Any visitor to PAX Australia 2014 will agree that one of the most impressive spectacles upon the convention floor was the Wargaming booth. Teams of highly-skilled World of Tanks players constantly engaged in battle, with a team of expert commentators easily dissecting and describing the battle to the thronging masses. It was a true spectacle to behold, and the energy and fervour generate around the title were consistently entertaining. We were given an opportunity to sit and talk with Max Chuvalov, PR and Marketing Product Manager for Wargaming regarding the massive success of World of Tanks and the upcoming World of Warships.
World of Warships (formerly World of Battlehsips) is the latest military strategy game from Wargaming, completing the militaristic Holy Trinity alongside the massively popular World of Tanks and brutally fast World of Warplanes. Like its counterparts, on the surface it appears deeply complex and requires a far more competent hand than my own – so, in an act of deductive reasoning, I elected to allow Sergey Vorobyev, Wargaming’s Deputy Director of Development to demonstrate a mission on my behalf. The mission sees us defending a damaged carrier-class ship from scores of enemies whilst it limps back to port.
The mission requires some immediate and sensible re-calibration of my impressions of naval warfare. Manoeuvring ships, positioning for attacks and preventing as much damage as possible is a deep, nuanced affair – something I am immediately rewarded for not taking the controls of. Sergey is masterful at protecting flanks, broadsiding for short bursts of attacks and retreating away from the damaging fire. I would have likely been with the Titanic by this stage.
Max explained that just as in World of Tanks, the different units have real-to-life weaker areas that should be focussed upon. Aiming slightly below gun batteries at ammunition storages, or launching torpedoes just below the waterline are core tenets of naval warfare that the player will become accustomed to over time. The lack of naval warfare in video gaming at large meant that these theories were relatively unheard of for me. Max stressed that in the final release, a single-player campaign will teach these strategies to new players until they are all but second nature.
There is a distinctly slower, more tactical approach to battle in Warships. Both World of Tanks and Warplanes have had (comparatively) simplistic methods for attack, with only a small number of potential weapons at hand during a mission. In Warships, it’s completely different. In the mission I witnessed, the ship had four major gun batteries, all individually controllable, in addition to a battery of torpedoes and smaller defensive weaponry. Using these effectively in battle, said Sergey, is the difference between casual and competitive play. Calculations of attack vectors, leading shots and how much broadside to display are all equally important, and presented in a somewhat realistic fashion. Max is quick to remind me, however, that there is still a strong focus on creating engaging gameplay over realism. Real naval battle take place over the course of hours, if not days: a mission in World of Warships is likely to take around fifteen minutes.
Max and Sergey rattled off a number of different classes of ships and battleships that would be present in the final release, but their differences are far too nuanced to pay attention to as a casual fan. They stressed that as with Warplanes and Tanks, the game would be continually updated with new, different models of warships. Each warship is lovingly recreated in the game with a simply astounding level of detail. The sheer complexity and magnitude of each vessel is recreated to an exacting quality, a task that Max claims is “dozens of times as complex” as any one tank from World of Tanks. It’s easily recognizable when examining the ships in the harbour before a mission. Make no mistake about it: Military geeks will love this title.
Of particular interest in regards to the different models and classes of ships that are available is how these alter gameplay. Smaller, faster ships are like rogues: rushing in for fast damage on critical points; whilst the humongous aircraft carriers dictate a much slower pace. Their use is much more akin to an RTS title, with a simplified overview map akin to one you would see in Command and Conquer. It’s a deeply interesting idea and the melding of different gameplay models together will be a delight to see in the final version.
At the completion of the mission (we left it early so we could look at the warships some more), I was left with a familiar feeling of desire, similarly to how I felt about World of Tanks prior to its console launch. Beneath the complexities and the realism, there’s an innate playability and strategic joy that leaves me yearning for more. I can’t say that I’ll ever be any good at World of Warships, but I’ll certainly be there giving it a shot.
The beta for World of Warships will be available sometime in early 2015.