Today I had the chance to sit with the PR and Marketing Manager of Wargaming.net Arthur Pratapopau in front of an alpha build of the upcoming MMO air combat game World of Warplanes.
The game will work in a quite similar way to the massively successful world war II MMO World of Tanks, letting players work up tech trees between which they’ll be able to select their favourite warbird from World War II, battling it out in the sky against other players in 15 vs 15 matches.
I was given control of the German twin-engined heavy fighter Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse, and left to fly above a beautifully rendered port town and it’s surrounding area.
While I tried just an early build, the graphics are already a vast improvement over World of Tanks. The basic engine is the same, but it has been improved and optimized very visibly.
After the graphics The first thing that pleased me was definitely the handling of the Me 410. Wargaming.net is taking a rather arcade-ish approach to World War II flying, as a full fledged simulation would probably make the game rather inaccessible to the average player. World War II warplanes weren’t exactly nice ladies when handled too roughly, and tended to easily stall and go on a fatal spin very easily when handled by an inexperienced pilot.
In a game like World of Warplanes, made of closely fought dogfights and blazing guns, an excessive tendency to let the majority of the players kill themselves without even receiving a shot from the enemy may prove too frustrating. That’s why, after hearing that they decided to go the arcade route, I expected my plane to fly like a star ship, and I was wrong.
To be fair, I should have predicted it. World of Tanks definitely isn’t a simulator, but the tanks in it move realistically and hold a strong sense of weight and inertia, without speeding around like modern sport cars, this makes their handling delightfully tactical and skill-based.
World of Warplanes takes a similar approach. The Me 410 didn’t fly like a TIE Fighter, but I could easily feel it’s mass as I climbed and turned. It’s a heavy fighter, and the one I tried felt heavy as it should have. I wasn’t able to make the plane stall, as the game doesn’t include that possibility, but I was definitely able to crash (on purpose of course, I’m not that bad). In World of Tanks the ground and the cover it provided were an ally. Here terrain is more of an enemy, requiring more positional and tactical awareness to fight effectively.
Aiming and firing are another visible difference from a simulator. In most realistic flight sims learning to actually hit something while every braincell of yours is on a mission to keep the plane in the air is hard, and for many it can be quite frustrating. Aiming your nose exactly at an enemy plane that’s 200 meters away and just fifteen meters wide and three meters tall, with both fighters moving about at 500 km/h isn’t something everyone feels up to. Aiming in World of Warplanes is definitely easier, quite similar to what we have seen in the Ace Combat series.
Four control schemes will be available: Joystick, Gamepad, Mouse and Keyboard + Mouse. The mouse control is interesting, as aiming the cursor towards an area of the screen will cause the plane to maneuver to aim in that direction (of course not instantly, it will do it relatively slowly, depending on it’s turning ratio). I tried both joystick and mouse, and while the second option is possibly more intuitive, both are very effective and responsive.
Several of the planes available will have tail gunners. While it won’t be possible to have multiple players on the same plane (one piloting and one controlling the tail gun for instance), tail guns will be fully working, controlled by the AI.
At launch World of Warplanes will have 70 warbirds to chose from, belonging to three countries: the US, Soviet Union and Germany. Two more countries are already planned (the United Kingdom and Japan). Italian planes will be added as well (which is good, since they were between the most beautiful purebred in the war), even if it’s still not known how they will fit in the tech trees.
Not all the elements of the map will be destroyable, but in order to win a match a team will have to destroy the enemy base completely. Each base includes several elements, including buildings and AA guns, that need to go up in flames in order for it to fall.
Allies are distinguished from foes, for now, thanks to a green halo that engulfs them. I say for now because it’s not final, but some sort of friend and foe identification will be in place.
Another interesting element is that the economy of the game (both experience and gold) will be shared with World of Tanks and World of Battleships. The three games will also jointly contribute to determine the result of the clan wars.
World of Warplanes will move to a beta phase this winter, and is scheduled to launch next year. While you wait, you can enjoy the gallery below. It includes screenshots that were exclusively released to the Italian press (of which I’m technically part) during the Games Week event in Milan in the last two days, so it’s quite likely that you never saw them.