War Thunder 1.29 (Review).

This post originally appeared on AussieGameGeek. Check them out, they are devastatingly handsome.

Spit VS Spit

Oh Facebook.

If it wasn’t for one of your annoying targeted advertisements that appears on the side of the news feed in Facebook I never would have heard of War Thunder, Gaijin Entertainment’s ambitious MMO which is “dedicated to World War 2 military aviation, armored vehicles and fleets”. HOMINA HOMINA HOMINA. *ahem* Sorry about that. Moving on.

So thank you Mark Zuckerberg, you money hungry ranga. At least you’ve done one thing right with Facebook since 2007.

At first glance War Thunder sounds pretty ambitious. A free to play (F2P) MMO based around three VERY different forms of warfare is going to take some major balls and ability to pull off (and keep even vaguely balanced).  Currently running in that extended open Beta test that MMO’s run in in order to not have to proper responsibility, War Thunder only supports aerial warfare at the moment and it was the image of a pretty well rendered Spitfire giving the business to a Bf.109B which was the major selling point to me.

When it comes to flight sims, Gaijin knows it’s stuff.  With titles such as IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, Apache: Air Assault and Birds of Steel in its back catalog, it’s safe to say that Gainjin knows what it’s doing in at least the air combat bit.

BF-109

So what about the game itself?

After installing the client, waiting for the inevitable downloads and then updating to the latest version 1.29.27.0, it was time to poke around the hangars.

Each fighting nation (German, British/Commonwealth, US, Japan and Russia) starts with three aircraft available at the beginning.  Usually some form of biplane or lame single wing aircraft (P-26 Peashooter I’m looking at you). These are used at the start to get new pilots acclimated to the game and how it all works. It’s great to have these to fall back on in the early stages but trust me, you don’t want to be relying on them for too long.

As you play and shoot down enemies, destroy ground targets and win matches you earn XP and Silver Lions.  Silver Lions are the basic in-game currency and these are used to purchase new aircraft in the tech trees and modifications for those same aircraft.  New weapon load outs, engine upgrades and different ammo types for your machine guns and cannons are all available, as well as some more obscure improvements such as polishing your airframe. Lions and the Golden Eagles also let you purchase extra air crews to man the extra aircraft you purchase.

Zero Dead

Progression through the respective tech or “research” trees is, of course, one hell of a grind.  It would have to be, really would it, in order to sucker you in to paying actual money for a Premium Account or advanced packs.  These Advanced Packs give you premium aircraft such as the FW-190D-13 and XP-38G, extra Golden Eagles (The Premium currency in WT, used for… stuff) and premium account access for a certain amount of time.  Premium Accounts earn you bonus Silver Lions and XP in game, and make a huge difference to the income you get after completing missions.  Did I say huge?  I meant gargantuan.

Again, this is to be expected.  The F2P model requires someone, somewhere to be paying the bills for the developers, and it’s these packs that allow the majority of us to play a pretty decent flight sim. I have no issues with it, it’s the nature of the beast, and if I have a disadvantage to my earning power but still get to play a pretty decent flight sim MMO then so be it.

Now on to the actual flying bit.  Arcade Mode is the most popular and multitudinous game mode, and it’s not really a surprise.  The flight model is hugely forgiving, allowing the low level and reserve aircraft a reasonable chance to compete with some of the mid-tier aircraft.  As you play through the battles, you are able to select any of the aircraft you have sitting in your hangar staffed by crews.  Once you run out of pilots, your time is done in that battle.

Typhoon

Air battles are fast and furious, and if you have even an inkling of aerial tactics you can start racking up Lions and XP at a decent clip.  Once you start to fight with and against aircraft with Cannons the game starts to get a bit more exciting.  Cannons deal nutso damage and, if you let your guard down or stop paying attention, you will find yourself swarmed by hordes of angry Messerschmitt’s and Yak’s firing cannons and swatting you from the sky like Louie the Fly copping a can of Mortein in the face. Pilots get a lead indicator to make shooting down your hated enemies easier.  It’s occasionally frustrating, but still great fun.

Historical Battles (HB) is where the game ratchets up the difficulty as the flight models become more realistic and physics actually exist. Black and red-outs are more common place, weapons do more damage and aircraft are more fragile.  As a result of these hardships any XP and Lions earned are much more considerable.

Selecting only one aircraft before you even search for a game, you’re placed into faction-based teams and forced into playing a specific mission against a set enemy.  This is where the game faces it’s biggest hurdle. Forcing each Air Force into playing against a set enemy in a certain mission pigeon-holes the way you HAVE to play the game, and that’s a double edged sword.  For example, the British/Commonwealth VS Germany HB is a nightmare for the British due to the imbalances between the two air forces.

Beau and Spit

War Thunder looks great and using either the Keyboard and Mouse, or a flight stick, the game is pretty easy to play.  Hardcore flight sim this ain’t.  WT also sounds brilliant, and hearing a Spitfire’s Merlin engine roar as it climbs high before snapping it’s wings over and unleashing hell with it’s gun on an unsuspecting bomber brings some moments of great joy as the engine screams and guns chatter.  Bliss.

Update 1.29 bought in multiple changes and fixes, adding aircraft such as the British Gloster Meteor jet, US B-25 and German Do-217. A new interface, economy model, custom ammo belts, improved damage mode and heaps of other fixes and improvements. I’m not sure if the economy is fixed per se, but it’s meant much better than it was.

I’m having a great time with War Thunder.  For the casual or the more hardcore flight simmers amongst you, War Thunder is a pretty great pick up.  Most importantly, it’s free. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that influenced my decision to get it.  Secondly, if you’re at peace with a grind, or maybe even throwing some dollars/rubles/euros at Gaijin in order to speed things up, then you’re going to get plenty of mileage out of it.  With 5 different Air-Forces to choose from, and stacks of planes in each nation to play and master, achievements and challenges to complete and the promise of eventual naval and land combat units, now is a pretty good time to get into War Thunder.

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