As World of Warships celebrates its third anniversary, the team in St Petersburg have plenty planned for the weeks, months, and probably years ahead. Sticking with their quarterly updates, there’s the arrival of the British Destroyers as a new category of ships to earn and use, new commanders to play with, and the kind of long-running themed event that players will be familiar with, but there’s also some really major changes coming to the game and how threats appear from above… and below.
One of the thorns in the side of Warships has been the way in which aircraft carriers have worked since their introduction. Where other classes of ship are controlled directly by the player, with smaller ships dashing forward to scout for the cruisers and destroyers behind, who use islands for cover and concealment, and try to position themselves to get the tactical advantage, aircraft carriers don’t have to worry about that. Currently they can just sit at the back and send out wave after wave of fighters and bombers in a map view to scout ahead and trap enemy ships. Their only real counter is other aircraft carriers, to the point that having a good player on your side won’t necessarily win the fight, but having a bad player can easily lose it for you.
Where Wargaming could have waved the nerf wand and neutered the entire class of ships, they’ve instead tried to reconsider how aircraft carriers work, putting players in more direct control and narrowing their focus. Instead of marshalling several squadrons at once from an overarching RTS-like view, you now have to take direct control and can only have a single squadron of planes in the sky at once. It might not be as accurate conceptually, but it should work to remove the kind of meta-game that aircraft carrier players would get into and bring them back into the same battle that others are engaged in.
Controlling the aircraft is tricky, with each type of plane behaving differently as they go on an attack run. There’s three different types, with rockets that are light on damage but easy to loose and affecting a wide area, torpedo bombers that need you to line up your shot and bide your time for an accurate shot, and dive bombers that need you to think well into the future and have the highest risk. All the while, the ship’s anti-aircraft guns are blazing away, whittling down your squadron’s numbers and meaning you might only get one or two attack runs before having to send more planes across the map. You’ll have to pick your targets wisely to avoid being taken down too quickly.
While controlling your planes, you ship is potentially a sitting duck and should an enemy ship make it through your allies, an aircraft carrier isn’t going to offer much in the way of defence or resistance. Thankfully, you can still move your carrier by stepping out to the map and setting a new course and heading. That can also be used to aggressively push forward and reduce the flight time of your planes, but again, it’s a risk.
But while the threat from the sky has been known to players for some time, what lies below has remained unexplored. That changes at the spookiest time of year, with the Halloween event one of the times that Warships really cuts loose and experiments – I say that, but there’s already US flag liveries and anime characters in the game for those that want to see them. This year, it’s with the introduction of fictional submarines.
Their design is great, reminiscent of some of the more fantastical designs for the Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but the new gameplay they offer will dramatically shift the balance of power in the main game if Wargaming are happy with the concept and push ahead.
Submarines can dive and hide beneath the surface, giving them a huge advantage in terms of stealth, but will have to surface and peak in order to loose away torpedos. Of course, as soon as submarines came to the fore in naval warfare, so too did a number of counters, from sonar scanning to depth charges. This could be a fascinating new frontier that adds much greater depth to the combat, but in the here and now, it’s a fun aside, paired with spooky liveries and monsters that live beneath the sea.
Though it’s now three years old, it’s fascinating to see how World of Warships can still find major ways to continue to evolve and grow, especially with World of Warships: Legends and a more immediate twist on the game coming to console next year.