Developed by Lesta Studio. Published by Wargaming. Released on Sept. 17, 2015. Available on PC. Press account provided by publisher.
World of Warships is a free-to-play MMO where players command historic naval vessels in fast-paced battles for supremacy. It has no story, characters, or reason to progress outside of winning new ships or upgrades. It’s the video game equivalent of taking a history professor’s warship miniatures and making them fight in a bathtub. And it’s an absolute blast. Whether you’re dodging enemy torpedoes, launching artillery shells at a Battleship, or managing pilot squadrons flying above the waters, World of Warships sucks you into its waters until you’re wishing you had time for one more round.
As you play World of Warships, you’ll gain access to a fleet of Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, and even Aircraft carriers. Just like classes in a team-based shooter, each ship type supports a particular play style. Battleships are the heavies, capable of absorbing and dishing out insane amounts of damage. Destroyers are small, lightly-armored support craft, useful for scouting or rushing into position for a devastating torpedo attack. Cruisers are versatile mid-range ships, fast enough to move quickly in battle, but with enough weapons and defenses to put up a good fight.
Aircraft carriers are unique from the rest – they turn World of Warships into an RTS experience. Instead of controlling a single ship within the fleet, carriers are the mobile bases from which you can launch fighters and bombers. Aircraft carrier players are given a overhead view of the entire map, where they can assign flight patrols, bombing runs, or recall planes for repair and resupply. It’s an interesting approach, although perhaps not one recommended for beginners, since the gameplay style is so different from other ships. But that doesn’t mean Aircraft Carriers aren’t valued – one or two well-managed Carriers can be essential resources for destroying a united enemy fleet.
Once you’ve chosen a ship, World of Warships drops you into a match where two fleets try to sink each other, or capture bases are located around the map. Standard battles give each team a base to defend while attacking the enemy. Domination mode puts 3-5 control points across the map which players have to focus their efforts on. Then there’s Encounter, which places a single base at the map’s center and lets both fleets duke it out to capture it. Each mode isn’t so different from your average multiplayer shooter – but playing as warships arrayed with artillery guns and torpedo tubes completely flips that dynamic into something fresh and exciting.
What’s truly impressive is how smooth and straightforward playing World of Warships can be. Traditionally, most PC war games are strategy-heavy affairs, where you micromanage a ship’s functions just to get into firing position. But World of Warships‘ interface is so intuitive you barely need a tutorial to get the hang of it. Essential movement controls and ship functions are reduced to a handful of buttons, letting you focus on tactics without getting distracted by controls. After a single match, even brand-new players are well-versed enough to participate without falling too far behind. And unlike Starcraft or Call of Duty, you don’t have to rely on lightning-fast reflexes to make meaningful contributions to the game.
That’s not to say you’ll be a World of Warships expert right away – there’s a reason Wargaming is putting out tutorial guides after all. But the intuitive interface alone gives you a much better head-start than other multiplayer war games of its kind.
It’s difficult to understate how immersive every single multiplayer match can become. Ships move into position during the quiet opening moments, pushing forward to hunt the enemy. Finally, a lone opposing vessel appears on the horizon. Then another, and another. A flick of the mouse orders artillery guns to change position, slowly turning to face the approaching ships. One click sets off a deafening artillery blast that overpowers the music, echoing across the water and leaving you in awe. Then enemy salvos visibly close in, exploding around you. Fires blaze across your decks, weapons break apart from damage, and a final torpedo volley literally splits your ship in two.
This natural progression, even during a losing game, makes every moment tense and exciting. Now consider that most matches last 10-12 minutes. Win or lose, it’s hard not to get sucked in and keep replaying for “just one more round”. On the downside, matches on some larger maps take far too long to heat up. Many levels require 30 seconds to a minute for fast-moving ships to get into position – saying nothing of the Battleships and Aircraft Carriers. For newcomers, that means you might spend ages navigating around an island, find enemy ships there, and get blown to smithereens before you can say “You sunk my Battleship”.
That said, World of Warships does make one great multiplayer concession: Starting new matches before the previous game has finished. Let’s say you choose the Cleveland Cruiser, start a Standard Battle, and are destroyed in the first two minutes. Instead of hanging around spectating, World of Warships lets you return to port and start a new match without a fuss. You can’t use the ship already “committed” to battle, but you’ll still get full credits and XP from the previous match when it’s over. Rather than stick around for a losing battle – or a prolonged victory – you can quickly dive into another game with a new strategy.
Best of all, you can experience the full range of World of Warships‘ content without paying a cent. While you can pay money to access new ships and upgrades, anyone can unlock them by earning credits and XP, or completing daily missions. Besides, even if you have enough money to purchase some high-tier ships, you can’t play them constantly. Every vessel has maintenance and restocking costs after each match paid through in-game credits. Low and mid-tier ships usually earn their keep, but if you lose a single high-tier ship? It could cost thousands of credits to make it seaworthy again – which means you’re back to low-tier ships until you’ve saved up the cash for it.
In other words, whether you’re a paying customer or not, World of Warships is largely the same naval warfare experience for everyone. Any die-hard wargamer or curious player seeking a free game will find lots to love here.
Bottom Line: With its tense naval battles and huge array of historical vessels, World of Warships is the free-to-play MMO that can make a wargamer out of anyone.
Recommendation: This game is fun, fast-paced, and free. Why aren’t you playing it already?[rating=4]