Friday, February 10, 2023

A Glance At World of Warships

 By Bixyl Shuftan

With combat games, usually the focus is on land battles. Just give someone a rifle and maybe a tank and let them blast away. Ocean combat, not so much. It should be no surprise that Wargaming's first big hit game was "World of Tanks." But as those of us who study history know, sea power is important to. So soon after Wargaming released World of Warships in 2015, I signed up for it. Over time, yours truly lost his taste for World of Tanks, tiring of being little more than cannon fodder. But I still continue with "Warships" to this day, having recently gotten my 100th ship after about seven years of gaming.

For those familiar with the "Tanks" game, there are some similarities. Destroyers take the place of light tanks and are more nimble. Battleships take the place of heavy tanks and have a smaller rate of big gun fire, but pack quite a punch. Cruisers are in between, able to take on the roles of both to a degree. Carriers are the equivalent of artillery, able to strike from far away, but need some skill or luck to be truly effective, and tend to be lousy at close-range combat. Not unlike Tanks, players can also use terrain to their advantage, the islands. And just as tank players can fall off a ledge if not careful, ships can collide with rocks and sandbars and are stuck for some moments. And like Tanks, ships are ranked from 1 to 10/X, with matches seeing opponents close to one another in rank.

There's much more to the game than that though. 

There are several types of matches. And the big difference between "Tanks" and "Warships" are the "Player versus Enemy" battles. Instead of taking on other players, you take on AI controlled opponents. There are the "Random Operations" battles in which players are on a team out to complete objectives such as destroying all ships at a port before enemy reinforcements arrive. But more played are the Co-Op battles in which a fleet of player controlled ships takes on a fleet of AI controlled ships. AI opponents tend to be more predictable and easier to defeat than experienced human ones, so the potential rewards for beating them are less than with human opponents. On the other hand, friends such as Nydia Tungsten have observed less drama in these matches (and far less than World of Tanks). PvP matches consist of Random Battles (the standard Warships fight), Ranked Battles, and the newest type, Brawls. 
Most matches involve close matchups of ships in terms of ranks and class ratios, the number of destroyers, cruisers, battleships and carriers. Brawls though offer more different ones, sometimes pitting a larger number of lower ranked ships against a smaller number of higher ranked ones. With some matches such as Operations, Ranked Battles, and Brawls, only certain tier levels can take part. 

New players start out with several tier one cruisers, one for each nation in the game. As you play, you'll earn credits, ship experience points, or XP, and free experience points. To get a tier 2 cruiser, you're going to have get some credits and XP. You can get those by taking part in battles, or you can buy some doubloons and convert them to either free XP and/or credits. Ship XP is good only for getting the next tier ship in line, or better equipment. Free XP can be used for any ship. Credits and doubloons can be thought of as silver currency and gold currency. Silver currency is used for repairing your ship after battles, as well as upgrading it (more on that later) and getting new ones.
Once you've researched the tier 2 cruiser, depending on which nation's tech tree is involved you may also have a chance at getting the first destroyers. Researching the first battleships in your tech tree is usually an option once you've gotten tier 3 cruisers. Nations available to play include Japan, America, Russia, Germany, Britain, and France. For a few nations, Europe, Pan-Asia, and the Netherlands, their tech-trees are smaller with no battleships available. Carriers are first available at level four, but are fewer in number, available later at tiers six, eight, and ten. Naturally, higher tier ships take more XP to research and more silver currency to purchase. The time it takes to earn what you need for a tier ten ship can be many weeks. And oh yeah, if you're going to get more ships, you need to get docks for them, which either takes buying them with gold currency or winning them in missions (more about those later).

Matchups are typically 12 versus 12, a mix of cruisers and battleships, and maybe one carrier and one or more destroyers. Seldom are there two carriers or a match of all cruisers. Depending on the time of day, Random Battles can take some time, five minutes or so late at night, to arrange as the matchmaker looks for even matches. For PVE matches, setting things up is usually 30 seconds or less, with 'bots filling in the gaps of the player team if not enough players are found. On a late night game, I've occasionally been in Co-Op fights with just one other human teammate. One late-night PvP match pitted me against *exactly one* opposing ship. Rare, but it can happen.

