"World of Warplanes 2.0" keeps all the good stuff from the original free-to-play PC game and reworks the gameplay, adding two elements that radically improve the experience for everyone: respawns and bombers.
Warplanes maker Wargaming has built a worldwide empire based on the overwhelming success of "World of Tanks." "World of Warplanes" was the next big release and following Tanks was like being the album that followed Fleetwood Mac’s "Rumours" or the book that followed Dan Brown’s "The Da Vinci Code." No matter what merits you possess on your own, you’re always going to live in the shadow of the massive hit that preceded you (for the record, both "Tusk" and "The Lost Symbol" have their merits).
"World of Warships" launched in 2015. It quickly found an international audience. Ships are often even slower than tanks and the field of battle can be far larger, since ships can bombard each other from miles away. Planes are fast and fight in close combat. New players in Warplanes 1.0 were getting wiped out before they had a chance to figure out what was going on.
I visited Wargaming America’s Bay Area offices in Emeryville, CA for a "World of Warplanes 2.0" launch event in October and spent time with the staff for an upcoming feature on the culture of Wargaming and its efforts to preserve military history. I also had a chance to play the game.
Messerschmitt Bf 110
Free-to-Play MMO Games
To review for our non-gamer readers: Tanks, Warships and Warplanes are all Massively Mulitplayer Online games (MMOs). That means players must be hooked up to the internet to play. The good ones are all PC-only. The great ones make players want to upgrade to a hot-rodded new computer with outrageous graphics.
All of these games are free-to-play. Back in 2010 when "World of Tanks" launched, the idea that a gaming company would make all of its money from in-game upgrades and add-ons was considered ridiculous by console-based gaming companies. "World of Warcraft," considered the biggest success in online gaming, required a monthly subscription to play. Things are changing: the rise of smartphone gaming is proving to everyone that free-to-play is a great business model. Wargaming was just there first.
Attention to Historical Detail
Back to "World of Warplanes." Just as with Tanks and Warships, the company is obsessed with historical detail. The game emphasizes WWII-era planes but a few Korean War-era jet fighters show up in upper tiers of the game. Mostly, you’re dealing with prop planes.
Planes from seven different nations are available: USA, Great Britain, USSR, Germany, Japan, France and China. That means you can play with several iterations of P-51 Mustang, German Messerschmitt or British Spitfire. If you really want to dig deep, there are several planes that were developed by different countries that never saw action, including some of the early German fighter jets that were almost ready to go into production at the war’s end.
Players open the game by kitting out their plane in the hangar, choosing color and images before setting out to battle. Back in 1.0, a lot of new players took to the sky and barely started to get their bearings before they were shot down and had to return to the hangar to start all over. The solution? Players now respawn at a set position on the field of play and have a few shots at getting things right before they have to return to the hangar.
American Douglas A-26B Invader
The new version of the game puts far more emphasis on ground targets. In-air dogfights are obviously fun and a great way to show off your skills, but air force has always been about providing cover and destroying enemy ground assets.
The game offers British, American and Soviet bombers with tailgunners. Bombers are (obviously) slower than the fighter planes but there’s something enormously satisfying about taking out huge chunks of target after a bomb drop.
Drop some bombs.
All of the bombers are premium planes. You have to earn the coins through gameplay or shell out the cash as they become available in the game’s upper tiers. The U.K. Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV is available on Tier III, the awesome American Douglas A-26B Invader is on Tier VI and the Soviet Myasishchev RB-17 is available on Tier VIII.
You’ll have to master some basic flying skills on Tier I and Tier II with the pre-war planes before bombers are available, but it’s worth the wait once you get there. Besides Bombers, the game has four other plane classifications: Fighters, Multirole Fighters (with ground attack capabilities), Heavy Fighters (great for dive attacks) and Attack Aircraft (heavily armored “tanks of the air” for shooting up ground targets).
If you’re new to PC gaming, "World of Warplanes 2.0" offers a chance to have fun quickly. While you’re learning how things work and what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s plenty of action and less punishment for the clueless. If you’re a gamer who’s interested in learning about the history of warplanes (or one who’s already caught the bug), Wargaming manages to offer plenty of history and detail to go along with the firepower.