So, I got a key to the WoWs weekend (many thanks Io36 and Dom1n) to try out the first official non-alpha-tester client and decided to try it out. Before we start however… I’d love to tell you about the graphics and mechanics and make a video, but I can’t, because there’s apparently a NDA. Hell, I didn’t sign any NDA! But okay, whatever, enjoy this generic picture of some ship instead of ingame screenies – and my description :)
Personally, I never followed WoWs too closely and stopped following it around the time of Gamescom (and afterwards, with that leaked footage and all that). The reason for my drop of interest was the lack of official gameplay footage – the fact that WG kept releasing these Q&A’s without actually showing what on earth are they talking about annoyed me. Plus, there’s one more thing – I am not that big of a fan of ships. Probably has something to do with the fact that I live in central Europe, known for its distinctive lack of seas (as far as I remember, Czechoslovakia ever only had one warship and that was only a large patrol boat or something).
But why I am writing this: I assume that some people, who are alpha testers (hell, I know a couple myself) will read this and will shake their heads at me not knowing things they take for granted. Well guys, this is how an average Joe Player will approach the game. I mean, there aren’t THAT many ship fans around. Ship games are (and always were) a gaming niche and it cannot be expected for this product to be successful, should only ship fans play it.
And one last thing – I do completely and fully realized this is essentially still an alpha (as in, not even beta). I will take it into account in my comments.
Anyway, to World of Warships.
The installation of the client was smooth and went fine. The PC requirements of the client are actually higher than those of WoT, which is surprising to me, since the only thing you see in the game are the sea, a couple of bare islands and the ships. Maybe the amount of polygons on the ships plays a role? Oh well. Logged in… and there’s the hangar. Or port. Whatever. Took me a while to set the graphics correctly (the game did put everything to minimum for some reason, which is not something I’d expect on a relatively new PC), but no matter.
PC requirements (sorry, using Russian screenshots, but I guess it’s understandeable, the right side means recommended):
So, basically you start with two ship – Japanese and American one. And from that point on, it’s like WoT. Only there are no crews (yet, I assume) and everything in the port, the UI I mean, is very streamlined and nice. I really like the WoWs UI. Sure, many elements are probably missing yet, but it’s easy to use and orientate in. Me gusta! On the other hand, the music is very generic and I switched it off immediately.
Each ship has a bunch of modules, that basically improve its performance, from the number and caliber of guns to speed, maneuverability and (that’s new) range of fire. What I discovered later on (after a few battles) was that there is a system of player progression – for example, you don’t start in random battles straight away (as in WoT), you play coop against bots on tier 1 and THEN, after you gather a few battles you are allowed to join the PvP randoms. Otherwise, not much else to see there I’d say, so I just went on and clicked the big shiny “battle” button.
I played a few battles. After three or four or so, I was ready to write a real hatched job, because let me tell you, I HATED the game. But I had a break, a cup of tea and after five minutes of silently repeating the “it’s an alpha” mantra to myself over and over, I returned and it didn’t turn out so bad in the end.
Basically, it’s like WoT – same format, roughly the same UI, same goals (two teams of ships, bases etc.). Only on tier 1 it takes you five minutes to reach the enemy. I shit you not, five fucking minutes. I guess this is what would happen with tanks if the player-requested “REALLY BIG MAPZ” came through. Luckily, the controls are very simple – you go forward, you turn left and right and there’s a “reverse gear” too. Gunnery… I don’t know. Without too many details, it’s something like the “battle assistant” arty mod. Quite intuitive and easy to grasp.
But what I really hated is the graphics. Yes, it’s an alpha, but why bother making the ship textures so low resolution? This is made worse by the fact that the default view that you start the game with has the camera positioned somewhere above the frontal deck and frontal turret, which looks about the same as in WoT on low details. I REALLY hope this is just the alpha version and that this improves. Sure, epic gameplay doesn’t require epic graphics – we all know that (I still think the old Balur’s Gate II is one of the best games ever made), but the problem is, if you spend first three to five minutes of every battle just staring at your ship’s lowres turret with rectangular gun (low polygon count) after playing Dragon Age Inquisition on full details… it just kicks you right in the teeth. The sea looks like made from plastic and the worst part of the graphics is the gunfire. Have you seen the movie “Battleship” with its cool effets? Well, WoWs is NOTHING like it. WoWs has this “poof” thing, like a small wisp of black smoke when firing. The explosions don’t throw debris around, ramming has no effect (the ships just “bump” into each other).
