World of Warships(WoWs), the newest entry in the World of Warmachine series, is pretty much what you would expect if you have ever encountered the Tanks and Warplanes variants, at least in broad terms. As with the others, WoWs is an online multiplayer battle game that favors players with patience, team coordination skills, and great aim. Just to get this out in the open, that does not describe me.
World of Warships: Legends is the name given to the port (nautical term!) of the game from the PC to the Xbox and PlayStation 4. While not a direct copy (there is new content available that the PC version does not have), the gameplay is very similar to that of the other games, PC or console. In a nutshell, players select their machine and are slotted into a team. The matchmaking process attempts to level the playing field/sky/ocean by distributing the range of capabilities of the vehicles equally, but seemingly does not factor in player ability. While this seems fair enough on first glance, it discounts the burden placed on the side that gets me. That noob that just takes off on his own and makes absolutely no contribution to the team effort that it takes to win the game? That’s me.
By now you’re thinking, “Why is this guy, who admits to being a rogue player, joining an online multiplayer game that is almost completely dependent on teamwork in the first place?” It’s a fair question. And the answer is “Because I like operating deadly war machines, and I like using them to blow other machines to pieces, but I don’t enjoy losing to other humans—they’re too judgmental.” That last bit is something of a quirk of mine: getting blasted by AI, well, it’s a computer, of course it’s better/faster/smarter than I am. That is not at all the same as getting owned by a six-year-old with daddy issues and an ax to grind. Humiliating, that.
So, World of Warships on the PS4. I was leery of taking on the challenge, although if worse came to worst, it would be easier to accept defeat in a boat rather than an airplane; as an actual pilot, that would really be a bitter, salty wound. Fortunately, WoWs offers a form of tutorial that allows new/persistently-inept human players to practice against AI players. This is a beneficial grace period that allows for learning how to use the ships and weapons in a less stressful environment. In theory. In reality, the only discernible difference was how long it took for my ship to get obliterated. My first online battle lasted for just the 32 seconds it took for my destroyer to get past the first barrier island and into the sights of a battleship. When the load on the servers is light, you can get some huge mismatches in ship strengths. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
To be fair, the destroyer is a relative weakling compared to a battleship in a close-in battle; my plan had been to scoot off to the side and use the destroyers torpedoes as a type of long-range sniper. And if that battleship hadn’t popped out from behind that island only three kilometers away, I might have gotten away with it. As it was, just a couple of broadsides had my ship in flames almost instantly.
There are three major categories of ships to choose from: cruisers, destroyers, and battleships. As you would expect, each class of ship has different strengths and weaknesses and it is up to the captain to leverage the strengths of the ship while protecting against its weaknesses. Destroyers possess a high degree of versatility, but are relatively weak in defense, whereas battleships are heavy hitters, capable of taking out a wee little destroyer in a single salvo. Balancing that out, they are also big and ponderous, making them something akin to firing torpedoes at an island: aiming is easy, but you have to hit them quite a few times to see any indication of effective damage. Cruisers reside somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Their claim to fame is that they are very flexible in their capabilities, some of which are primarily defensive such as smoke screens and good anti-aircraft capabilities. Cruisers tend to fight best at medium distances, while battleships can fight from greater distances. Destroyers are the pesky mosquitoes flitting around stinging the bigger ships until one of them gets around to swatting them, or they’re sneaky snipers hoping distance and long-range torpedoes will do the trick.
The ships in the game are modeled after real world ships that made a historical impact, which explains the “Legends” in the title. Some are included with the base game, others are purchasable with in-game currency (doubloons and XP), but all have real world accomplishments. As with the other World Of games, there are tech trees for the base ships that allow for upgrades in multiple capabilities in offense, defense, speed, etc. The purchasable premium ships arrive fully capable; they don’t require the completion of a tech tree to reach their full abilities. Ships can also be improved with the assignment of a Commander. Commanders bring a growable set of skills and abilities to the assigned ship. Between scaling up the capabilities of a ship and the skills of a commander, the growth potential of any given ship/commander pairing is very good.
