn point and repair your plane, or a military base that that launches missiles at enemy targets.
Controlling a point nets your team victory points; accumulate enough, and you’ll win the match. Each match has a time limit of 12 minutes, the last five of which don’t allow for respawns. After that point, you can also win by eliminating all the planes on the opposing team, as in other “no respawn” Wargaming titles. Until then, kill and be killed as much as you want!
When I played the pre-2.0 version of Warplanes a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like a jumbled mess. I didn’t really know what I should be doing or how to accomplish my team’s goals. Simply making those things clearer – along with the respawns – has made World of Warplanes 2.0 a much more enjoyable experience that feels totally different from its predecessor.
While it’s significantly improved, World of Warplanes 2.0 does show some growing pains. The battles themselves feel just about perfect, but it seems like a number of the ancillary systems surrounding them could use improvement. Most notably, I felt that – while the game does do a better job of presenting information than it did in the past – more is needed to help educate and inform players via in-game feedback and messaging.
For starters, I still don’t know exactly how a point is captured. Obviously, your side needs to have planes there, but, unlike virtually every other PvP game, points can be captured while opposing planes are in the area. And I’m sure attacking ground targets has something to do with it, but I’ve no clear idea what that is. You do see your “war score” go up when you perform in-game actions, but that’s only an indication of your personal performance. Seeing more information related to in-game objectives, like “+10% capture” or “+5 victory points,” might also help.
More is needed to help educate and inform players via in-game feedback and messaging.
I have similar questions regarding what impacts my team’s overall score. Controlling points is spelled out in the help screens, but what about shooting down enemy planes? Does that help, or am I just doing it for (not inconsiderable) fun? At the very least, the number of “voice shoutouts” – like “We’re on fire!” or “We’ve hit the enemy hard!” – heard in other Wargaming titles seems remarkably low and could be increased (though the voice direction could be a bit less cartoonish, especially when he says “Let’s roll!”; we’re in planes, dude).
Rewards are also on the confusing side. You earn lootboxes for performing in-game missions, and those will contain, among other things, parts you can use to assemble bombers for free. One problem is that these missions come in three levels, one for a group of aircraft by tier, so you’ll have to do a lot of manual replacing – limited to once per day, of course – while you’re at lower levels. (And I swear I’m completing a mission to shoot down AI-controlled planes but not getting credit for it. Maybe I’m reading it wrong?) Maybe I’m just spoiled by World of Warships and its fairly simple rewards and progression system, which gives me something to strive for every day. I’d love to see something like that system applied to World of Warplanes.
The war budget
As with any Wargaming title, you can buy premium vehicles, premium time, extra vehicle slots, consumables, and so on using the game’s real-money currency. You can also purchase temporary camouflage for your plane, in seven- and 30-day increments for credits, or permanently for gold – and there’s a third currency you accumulate by accomplishing special tasks in game. Overall, the monetization feels more like World of Tanks than World of Warships, and I wish Wargaming would have leaned in the other direction.
Even without having the greatest in-game feedback and economy, World of Warplanes 2.0 is still a blast to play.
Wargaming is aware that World of Warplanes 2.0 isn’t a totally finished product. “The version that you’re playing that’s just gone live is what we call the ‘middle game,’” Brand Manager Al King told me. “The bits that we haven’t done yet are the onboarding and then the higher-tier polishing.” Onboarding, a.k.a., the new player experience, is what has the higher priority at this time, though I’d almost speculate that it should have been more polished before releasing 2.0 into the wild. The server population is mysteriously invisible on the wiki; at this time, each team consists of a handful of bots.
Even without having the greatest in-game feedback and economy – elements that can certainly be tinkered with later – World of Warplanes 2.0 is still a blast to play. The battles are intense, even with the bots, and having clear purposes for your planes really helps to make clear your role in battle. While borrowing some elements from War Thunder, it still feels like its own game and distinctively a Wargaming product. For now, I won’t concern myself too much with what it isn’t but with what it is: an accessible WW2 flight combat simulator with depth and style that’s easy to get into.
Wargaming America covered the costs of my trip to visit their offices for purposes of writing this review.