World of Warships hands-on: Can it be Wargaming’s next juggernaut?

As it turns out, I am absolutely terrible at World of Warships, a game that manages to, rather meticulously, balance the precision of long-range dogfights with the complexity of realistic control mechanics. It’s not surprising then that I’m just not very good at any of the games in Wargaming’s library, because it’s a series of games that dictate not only patience but a legitimate commitment to the battle at hand: I just can’t do that.

That’s where I feel World of Warships and those before it excel: they so wonderfully blend the intricacy of battles with highly rewarding gameplay. That I’m not particularly committed to that cause certainly shouldn’t dilute the worth of these titles, because they do what they set out to do very, very well. World of Warships appears to be no exception to the rule.

As one might expect, a naval battle plays out differently than what an on-ground mission in a tank might. The fundamentals are still very much the same: positioning, distance, precision and patience are key, and these separate the experienced players from the not-so-experienced ones in the Wargaming universe.

The first thing that grabs my attention is the sheer scale of the maps. World of Warships throws you into enormous environments, clocking in it more than 100 square miles. As you can imagine, the warships themselves are bigger, more powerful and tougher to control than your standard tank in World of Tanks.

A match runs very smoothly: 15-minute rounds might not sound like a lot for a ship to move around a map of such size, but clearly, there are virtual interpretations here that break a few of the realism rules. This is a video game after all! My team was broken down across a variety of different warship: armed battleships, speedy cruisers and air carriers all have their own duties during battle. Taking the reigns of an armed battleship, I’m always going to be vulnerable on the open seas, where cover is non-existent.

Herein lies the challenge in World of Warships: you need to understand the waters and plan accordingly. You can navigate manually, but this leaves you open to attack from all corners of the map. Alternatively, you can plan movement and attacks using the navigation map, which works very well in providing the tactical approach necessary for added depth. It’s when you bring up this navigation view that World of Warships starts to feel like a genuine wartime conflict, more than just a dogfight in a video game. There’s a level of analysis and strategy that’s required to beat out your opponent, and World of Warships appears to function well enough in providing those options.

Strategy also plays an important role in combat, and how you attack an enemy ship can certainly determine the effectiveness of your strike. Some weapons require you to be on-side with the enemy ship, others allow you to strike with multiple hits at once to deal extensive damage, while others, although extremely powerful, leave you temporarily vulnerable while they reload after every shot. This is where you need to analyse: know how much damage your enemy can take, plan your attack, and keep your ship ready and raring to go so long as the enemy can strike back. You don’t want to be stuck reloading while they’re bombarding your ship with critical hits. You could of course use a torpedo, which are slower than airborne missiles but definitely appear to deal more damage. They’re also more accurate: airborne strikes need strict precision, although I imagine seasoned snipers in any FPS will be able to master this rather quickly.

What I felt was most important in my time playing World of Warships was if the planning and analysing of manoeuvres and attacks would feel rewarding enough. Thankfully, they did. I was concerned that this would be a game that failed to make the transition to a naval battlefield, although this is Wargaming we’re talking about here, and the company’s attention to detail is unmatched in the genre. Not only will ships replicate their real-life counterparts, but the aim is to ensure they move and feel the same, too (not that I’d know what it’s like to control an Italian air carrier…).

Can World of Warships embed itself in Wargaming’s long line of acclaimed war titles? Early signs are promising. I might just need to work on my targeting practice.

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