The countdown timer reaches zero and me and fourteen other team mates take off in two large groups, boosting our engines to gain altitude. I level out my old Soviet I-5 biplane, used extensively during the 1930s, and scan the horizon for the enemy. It doesn’t take long before the two sides reach each other and I spot a wing of hostiles ahead but several hundred metres below. I angle down and line up a target, waiting to get within firing range before unloading the old pair of 7.62mm guns. Most of the shots miss but some manage to clip its wings, sending it immediately into an evasive maneuver.
Pulling out of the dive I turn onto his tail, boosting the engines once more. Up ahead a team mate in an American P-12 bursts into flames after colliding with his target while another desperately passes in front of me, a trail of black smoke marking him as easy prey. Regaining focus I get within range once more and riddle the enemy with bullets again, this time crippling his engine. If I don’t finish him now the chance will be gone so I stay on his tail, ignoring the trails of cannon fire coming from behind me. Finally, another burst sends the hapless foe, now a fireball, down into the canyon.
But not without a cost. Two fighters are now right behind me, putting holes into my already ailing airframe. No amount of barrel rolls can save the biplane now. In a matter of minutes it’s all over and I’m reduced to watching the rest of my team suffer the same fate.
Wargaming has careened into the free-to-play MMO market with World of Tanks and has now taken to the skies with World of Warplanes, an accessible team-based flight combat title for the PC which we recently featured on our CC Impact! After spending some hands-on time with the game, it’s safe to say World of Warplanes is looking like a winner for fans of older military planes, multiplayer matches and extensive player progression.
From the Hangar you have five Tier 1, bottom of the line planes to start with and take into battle from the get-go. Each one is from a different nation; U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Germany, Japan and U.K., meaning you can play around with each and decide which Tech Tree to progress with. This is crucial because each step costs precious Experience gained from battle to research as well as coin, also gained from playing, to purchase an aircraft should you choose to do so. Once you have your sleek new bird you can upgrade its parts including engine, airframe and weapons as well as add pricey equipment such as reinforced armour and improved optics.
Warplanes are split into three categories; Fighter, Heavy Fighter and Attack planes that go all the way up to Tier 10. Fighters are nimble but lightly armoured, designed to take out enemy planes while Attack planes go after ground targets such as AA guns and ships. Each game faces off a total of 30 players, which ends once all players on one side are downed or if a team reaches air superiority. Air superiority is determined by ground targets destroyed, fighters downed and whether team kills or suicides occurred. This means that you can still lose, regardless of how many planes are left on each team if the balance favours the enemy.
You will be spending a long time playing to reach the very top but like most F2P games, you can buy Gold using real money which can then be used for pretty much anything in the game. New players wanting to use this method be warned: regardless of your shiny equipment you will be shot down by highly experienced players relative to the Tier of your plane.
That’s right, matchmaking puts you next to those scrambling planes of the same Tier as yours, meaning that each game starts pretty much fair. After that, it’s up to each team to coordinate lest they fall victim to an opposing team that works together. Regarding matchmaking, I was playing from Australia with US players at a surprisingly satisfactory latency and unnoticeable lag.
You are rewarded with currency and experience after every match, meaning upgrades are never in scarce supply but you will have to work for the increasingly-harder to attain warplanes, all the way up to the very first jet-engined aircraft. First and foremost this is an action flight combat game, not a simulator. That’s not to say there isn’t a learning curve, because you will struggle to land a kill during your first couple of hours as you get to know the limits of your plane. Climbing too hard will reduce your airspeed, risking a devastating engine stall. Engines and weapons can overheat, fuel leaks reduce airspeed and engine damage prevents boost while controls are not twitchy and take time getting used to.
Speaking of controls, Wargaming has done a great job catering to the mouse, keyboard or joystick players, including a control scheme for each. I did find my preset Logitech Extreme Pro settings were far too sensitive and it took some tweaking to get them right. But eventually I just stuck to the mouse which does a surprisingly good job in World of Warplanes. This is a game that doesn’t require flight sim gear.
There is so much to do here for those who loves classic military planes and you have to put the effort in before you acquire an iconic WWII plane such as the Spitfire, Yak-9 or the P-51 Mustang. The only downside is the lack of maps and terrain variety which I’m sure will be expanded on in the future. Currently, the game can get a bit samey when you’re trying to grind points for that next big upgrade.
With the level of detail and a price tag of “free”, it’s hard to find fault with World of Warplanes and hopefully with more content the game will offer more to keep players in the skies.