Wednesday, 5 August 2015

World of Warships - Some (a lot of) thoughts

Having played WoWs pretty intensively over the past few weeks I have decided I have pretty much got a firm grasp of the game and so thought it was about time to record some of my thoughts about it and it's pros and cons.

My latest ship - the mighty Pensacola cruiser.

Repetition and monotony?
I might as well get straight in there and tackle what I think might be one of the greatest criticisms of the game - repetitiveness and monotony.

Like World of Tanks (Wo)Warships is very formulaic. There is no dynamic or random elements to the game mode construction, like Counter Strike the maps are set and everyone knows 'where to go', the choke points and the camp spots (although I do take issue with the notion of 'camping' in WoWS). This is perhaps both the greatest weakness of the game and - in a perverse way - it most abiding charm.

My gaming friends and I always said about World of Tanks that the best thing was that it was a game you could play while having a good drink! Gameplay 'tactics' (such as they are) in either Tanks or Warships are pretty rudimentary and although a lot of YouTube Game 'celebs' make a lot of videos about the nuances of 'how to play' these games at the end of the day you could sleepwalk through a game if you wanted too and leave the result to fate (and still win half your games). Surviving the games is another matter though!

The game map (M). You can set your auto-pilot way-points on this so you can concentrate of firing
your guns or drinking beer! Already I bet you can see the chock points?

Once you have played a map a few times you pretty much know most of what you need to know, although in Warships the lack of geographic eye candy - as one might expect in a game about warfare on the high seas - is somewhat sparser that it was in World of tanks.

Both these issues lead to some making accusation s of repetition and monotony - with only the incentive to be constantly upgrading and acquiring new ships driving your incessant return to the game.

But I disagree. I like a 'no brainer game' and I think a lot of other people do to.

For a great many people - and a lot of them of a similar age to myself (+-middle-age) - World of Warships is a social activity in the same way that dominoes used to be in the golden days of the pub. Yes you will get those people that are supremely competitive and always trying to improve their game stats, but for the majority the game is almost secondary to the hilarity of the banter when together with ones friends.

So, repetition becomes a comfort zone where you don't have to concentrate too hard (because we all know men can't multitask) and the monotony is simply the absence of distraction so you can focus what concentration you do have available on your ship!

Something for everyone
Having said what I said above, World of Warships - like WoT - does offer a little something for all types of games. Yes it's great for the casual/social online gamer like me (my competitive days are far behind me now) but it also has enough depth built in to appeal to the more intense gamer.

First of the two great evils of the game...The grind. Many players judge their success in the game
by how far they have progressed up the Tech Tree. Not far enough? Then buy a ship!

Aside from the rather addictive nature of 'collecting stuff' - which the Wargame.Net developers are famed for (and from which they profit hugely) - there is a rather nice career path to the game that keeps you wanting to come back and 'just get a little more XP'!

Yes, in essence, World of Warships is the adult equivalent of those addictive trading cards you see kids spending all their pocket money on. Make no mistake, catch the bug and you could be tempted to fork out a lot of real coinage for 'better' ships! But even if you are a goody two-shoes and stick to the 'grind', it's still a insidiously obsessive pass time.

The second of the great World of... addictions, upgrading! How tempting it is to spend real money
on getting that 'must have' extra gadget on your virtual ship...Just a few more Doubloons? 

My thoughts on the ships...
Of course, the main attraction of the game is the ships and all credit to Wargaming.Net - their ship models are gorgeous. I never really knew that much about WW2 naval warfare and certainly not much either about the specification of the ships involved, so these digital models have really opened my eyes and I have learned a lot.

Destroyers: These are to WoWs what light tanks were to World of Tanks I suppose. They are the scouts, light fast and manoeuvrable greyhounds of the sea that whip about and spy out oncoming enemy ships, take advantage of opportunistic 'flag captures' and are - under the right situations - the bane of battleships and aircraft carriers!

One word sums up their potency - torpedoes!

 The moment that sums up destroyer action - what we call the 'oh shit' moment!

I am still getting used to this class of ship, I have only reached tier IV of the American destroyer line with a Tier IV Clemson class ship. And I am afraid I do find the temptation to go all psycho-torp is too much for me sometimes...If I spy a nice juicy battleship or - worse - a carrier - a red mist descends and it's 'all steam ahead'! (With - most times - predictably disastrous consequences for me.)

My latest destroyer - the slippery Japanese Minekaze!

Cruisers: This is my favourite class at the moment. I have reached tier V of the American line with a beautiful Cleveland Class ship.