No matter where your ship comes from, at some point you’re going to take it out of port and participate in a sea battle. Battle types range from the introductory and training missions at the novice stage, up to the usual types of co-op play you would find in other competitive online games. In the early training stages, battles are typically you vs. bots, although even at the player-vs-player levels you may still find some bots filling in slots if there aren’t enough human players to suit the need. The achievements made in battles (hits, fires started, etc.) count towards various campaigns. Score 1,000 points? That furthers a campaign. Set at least two ships afire? Another checkbox filled in the campaign. Your performance in battles also contributes to the earning of XP, which, to be honest, is far more valuable to a player trying to work up to bigger and better ships than a few ribbons in the campaign closet. Either way, players are awarded for achievements in battles whether their team ultimately wins or loses, which somewhat mitigates the pain of having utterly inept captains in the squadron. Or at least that’s the story I like to tell myself after yet another dismal performance.
The actual fighting is done in what would appear to be slow motion to players experienced in WoTanks and WoWarplanes where the machines are traveling at much higher speeds. It’s odd to think that there is something even slower than tanks, although the difference isn’t nearly as stark between tank/ship as it is when you bring airplanes into the mix. You will fight with a ship very much in the same way you fight with a tank. As an individual, cover is the most important aspect; get yourself out into the open and it won’t be long before you’re toast. Tanks have it easier in that aspect; there are trees, houses, and hills to provide cover. Ships have islands to hide behind, if they’re lucky. Open water provides no cover, so group communication and tactics are your only hope. For the casual player, this is difficult to achieve. That said, single player against the AI is also fun and (potentially) rewarding. It’s nice to have a real choice. It’s also nice that playing online does not require a PlayStation Plus account; online play is available for no charge.
While the learning curve can be steep, persistence brings rewards. In the early days, it is pretty easy to earn the points needed to upgrade ships or acquire new ones, and level up to unlock more capabilities. Tutorials ease the incline of the learning curve, but there are still a lot of subtleties to the optimal usage of deck guns and torpedoes. While WoWs will never be confused with a highly realistic simulation, there are still tactics to learn to make the most of each type of weapon.
Torpedoes, for example, are nowhere near as fast as massive lead projectiles fired from a deck gun. You have to lead your target in both cases, but the glacially slow pace of a torpedo requires a lot more finesse, and to be honest, luck. From long distance, the clever captain will choose a wide spread pattern of torpedoes in order to improve the odds of at least one torpedo hitting something, while a far riskier close-range shot would encourage a tighter pattern that could conceivably result in multiple hits. Deck guns also require leading the target, unless for some unfathomable reason it’s sitting still. Both deck guns and torpedoes have lengthy reload times, which also needs to be factored into a captain’s tactics. Both also can take time to get into aiming position if/when the ship changes its heading. This naturally discourages making a lot of abrupt/large course changes while in battle, but cruising along in a straight (i.e. predictable) line is a golden invitation for a torpedo attack.
Aesthetically, well...if you’re looking at the scenery, you’re missing the point. If you choose to do so anyway, you won’t be disappointed, at least until someone blows up your ship. The ships look great in close up, and even better when your salvo of projectiles or spread of torpedoes hit them—flames and explosions look great on other ships. They look good on your ship too, of course, but not anywhere near as enjoyable to look at.
Make no mistake: World of Warships: Legends is not a straight port from the PC-based World of Warships; it’s lineage is obvious, but building the console version from the ground (well, sea) up provided the developers with the opportunity to leverage the known technical and performance capabilities of consoles to the fullest extent. The gameplay is faster, and short attention span players will be gratified with a faster progression through tech trees and other earned perks. Another option is to just buy the Premium version of the game outright and skip grinding entirely—every ship comes unlocked and has its technology already at the pinnacle of its respective tech tree.
Game controllers also lend themselves well to this type of play, reducing some of the learning curve that goes into keyboard commands. With offline play also available, it’s even attractive to those folks that prefer to battle algorithms instead of people, or don’t have great internet connections. Warship aficionados and wannabe naval commanders should give this game a chance, especially since it's free to play and incurs no financial risk. Damage to your ego, on the other hand, is pretty much inevitable.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.
My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.
While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.
My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.