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DoubleTake: World of Warplanes

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Posted on August 7, 2013 AT 03:16pm

Gunfire in the sky

Eric We got a chance to attend Wargaming.net’s 15th anniversary celebration, and while they’ve had plenty of releases in those years, far and away their biggest hit has been World of Tanks. It’s now been three years since the first release of the game, and Wargaming is looking to build upon its success with their first follow-up, World of Warplanes. Before we get to that, however, how much experience have you had with World of Tanks? I ask, because I’m curious to know what expectations you might have had coming in to our hands-on time with Warplanes.
I admit I haven’t had a lot of experience with World of Tanks. I mean, at this point everyone has played it to some degree, but I’ve mostly been waiting for the Xbox 360 launch to really sink my teeth into it. My expectations coming into Warplanes were based more on the flight sim games of the past I’ve played on the PC. Wing Commander and X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, even with their sci-fi skew, are what got me into PC gaming to begin with, so another action-oriented flying game is just what I needed to dust off the ol’ joystick and see if I still had it in the skies. Ray
Eric Yeah, I’m kind of the same. While I’ve played a little of World of Tanks, I also think I’ve had this particular image of it build up in my head through all of the information and fan base out there for the game. Because of what I thought Tanks was, I also had this preconceived notion of World of Warplanes—and part of that was expecting it to be some crazy, hardcore, sim-heavy flight game. It’s definitely got some really deep elements and concepts to it, but I was pretty surprised at how easy it was for me to pick up, understand, and play without a lot of need for practice time of explanation.

I was kind of shocked myself. Everything is default for mouse/keyboard and they’ve made it as simple as possible for newcomers to the flight sim genre to just jump in and take control of some of the mid-20th century’s most infamous planes, without having to jump through any hoops to start playing. Personally, I still prefer the feel of my joystick—I feel it gives me just a bit more precision—but they have options to accommodate guys like me as well so they don’t lose the potential hardcore audience either. Ray
Eric And, you know, I think that pre-conceived idea that Wargaming’s projects might be too tough to get into could be keeping some players away. Because, I mean, I’d had some hesitations on how hard of a time I might have jumping into World of Tanks. So, I’m glad to now know that some of my fears were wrong. But, I don’t want this to come off as sounding like World of Warplanes was too simplistic, because it certainly wasn’t. You can’t just fly in and start picking people off like you’re playing an arcade-style shooter; getting a kill is a pretty big deal, as is keeping yourself alive. In fact, that was one of the biggest impressions the game left on me: the fact that you’ve got one life—your plane—and if you go down, you’re out of that match until the end. At first, it felt like such a strange and alien concept to me, because I’m used to other games where I just mash a button until I respawn a minute or two later. I didn’t know what to think of the idea at first—but then I started to really dig it. It feels more apropos to the game’s theme, and it forces you to play smarter.
It definitely captures the essence of battle I believe an old school, wartime dogfight would have. If you didn’t have a wingman to cover you, more often than not you’d be circling for quite a while trying to get the perfect shot on your opponent, playing a game of cat and mouse in the sky if it was a 1-on-1 confrontation. If you did have a wingman (or if they did), odds were one of you would be able to line up a shot much sooner and get the kill. Then there were times where some brave souls liked to play chicken, trying to shoot each other out of the sky before they both died from a head-on collision. At least it would keep a 1:1 K/D ratio. This wasn’t ideal, though, because like you said, you only get one life per match. You can always leave the match and enter a new one with a different plane if you like, but that plane is frozen until that first match ends. This made strategy and teamwork a much higher priority than you would normally get in a game of this ilk. And if your team didn’t work well together, you all usually ended up in flames. Ray

Eric One thing I noticed is that you ended up spending a lot of time in matches after you had died to see what the outcome would be, where I might instead expect you to want to jump out and into a new match as soon as possible. Did you find yourself more invested in seeing how matches would play out due to the nature of how kills work in Warplanes? Or are you typically like that with all competitive games?
Typically I like staying and watching the outcome of a match, especially if I feel my effort could contribute to the final decision of who wins or loses it. The idea of being able to use a different plane to jump into other matches without fear or any real penalty actually might’ve enticed me to quit more often than I would’ve otherwise just so I could get more matches under my belt. Ray
Eric The reason I ask it because it touches upon something you mentioned: teammates. In a lot of competitive online multiplayer games, you’re encouraged to work as part of a larger team, but you can still go out and lone wolf the matches if you’ve got the skill. While I’m guessing you can also do that here to some degree, there’s a far bigger reliance on working together as a squad and keeping an eye on the tails of your teammates. Wargaming has crafted a game here that really builds that sense of wanting to stick together and help one another without directly telling you to do so or penalizing you if you don’t. I think that’s another important part of Warplanes—that more natural push to not try going it alone. Because of that, I also think you become more invested in how the rest of your squad does, and what the results of each individual match are.

I could definitely see that. It’s interesting because it doesn’t punish lone wolves, but it does encourage the team play. Few games can find that balance. Beyond the strategy, what else about Warplanes really caught your fancy? I was extremely impressed by the collision and graphics personally. Seeing wings sawed off planes by bullet fire, or crashing in a fiery blaze really helped drive the point home for me of being in a legitimate dog fight and got my blood pumping. I didn’t want to stop playing! Ray
Eric Well, see, I was actively trying NOT to ram myself into my opponents in a fit of kamikaze rage, so I might not have appreciated the collision physics as much as you did.
Hey, like I said earlier, I had a solid 1:1 K/D. Those other pilots had just as much opportunity to pull up or veer away as I did. Ray
Eric I think it really is the balance between being a casual title and a hardcore sim that most impressed me. I’m not one to typically enjoy these types of games, but I could legitimately see myself playing World of Warplanes once it’s fully launched. That, by the way, is also the beauty of the commitment to making worthwhile free-to-play games. If I had to shell out money for a game like Warplanes, I probably wouldn’t—not because it isn’t worth it, but because I’d just assume it wouldn’t be my kind of thing. But, because of its business model, I can download it and enjoy it on whatever level suits my style best. Then, who knows—I might end up getting hooked.
I agree. On the surface it comes across as a niche title only for WWII buffs or flight sim aficionados. But because of its F2P model, you can jump in and play with no risk to your wallet, and you have a much better chance to hook some folks. Just look at World of Tanks‘ success. Clearly, this is the way to go and Wargaming.net knows it. It’s just a matter of leaving Open Beta now and getting it to the masses sometime this fall for them to have another hit on their hands. Ray

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