These are the all rounders of the game but they do have a very specific job to do and that is to provide an anti-aircraft and anti-destroyer screen for your battleships (and sometimes your aircraft carriers, if nobody else remembers to do that job). As such you are kinda tied to the plans of the battleship drivers, you go where they go - but, having said that, the mutual cover you provide each other is good for both parties (especially when you bump into the enemy's battleships coming the other way).

Occasionally (like destroyers) cruisers can form formidable 'wolf packs' and can lay waste to even the most intimidating battleships. This is done by using your superior manoeuvrability and speed (over the battleships) and splitting their fire - which essentially means circling the battleship from different directions so the poor blighter doesn't know who to shoot at first!

Battleships: The big guns! Range is your friend as speed and manoeuvrability certainly is not!

I have one battleship - a tier V Japanese premium battlewagon of the xxx class. And to be honest, while playing battleships sounds attractive - as you have the biggest punch and the greatest armour in the game - the plain fact is that YOU are on everyone else's hit list.

Destroyers - those annoying little midges of the warship world - swarm around you if you are not careful. loosing off streams of torpedoes. Cruisers will try and avoid you, but a couple of good cruiser captains can make your life hell - but it's the enemy's aircraft carriers that are the most frustrating danger as their squadrons of bombers hunt you down in what feels like a personal vendeta.

Obviously, your job is the destruction of the enemy's battleships - you slug it out in gargantuan long range duels looking for those all important 'citadel' hits. This is the only time - battleship versus battleship - that I opt for the armour piercing (AP) shells.

Aircraft carriers: This is the one class I haven't tried yet, but as I am getting more experienced in the game my friends and I are now starting to think that we must try this unique part of the game out.

These huge flat tops appear - at first - to be the games most vulnerable ships and many dismiss them as simply being World of Warship's equivalent to World of Tank's artillery. But think there is much more to them and they do have the potential to change the course of a game.

Using the aircraft carriers air force is something of a dark art and does make the whole exercise look more like a top-down RTS game rather than a naval warfare sim. But the coordination of your multiple little squadrons is something of a feet of juggling, more so the higher up the tiers you go and your squadron numbers increase.

To my mind the greatest threat that carriers present are their torpedo bombers. These drop their tin fish (if you do not have an adequate AA shield) far closer to you that destroyer can unleash their torpedoes. With destroyers you have a reasonable chance of avoiding their torps IF you have your wits about you, but the short distance at which the torpedo bombers drop their loads leaves you with a lot less room to manoeuvre!

Coordinate your attack, with a mic of torp bombers and dive bombers, and you battleship captain is left weeping as the inevitability of his immanent demise becomes ever so apparent and unavoidable.

(I can't show you some carrier play as I haven't got a carrier - but here's a clip which is sort of carrier related!)

HOWEVER, make no mistake - the aircraft carrier is at the top of everyone's most wanted list. While - tactically - battleships are the real game win makers frankly there is no better satisfaction in the game than sending a flat top down to a watery grave. To the point where many people get fixated when a carrier is spotted on the map (I have seen games lost because players who otherwise would have won a game with a flag capture have gone 'rogue' because they spied a carrier on the horizon)!

What I would like to see next for World of Warships
For me, the lack of innovative game modes is the main gripe about this game. Capture the flag can get a bit wearisome over the course of an evenings play.

So here are some game mode suggestions:

Convoy - Team 'A' must escort a convoy across the map. Team 'B' must locate them and then destroy 75% of the merchant ships to win.

Wake Island - Fond memories of the Wake Island map from Battlefield 2/3 has inspired this idea. The two opposing fleets must take Wake Island (by means of holding 3 of the 4 capturable points). Once captured this gives the occupying team team access to the island's airfield and land based bombers and fighters.

• Hunt the Bismark - One team acts as the hunters, the other as escort for the pocket battleship Bismark. The Bismark - captained randomly by one of the escort captains - can hide itself in a maze of fyords and inlets, or out to sea making use of think fog banks.

However, aside from game modes there are some other suggestions I have for improving the basic game features. Here are some of my ideas:

• Fog - already mentioned above I would like to see rome random weather effects like fog, patchy fog and heavy rain. All designed to reduce spotting range and make target identification and acquisition harder.

• Land based patrol bombers or reconnaissance - I'd like to see some of the bigger maritime patrol aircraft brought into the game, access to which is controlled by the capturing of key objectives. For example, if a team capture a flag that has a major port or sea base then that triggers a long range maritime patrol, and if during this patrol a capital ship is spotted that in turn triggers a land based bomber strike.

• Sea mines - I'd like to see some key 'flags' defended by mines, which would have to be 'swept' by suitably equipped destroyers or cruisers...

Oh, I could go on and on. But writing this is so much WoWS playing time!

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