What is Warthunder?
Developer: Gaijin entertainment
Warthunder is a multiplayer combat flight sim, with variable levels of realism. For anyone who has ever played Birds of Steel, the UI of Warthunder will immediately be recognizable. This is quite simply because in its current state Warthunder is a modified for multiplayer and free to play, pc port of BoS.
This is not a bad thing, far from it, BoS was a highly enjoyable WWII combat flight sim for the PS3, which I enjoyed immensely. Sadly at the time there were not too many people flying multiplayer, and the game wasn’t really intended for extensive multiplayer gaming.
Warthunder is quite the opposed in this regard, because it is a die-hard multiplayer title, with next to no singleplayer components.
The porting from console to PC was done really well. Oftentimes when ports to PC happen, corners will be cut for the options, controls, etc. For Warthunder there is none of that, in fact controls are highly customizable; you can use a joystick, throttle, PS/XBOX controller, or just regular old keyboard and mouse. Graphically the game is also a huge improvement over the console version, and it’s a veritable spectacle to observe dogfights in the Alps.
What’s the business model like?
The progression system is comparable to that of World of Tanks. You have several nations, each with their own (historically accurate) aircraft. Flying with the planes of a certain nation will level you up for the aforementioned nation, allowing you to unlock and purchase more aircraft. As you use a certain plane you will also be able to train up the crew, so they can withstand punishment better, can tolerate more G-forces, etc. You will also receive upgrades, such as less drag, more horsepower for the engines, etc. Specialized ammo types can be purchased, but unlike other free-to-play games, these can all be bought with the in-game currency, so there are no ‘gold ammo’ types in this game.
Gold can be used to purchase cosmetic items, like decals, extra XP gain for a limited time, and a few aircraft which are special editions of regular aircraft (these don’t offer substantial bonuses of over the normal ones, except for XP gain).
What can be purchased using gold are ‘spare planes’, essentially a backup of a plane you already have. These are one-time use items, allowing you to re-field an aircraft that was already destroyed during a match (and this is possibly the only real pay to win thing in the game). It does however help that these things are single use, which means you can only re-field a plane once each match, and have to rebuy the spare plane.
All things considered, I’d say it’s a pretty fair business model, I would prefer to see progression being equal for everyone, and more cosmetic stuff going on. But all in all, you can enjoy most of this game while playing free, and not be at a severe disadvantage.
How does the game play?
You have 3 variants of play, difficulty levels if you will. The first is arcade, arcade battles have the easiest to control planes, a lot of help in the form of target leads, UI elements showing you altitude, velocity, throttle power, etc.
The second are historical battles, while these still contain UI elements, and easier control schemes, this is harder than arcade, and the plane is somewhat harder to control. You also need to land at an airfield to refuel and rearm.
The final option is full-on realism, UI elements are limited to indicators of friendly and enemy forces, you are always seeing everything from the cockpit, you need to control every little bit of your aircraft (flip the engine off or on, trim the flaps of the aircraft), and need to carefully manage fuel and ammo. It’s also worth noting that the aircraft is very sensitive in this mode, and wind can severely impact the direction you are going.
Let’s just say I tend to stick with arcade and historical, cause I’m not that much of a masochist.
The flying itself is fairly enjoyable, the hum of the rotors, the kick and sound of the guns, it all feels very natural. Loops and screwdrivers take some effort to be adequately pulled off, and using these to land on the tail of your pursuer is very satisfying.
It’s worth noting that Warthunder has a very realistic damage model, it registers where you get hit, and how this affects the plane. For instance, if you are rolling right, and your right flap gets pelted with bullets, it may end up stuck in this position, resulting in you spinning out of control and crashing. Bullets in your fuel tank cause leaks and incendiary hits on the leak will change your fighter into a pretty fireball hurtling towards certain doom. Getting your wing or tail torn off will cause you to flip around wildly before (violently) saying “hi” to mister ground.
The coolest thing about this is that you can land badly damaged planes at the airbase (assuming you have the skill to pull that off). It is immensely gratifying to land a heavily smoking bomber that’s essentially being held together by a few strips of wood, the enemy bullets and a prayer. (The saying: “on a wing and a prayer” comes from WWII, now you know why)
While on the subject of bombers, most bombers have at least a rear turret, but the larger ones have all-round turret coverage (which is very much necessary since these things fly like a beached whale). These turrets can be controlled manually, or you can just let the AI fire in the general direction of anything that gets too close, not that the AI is a very good shot.
The realistic physics engine also allows you to pull some funny stuff, for instance if you drop a bomb, right in front of an aircraft that’s skimming the ground, the shrapnel that flies up will tear that bugger to shreds. Also if you are flying fast at a shallow angle over water, and release a bomb, it will skip across the water like a pebble, so you can use these as a sort of hopping torpedoes.
If I were to give a tip, it would be this: when you know you are going down, crash you ass right on top of the enemy vehicles (or better yet ram a hostile aircraft), it will weaken the enemy, and you only lost an aircraft that you would be losing anyway. Bonus points for style if you do this when playing as the Japanese.
Warthunder is enjoyable, especially when playing with some friends (squads are limited to 4 people currently, so this is a pain in the ass if you have a bigger group). The dogfighting can feel really intense, even moreso when you are fighting in group and are on voicecomms together.
Overall this is a pretty solid free-to-play title, if you are into flight combat sims, I’d heartily recommend it.
Eliniale (CO.RE) out