From the Depths: World of Warships teases key mechanics changes to subs and aircraft carriers


World of Warships is a title that seems to be under constant scrutiny for community interactions, aggressive monetization, and the deployment of random mechanics and FOMO to generate revenue instead of thoughtful game design based on player feedback. Still, underneath all the muck and grime is a unique core gameplay style that does not exist anywhere else, which is why it’s a shame that over the years, the rock/paper/scissors philosophy that once made 12v12 PvP matches so interesting has suffered as new classes and gimmicks were introduced.

However, according to a recent live stream, Wargaming is considering some class and balance changes that many gamers think were long overdue.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’m one of those players who simultaneously complains about the casino-style psychological manipulation used by World of Warships and continues to boot up the game every week. I also don’t know how much money I’ve spent on the game over the years because I’d prefer not to. But it is a game that offers an experience that I’ve not found elsewhere. It’s an arcade that doesn’t require twitchiness – a strategic game that doesn’t require the study of online manuals. The best way to improve is to simply play, repeatedly. And of course, to unlock more ships.

Over the last eight years since release, Wargaming has attempted to tweak the gameplay to either keep the loop fresh or produce more premium ships to sell, depending on whom you ask. In 2018, the company completely reworked aircraft carriers from a top-down RTS style of play to a more interactive, 3-D style.

I never played during the old RTS days, but some old players swear by it while others admit it was deeply flawed. The new cockpit-view style seems to have solved some problems while introducing others, most notably that planes provide a little too much visibility of enemy destroyers, the class most effective when sneaking around the map stealthily. Other players point to the ineffectiveness of anti-aircraft weapons and consumables on surface ships, as well as the inability to engage directly with the aircraft carrier itself, which would sometimes hide in the corner of the map or park behind an island, never to be spotted unless it was the last ship floating.

To combat these issues (as well as complaints that carriers can make life miserable for one player by attacking her over and over), Wargaming is now planning some fairly significant changes to the core mechanics of carrier play.

Sometime next year, aircraft launched from carriers will no longer “accidentally” spot enemy ships while traveling to an attack position. Aircraft will move at full speed while in “travel mode” but will be able to spot ships only once they enter “attack mode.” Thus, airplanes will be reliant on friendly surface ships to spot and pinpoint potential targets for aircraft instead of the other way around.

Moreover, to address concerns about ineffective anti-aircraft (AA) fire – particularly consumables meant to boost such effectiveness – World of Warships is changing how these consumables function. In the future, when aircraft are in travel mode, they will be immune to normal AA fire from surface ships. However, ships with AA consumables will be able to damage and even shoot down aircraft when those consumables are activated.

Currently, if a player has a choice between slotting an AA consumable or literally anything else, the “anything else” always wins. With this change, Wargaming plainly hopes to make AA consumables relevant again – or at the very least to give players a reasonable choice. While aircraft are in attack mode, current AA rules will still apply. Aircraft can be shot down and spot enemy ships for the rest of the team, but only while attack mode is active.

One final change is on deck for carrier play: less damage for repeated attacks on the same target. This one is a bit more difficult to picture mainly because we don’t know how the devs are defining “repeated attacks.” In theory, reducing the damage on each subsequent attack should reduce the grief-like nature of getting picked on by aircraft, but what is the cooldown on that penalty? And how can it be implemented without completely hobbling air support? I’ll believe this one when I see it.

For years, submarines have been a divisive class in World of Warships. Between the concept introduction during a Halloween event in 2018 and the actual production release, submarines languished in development hell for nearly four years. Even post-release, major changes to the class from patch to patch indicated that they were not ready for prime-time and proved highly disruptive to the balance of PvP matches, to the point that some players argue the game’s year-over-year population decrease is a direct result of their introduction.

The major complaints about submarines typically involve an inability to provide counter-play to these elusive death-dealers. These ships lean so heavily into the stealth mechanic that they cannot even be spotted underwater by other subs without the use of a special consumable. Sub players have used these mechanics to develop some effective yet frustrating strategies for dealing with surface ships. The most notorious of these strategies is known as shotgunning.

Shotgunning involves approaching an unsuspecting surface ship while submerged, surfacing only a few kilometers from the target ship, and unloading a full rack of torpedoes before quickly submerging again and fleeing underneath the enemy. This tactic works particularly well on big, slow battleships because the anti-sub warfare (ASW) provided to battleships cannot reach directly beneath the ship, and limited maneuverability makes dodging the torpedoes nearly impossible.

According to the stream, Wargaming will attempt to decrease the appeal of this practice by modifying the behavior of submarine torpedoes in two ways. First, they will not launch at full speed. Sub torpedoes will launch slowly and pick up speed as they go, resulting in an increasing level of dodging difficulty the longer they are in the water. Second, the torpedoes will also increase in damage the longer they are in the water. If a submarine does execute a successful shotgun attack, the damage dealt to the target ship will be much less than it is today.

This... should be fine.

In addition to the shotgun changes, certain cruisers will be awarded a new submarine surveillance consumable that will be able to detect submerged submarines for a limited period. The idea behind this utility is to prevent submarines from pushing deep into enemy territory undetected and causing blind chaos, as well as to provide some extra value to cruisers that have been powercrept into reduced utility over time.

Exactly how well all of these proposed changes work out will be up for debate sometime in 2024. I’m immediately skeptical of the complex submarine torpedo changes, given the sheer number of aiming and shooting bugs already present. Introducing varying speed and damage to torpedoes that already home onto pinged targets sounds like a tall order. And as far as the aircraft changes, some players have pointed out that the Russian version of the game (which Wargaming split off to a different company following the invasion of Ukraine last year) has solved the aircraft spotting problem with a much simpler solution.

Still, the first step to recovery is admitting that a problem exists. After several months of radio silence on balance, I am somewhat optimistic to hear that work on submarines and carriers is ongoing. Will it bring back players who have quit over recent class decisions? We’ll find out sometime next year.

Whether you’re the captain of a historical battleship or a feisty pirate queen on the deck of a smuggling vessel, the high seas are the final frontier of many MMOs! Join the MOP team here in From the Depths for occasional voyages into all the ocean-going MMOs of the moment. Just don’t sink our boat!
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