World of Warships has launched its long-anticipated Open Beta just in time for the holiday weekend. Warships is the latest in Wargaming.net's line of free-to-play military games that aim to combine historical accuracy with realistic gameplay: World of Tanks has been a worldwide phenomenon since 2010 and there's been a lot of anticipation for this sequel.
We've got a lot to cover here: Wargaming hosted Military.com and a host of other journalists last May in St. Petersburg, Russia for an early look at the game during a visit to developer Lesta Studios.
Warships seem to lend themselves to the kind of gameplay that made World of Tanks such a roaring success. Ships are big, bulky and are difficult to turn around. World of Warplanes hasn't yet found the same audience as Tanks, partially because planes move so fast that a lot of the strategic planning elements seem to disappear from the game. Warships has a gameplay that's similar to Tanks with enough differences in vehicle movement that it still feels like an entirely new game.
The beta features over 80 warships from America and Japan and 10 original maps to participate in thrilling 12v12 matches. Players can choose between battleships, destroyers, aircraft carriers and cruisers.
World of Tanks launched first in Russia and Eastern Europe and has become a cultural phenomenon there on a Call of Duty level. As the game rolled out around the world, newcomers often encountered an incredibly steep learning curve as they battled against advanced players. Wargaming is launching Warships simultaneously around the globe and they've got a strategy to make the game accessible to everyone with a PC.
They've got big plans for the USA. Half of the ships at launch will be American and Wargaming is building communities based around skill level. Newcomers with little or no online gaming experience will have a chance to learn while playing against equally confused and clueless players.
In fact, there's an introductory tutorial where you take your first steps playing against the machine. You're limited to playing cruiser ships at first. As you move up into higher tiers, you can add destroyers and battleships for an action-based game. The top level adds aircraft carriers and requires a more tactical and technical approach to the game.
World of Warships was designed and developed at Lesta Studio in St. Petersburg, Russia. Founded in 1991, the company has been in partnership with Wargaming since 2011. It's located in a converted building in an industrial district that looks a lot like the ones that tech companies have taken over here in the States.
There's a cafeteria for the employees, snacks in the break room, ping pong, air hockey. In fact, it looks a lot like Military.com headquarters in SF. The press event at Lesta was a "meet the developers" event so that world media could get a sense of the people behind the game.
On reflection, though, the event was just as much about motivating the game team as it was about getting the word out about the upcoming launch. The developers who work on console games like Call of Duty or Halo bust their tails for a few years and move on to the next gig after the game launches. Aside from a handful of DLC releases after ship date, their game is pretty much frozen in amber. World of Warships, on the other hand, will grow and evolve over the next decade as the the game adds ships from other countries around the world and the team tweaks gameplay based on how players use it in the real world. It's going to be a living, breathing organism and the (mostly) Russian men and women who will be keeping things going got a chance to sit down with writers from all over the world and get a sense of how the rest of us see their game.
If you're interested in participating in the Open Beta, there's some good news from Wargaming: any achievements or ships you acquire during the process will transfer over to the official release. Here's a chance for Americans to get a head start now in a PC game that looks to be Wargaming's next huge success.