Priceless Play: War Thunder
Free to play games have started to become a legitimate force in gaming recently. Unfortunately, there’s always the negative connotations that a free to play game instantly means: bad quality, grindy and Pay 2 Win (paying real money to progress in the game). Fortunately for you dear readers, we’re creating a new segment called “Priceless Play”, where we aim to help you decide whether or not if the game is worth your time, since money could always be earned back but not your time.
Let’s take off with a bang (hilarious pun intended), on with our featured game called: War Thunder.
War Thunder is basically a PVP flight sim with a wide variety of planes used from WWII, up to the Korean War. It carries a really wide variety of planes to fly from country to country. Don’t let that “sim” tag intimidate you, as this game is very accessible from the get-go and flying a plane with the mouse and keyboard is a very pleasant experience.
Flying on the seat of your mouse & keyboard
What I really like about War Thunder is that each plane handles and performs differently. There are different classes that ranges from your nimble and acrobatic fighters, bombers fly like tanks but carry a lot of ordinance to bomb ground targets, and attackers which are not that agile, but fly fast to strafe ground targets or to ambush unsuspecting fighters. It’s always a treat for me to progress up the tier levels and hop into a newly purchased plane and try to learn the ins and outs of flying it. As someone who loves planes and WWII, this gets me really excited. I can finally get into the cockpits of iconic planes of the era like the Spitfire, Kittyhawk or even the dreaded screaming Stukas!
The flight model is also very impressively done. The game really captures the sense of speed with its sound design and aesthetics. It’s always an exhilarating feeling to do a diving approach on to a ground target and hear the wind woosh loudly as the plane starts to really speed up, the ground moving almost to a blur. Then I pull up right after I release my payload of bombs and see them explode from behind while I gain altitude and line up another target once again. If it’s not obvious yet, I really love flying in this game.
Flying in Arcade Battles gets you a bit of assistance from the game as it doesn’t force you to abide with strict Newtonian physics. You can dive or bank your plane at high speeds without worrying that your wings will rip off. It also makes flying with a keyboard and mouse setup very surprisingly painless as it assists you with moving the plane and pulling off some acrobatics. This is different though in Historical Battles and Full Real Battles which brings the simulation part into the game, and it is recommended that you fly in with a proper joystick setup. But this deserves a whole different post in the future since I haven’t spent time on these modes yet.
Game modes in Arcade battle (which I currently play exclusively) is not that varied. The game provides you with two modes: Conquest and Ground Strike.
Conquest is a spin on usual capture the point game mode found in your usual FPS game, but with one big difference. You gotta land your freaking plane on the runway to be able to capture the airfield! At times, this makes the game mode tense and exciting as you can’t really just go to the point and merely stay put and wait for the point to be capped. Landing on an airfield is tricky, challenging and satisfying if you are able to pull it off correctly. Working with your team to clear out an airfield with enemy fighters is usually the key for a successful airfield cap.
Ground Strike is focused on getting your team to destroy the other team’s ground vehicles. The ground vehicles are pretty varied from regular armored cars, tanks, and of course destroyers on water-based maps. Depending on the target, you need the correct ordinance ranging from different kinds of bombs and torpedoes. Obviously bombers are the star of the show for Ground Strike, as they carry the most number of bombs, so keeping them alive during the match is important. It is also equally important to defend your team’s ground assets as well.
Where the game lacks in game modes, it makes up with the variety of maps. The game brings you to different historical locations like Stalingrad, Wake Island, and Berlin. The characteristics of each map make it a treat and challenge to fly as some maps feature mountain ranges or a lot of Naval vehicles which fling a lot of flak and anti-air fire at you (which could be very deadly at times!)
Respectful of your time and wallet
I’ve talked about this game countless of times on the OMGeek Podcast and I’m still loving every bit of it. According to my Raptr profile, I’ve clocked in about 41 hours already with this game and I hope this is enough proof when I say that War Thunder doesn’t feel grindy at all. I would like to think that this is due to the fact that the game has a quick turnaround time after each match. Unlike its counterpart, World of Warplanes, you get to use your planes right away even if you quit midway the match. The game doesn’t force you to wait until the previous match ends before you can bring your plane out for repairs and to fly again. Also, in one match, you can immediately bring three planes of the country that you are flying for.
I haven’t been in a situation that the game wanted me to shell out some real-world money. You can technically play this game without having to spend on anything, although I’ve read on some forum posts that higher tier planes, namely the jets, are more expensive to repair. But on my current tiers (Tier 6), the expenses for my repairs aren’t that bad, and I usually am able to earn them all back and then some if I had a really good round.
Premium accounts aren't really necessary as the only advantage you have is you get more XP per match and you’ll be able to create squads up to 4 people. War Thunder gives you some options for the length of a premium account. You can opt to purchase for a day, 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month and a year’s worth. If I know I’m in the mood for playing War Thunder, I’d go ahead and set myself up for a premium account for a week. If I know my week is going to be a bit busy, I’ll hold off on getting a premium, but will still play a few rounds here and there when time permits. I love this idea of flexibility and not really having to commit to playing since I know I can easily get back into a premium account with not much of a dent to my wallet.
You can be my wingman anytime
You can form a Squad of 4 if you have a premium account or fly as a pair with a free account. Flying with friends enhances the experience tenfold. Initially, I had some qualms about this and had a hard time imagining how playing with friends would be like. But it works out really well and it is super satisfying when you help swat that bandit of your wingman's tail. Squad mates are identified with their names are colored in green (friendlies are blue). On the minimap, they are also represented by green dots. It’s very easy to look for your buddy if he starts calling for help and chase down the enemy fighter on your friend’s six. If you’re a big fan of the movies like Red Tails or even Pearl Harbor (just for the dogfighting bits!) it is very easy to recreate and capture the cinematic dogfighting moments found in those movies. Here are some videos that we took during a play session to give you a better idea. [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/THksTe2Ljpk"] [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/tILwr-lKKtQ"]
Oh no! Not the LAGG!
In its open beta state, War Thunder is a very playable and polished free to play game. The netcode is superb for someone like me who’s from the Philippines. Even though the ping indicator says that I’m pinging at 300+ms, I could not feel the lag at all and all my shots felt like they were landing at my targets. I’ve been playing with some of the community members who are from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei and they have reported that they were getting good experiences as well.
Barrel rolling into the future
Gaijin Entertainment has a lot of planned features for War Thunder in the future. As of this writing, a major patch is on the way which will add a lot of changes and upgrades that you can purchase for your plane. They also promise to bring tanks (which is next!) and warships to the game and promised that players will be able to participate in combined warfare on all fronts. It’s unsure yet if they can really pull it off since Gaijin Entertainment is known for doing flight sims, but with the output they’re showing us right now with the plane aspects, I’m pretty much optimistic that these guys can pull it off.