War never changes, or at least Wargaming titles and intellectual properties don’t seem to with the maiden voyage of the open beta for World of Warships.

Wargaming, best known for their hit World of Tanks, have recently placed their latest title, World of Warships, into open beta.  The free to play title allows players from all over the world to choose a warship and battle it out on the high seas against other players, or a team of AI bots.

The first thing to say about this game is that it is remarkably similar to Wargaming’s other games, World of Tanks and World of Warplanes.  All are free-to-play multiplayer online team based games where players pick a particular vehicle of twentieth century warfare and duke it out in said vehicles.

This doesn’t make the game bad though.  In fact the variety of ships and roles that players can fill using them makes every battle feel like you don’t just have to sit on opposite sides of the map playing Battleships with each other, firing at B12 until you finally hit something.

Just like World of Tanks, some vehicles are more maneuverable, some can take more hits and dish out more damage, and some can do massive damage but are flimsy.  It’s a game that involves strategic spamming of artillery, rather than just the spam.

World of Warships, a destroyer fires its artillery.

At present the game has two countries with a full list of ships to choose from, the United States of America and the Japanese.  Each has a list of Cruisers, Battleships, Destroyers and Aircraft, which are unlocked via progression down a tech tree.  The USSR and the UK currently only have one ship of their own, and they’re only available for purchase with real money or insane amounts of in game currency.

Again the progression is very similar to World of Tanks.  Players must research particular upgrades for their current ship, using experience won from battles, before being allowed to research the next level of ship.

While the game is free-to-play it does contain a subscription element, as every Wargaming titles does.  The premium option allows players to earn an increased amount of experience and silver, used to purchase and mount researched upgrades onto your ship, as well as provide the aesthetic benefit of having a nicer looking dock that your ships sit in before going to battle.

This is optional, and premium isn’t necessary to get the most out of the game.  Players can still earn a good amount of experience and silver through just playing the game.  Premium doesn’t necessarily give other players a huge advantage, just a quicker means to progress down the tech tree.

World of Warships matches players based on their skill and ship that they’re using.  When playing against bots the enemy team copies the same ships that the human team is using.  This means that there’s no massive advantage when playing this type of match, and improvised teamwork can make short work of your opponents.

World of Warships.  Two ships steam alongside each others

When fighting other players you’re still matched against people with similar ships and skill levels as you, and while you will still get some people who are insanely good and can train their guns on you from the other side of the world the majority of the games are balanced and quite exciting as ships begin to founder.

Whether playing against bots or humans the game modes are essentially just either a points based capture game where the two teams can compete for points by holding certain objectives or sinking enemy ships, or just a deathmatch where it’s just a search and destroy mission to eliminate the enemy.

These game modes aren’t anything special and are really just the same as from World of Tanks, nothing really original.  While I don’t expect a “melee only” type of match type to come to the game soon, a Capture the Flag element would be nice and could inspire greater cooperation with other players as the light ships race for the flags and bigger battleships attempt to keep them safe.

I’ve mentioned gameplay is a bit more tactical than just charging into the open and spamming artillery at the nearest target.  With only one chance per battle it’s a bit tenser than a game like Halo where death is only a five second respawn and then a chance to take revenge.

On some maps in the game I found myself using the cover of small Islands to sneak around and get the drop on enemy ships.  I’d never realized just how stealthy a four funneled battleship could be.

World of Warships.  A destroyer steams onwards.

One of the most satisfying things in the game is sneaking around an island, knowing another warship is sitting on the other side, and training your guns on his position, then surprising them from the side.  The sudden ignition of their engines and frantic attempts to train their guns around to you is a feeling of joy that I haven’t experienced since my first assassination animation in Halo: Reach.

So what’s good about the game, well the variety.  That might sound strange for a game series that has split twentieth century war into the three different paths of tanks, planes, and ships, but it’s surprisingly diverse.

Cruisers and destroyers are quite nippy compared to the bulkier battleships and aircraft carriers.  While cruisers are a bit weaker they can still deal good amounts of damage, especially with some support from allies.

Artillery is fired by the player and some ships have smaller guns that are fired automatically at closer range.  They don’t do much damage but they’re a bit more fire support.

Torpedoes are the game changer for most battles.  They’re not lock on but if they hit they deal huge amounts of damage, often foundering ships with a single shot.  Only some ships have access to these though.

World of Warships.

Aircraft are another big leveller.  Players with aircraft carriers can launch attacks on other ships from great distances, and a well concealed carrier can decimate an enemy force.  However they’re quite flimsy once discovered so caution is always recommended.

Again there’s always the tactic of search and destroy, just sailing around and train your guns on everything that comes into your sights.

Progression in World of Warships can be slow, and patience really is required to stick with it to reach the goal of the higher tier warships.  No matter how you choose to play World of Warships is an incredibly fun experience and one I’d recommend without hesitation.