I really, really hope this is really some sort of “alpha” graphics and they seriously (and I mean seriously) improve this aspect of the game. I’ve seen two maps (they really look the same to me – which is understandeable I guess), they are both just a set of bare islands. Very minimalistic (okay, on maximum details I hoped at least for a bunch of trees). By the way the screenshot above? The game looks in effect much worse – there’s a reason there’s apparently a ban on screenshots.
With that being said, after a few more battles, I think I got the basics and the gameplay is actually surprisingly relatively good (in contract with the graphics annoyance). There’s nothing really fancy or hard to understand about it (although I do suspect it’s much more difficult to master). You simply sail your ship and you shoot stuff with guns or torpedos (the test covers only destroyers, cruisers and battleships). Hitting someone is actually not that hard (you aim via “sniper mode”, which has a stabilization, eg. doesn’t sway and it also “follows” your target – hard to explain, but it’s a VERY cool feature). Navigation in 2D space is not that hard (was a huge problem for me with WoWp), but you really have to be careful where you are going, because if you stop, you are totally fucked and everyone will shoot you. My newbie mistake was not seeing where I am going in the sniper mode and I twice or three times ran into an island, because I spent all my time in sniper mode.
There are two (I think?) modes in the test – basically random battles and some sort of “encounter”, where you capture some zones. In general terms they work fine. Dodging the torpedos, seeing where you are going and shooting stuff is pretty difficult actually. Oh and one more thing, these modes have this REALLY annoying weird voice announcing events in the game (like when someone starts capping), it sounds like the announcer from Unreal Tournament or something. I hope that’s a placeholder, because it sounds totally out of place in a ship game.
One map has these fog zones, it’s exactly what you suspect it is – you disappear with them, it’s like WoT bushes on sea. Actually, speaking of disappearing, that’s another thing I did not like. WoWs has what I assume is something like the WoT spotting system with all its advantages and issues – namely, ships disappear. You are tracking a cruiser 9 kilometers away from you and is suddenly simply vanishes. I haven’t figured out what the rules for that are, but yes, it happens. Oh and there’s one really cool thing – the big map. It’s perfect. I wish we had that in WoT, because it really helps you to orientate. Good stuff.
As for the movement of the ships – well, I was on a sea ship only once in my entire life, so I am hardly an expert – but as far as I can tell, the ships are moving much faster than their declared speed (logical, as real life ship speeds would make for a very poor battle). The faster ships (upgraded tier 2 Japanese) however feel almost like racing motorboats, the acceleration is outrageous. I guess that’s a design decision, can’t really argue with that, this game is NOT a simulator or anything. However, the speed of some of the ships is still quite low (especially the heavier ones), which – in combination with large maps – leads to one effect: if you choose where to go poorly in the start, not only will you not have time to switch sides, but if you run into enemy lemming train, you are totally screwed and there’s nothing you can do about it (it’s like going with a Maus along and running into an entire pack of Maus heavies), which is especially annoying after 5 minutes of just sailing forward.
Despite all that, as I said, the gameplay is generally simple and okay. The game will definitely not be just for “ship fans”, the fact it’s so easy to control will make it accessible to everyone. But… after spending like 20 battles in the game or so, my feeling from the test is… I don’t know… blandness. It’s neither the joy I felt when I started with World of Tanks, nor the way I was repulsed by War Thunder tanks or WoWp. It’s… nothing. The battles are fine, but they won’t make your blood boil (this is where really good graphics would help a lot). One thing I can appreciate is that the developers learned from WoT and it’s obvious they gave some mechanisms a lot of thought (that “tracking” in sniper mode for example).
If I was to name three things that need to improve before release, I would definitely name the graphics, the “disappearing” of ships (sometimes it looks quite odd) and perhaps the speed of the battles (spending too much time just sailing around is boring for someone used to WoT battle times). I do not see any inherent flaws in the design, only things that can (and should) be improved. Upon release, this could actually be a pretty good game.
With that being said however, I really cannot see this game to be any huge commercial success. It’s certainly better than Warplanes, but to become the next company flag-bearer? No. I think it’ll be a niche thing, something many WoT players will try out, but will return to WoT (or other games) after a while.
But then, I haven’t seen the aircraft carriers yet, that should be interesting :)