As they crept along at a mere 15 knots, the commander kept a close eye on the horizon. He signaled to turn the craft, a Fubuki class destroyer, so that the torpedo launchers faced the hulking battleship. The new angle slowed their approach, but the shadow of the enemy ship looming ever closer still caused much of the crew to hold their breath for fear of discovery. One or two shells from the mighty Izmail would put a quick end to their stealthy mission. It seemed so close. Seven kilometers. Then six. Was that movement on the deck? Were they aiming their turrets?
At five kilometers, the commander gave the order and the destroyer was a flurry of activity. Torpedoes were loosed and the rudder pulled the boat hard to port, just as the engine started ramping up to full speed. At 36 knots, the speed leveled off and the crew waited nervously for signs that their attack was a success. The sound of the explosion and twisted, burning metal awoke them from their nervous trance in time for the commander to give the order to lay down a smokescreen. Shells from the badly damaged battleship whizzed overhead, splashing harmlessly into the pacific. On the far side of the smoke, the little Fubuki slipped away into the night.
A couple of years ago, my WWII-obsessed son stumbled upon the “World of” franchise from Wargaming: World of Tanks, World of Warships, and World of Warplanes). Occasionally, I’d look over his shoulder as he participated in a campaign or as he was perusing vehicle options. At times, he even suggested that I create an account and join him, but being a father of limited gaming time, I’d always declined though the genre intrigued me. Years ago, I’d purchased a DOS based submarine combat simulator called Silent Hunter, where I spent many happy hours hunting down and evading enemy cruisers.
For whatever reason, a few weeks ago I decided to finally download the free-to-play World of Warships and give it a whirl. But before I did, I put out a Twitter poll to see if my followers considered it an MMO. I’m always curious about where the community definition for that term stands:
After a fairly small sample size (I can only assume most of my followers have never played this type of game), the consensus was that an overwhelming 73% do not consider Warships an MMO. After playing the game for several weeks, I would agree with that assessment, but there are some MMO-like mechanics in the game that I found interesting.
For one, your choice of ships determines your role on the battleground (battle-water? battle-sea?). There are basically five types of ships currently available (destroyers, light cruisers, heavy cruisers, battleships and carriers) with submarines rumored to be introduced later this year.
And while there are no direct correlations to MMO classes (naval warfare is a bit different than RPG based high fantasy!), there are a few similar characteristics that can be seen. Destroyers, for example, brandish the weapons with the biggest punch (torpedoes) but are the least heavily armored and can take the fewest hits before sinking, much like a glass cannon DPS dealer. However, they also rely on stealth (smokescreens, small detectability range), speed and maneuverability. Battleships are the slowest and most heavily armored, so they frequently act as tanks, drawing attention away from the nimbler craft.
But unlike an MMO tank, battleships also house the highest caliber guns, causing massive damage to opponents. Just make the shots count because the reload times (cooldown timers) on the guns are also some of the longest. Battleships also have a limited self-heal that can restore health in a limited capacity.
Aircraft carriers are considered a support class. As a carrier, you can send out planes to “spot” enemies for your team (very important for those sneaky little destroyers) and harass them with bombs and torpedoes. Cruisers are the hybrid class of the lot. They’re faster and more maneuverable and more lightly armored than battleships. They are fitted with more deck guns than destroyers, and sometimes are able to fire short-range torpedoes. Cruisers are the most versatile ships, but aren’t the best at any one aspect of battle.
In World of Warships, you progress through different tiers of ships, each tier increasingly better than the one below it. As you win battles, you acquire experience points that can be spent on incremental module upgrades (hull, turret) or to purchase a higher tier ship. Module upgrades are somewhat akin to acquiring better gear in an MMO, while purchasing the next tier ship is more like leveling up.
However, one major difference between “tiering up” in World or Warships and leveling up in an MMO is that in World of Warships, you don’t have to get rid of the previous tier ship when you purchase the next one. As long as you have slots, you could theoretically keep all of the ships throughout the leveling tiers and return to them whenever you’d like. Tier eight battles getting a little testy for your liking? Get back on board your tier three ship and crank it down a notch for a change of pace!
Several different PvP-based scenarios are available in the game, using either bot or human controlled adversaries. I’ve mainly stuck to the random battle mode, which randomly places you in a match between two evenly matched teams. Well, evenly matched in that if your team has two destroyers, the other team will have two destroyers.
Other game modes include co-op battles (up to 8 players, opposing team is computer controlled), scenarios (arena-like challenges against waves of computer-controlled opponents), ranked battles, and clan battles. My experience playing random battles has been mostly positive, with the toxicity seeming to increase along with the battle tiers. I’ve received kudos from teammates. I’ve also been called names unfit to print in a respected publication like MassivelyOP. (Side note: Friendly fire is a thing in World of Warships. This is especially important to know if you’re a torpedo boat. Do not fire your torps unless you’re out in front of you own fleet. Ahem.)
Overall, the slow-paced, strategic and methodical gameplay really appeals to me. In fact, this is the first PvP game that I’ve enjoyed in a very long time. At its best, World of Warships is a beautiful coupling of a carefully choreographed waltz and a heady game of chess. The pieces are ever moving, and the threat could come from any direction, sea or sky. If you don’t play your part, or fail to account for both friend and foe, you could end up sleeping with the fishes!