Fighting other ships requires some strategy. You can't just simply point and fire as your shells take some time to reach where they're aimed, especially at longer distances. And if your intended target is moving not at or away from you but to the side, firing directly at them when they're a distance away is going to result in a miss. To have a chance at hitting them, you're going to have to aim your guns ahead of them, and try to time it so when you fire your opponent will have moved onto where the shell lands. If your shell hits at a wide angle, it will ricochet and cause little damage. A low angle means a penetrating shot is likely. This means firing broadside at an enemy should be done with some caution. You might be able to train all your guns at a target. But the low angle of your hull to the enemy's fire means you're more likely to take damage, including a critical hit which can really hurt you. 

All ships can fire shells from their main guns. Shells come in two varieties: armor penetrating and high-explosive. AP ammo has a higher chance of scoring penetrations and critical hits. HE ammo has a chance of causing fires, which slowly cause damage over time. The bigger the guns, the slower your rate of fire will be. So destroyer guns don't cause much damage but can reload fairly quickly, while battleship shells take a while to load, 30 seconds or so, but can pack a wallop if they hit right. Firing your main guns makes your ship easier to see over a long distance, so you may want to hold your fire at times. Destroyers and many cruisers also have torpedoes as a weapon. They travel slower than shells, but aren't seen until they're close to a ship and cause more damage. This makes sailing closely alongside an enemy destroyer or cruiser hazardous as if they fire several torpedoes at just the right angle, your ship may be done for (or close to it). 
Carriers have planes as a weapon. They can launch dive bombers, torpedo bombers, or fighters. Dive bombers attack ships from above. Torpedo bombers will usually try to drop their "tin fish" from the side. Fighters will damage an opposing carrier's planes, and can be used defensively to help protect teammates. Most ships have some anti-aircraft guns, particularly battleships. So when several ships are close together, bomber squadrons will likely take damage and possibly end up getting shot down.

Different ships require different styles of play. Battleships are best at firing their guns from a medium to long distance. They should be careful in closer combat as their huge mass makes them slower to change direction than cruisers or destroyers. As destroyers are hard to hit with the slow-to-reload main guns, a battleship captain is best to leave enemy destroyers to the cruisers and destroyers on his side and concentrate on other targets. If an enemy destroyer is closing in with no other teammates firing at it, a battleship should steer away to avoid it and it's torpedo attacks, letting it's secondary guns whittle away at it. In real life, a battleship shell could easily demolish a destroyer on it's own. In the game, they often need several such hits, even when hitting their hulls at low angles. 

Destroyers are smaller and quicker than battleships, but also have less hitpoints, so players are going to have to take advantage of their maneuverability and speed if you want to get very far. Most carry smoke charges, which can provide cover for the ships behind you. The job of destroyers in a team is to scout for enemy ships, provide smoke cover for their teammates, and try to get through the destroyers and torpedo the battleships. Emphasis on try as destroyers are often the first ships sunk in the game.

Ships have various combat buffs, usually called consumables in the game. All ships have a number of repair parties that can put out fires and plug leaks. Many also have sonar or radar broadcasts. Destroyers have speed boosters and usually smokescreen layers. Battleships have a buff that can repair some of their damage and usually another that can sent a scout plane in the air. Cruisers have a mix, depending on the ship, sometimes having a fighter that can be launched. These are not unlimited. Once you use a buff, you have to wait a certain amount of time before you can use it again. And usually you can only use them so many times per battle, usually three to four.

Ships are upgradeable. In the Equipment screen, you can use experience points and silver currency to give them a better hull, a better aiming system, a better engine, etc. There are also options to improve turret speeds, the ability for engines to still work but at reduced capacity if damage, etc, which cost credits only. You can also install signal flags that give the ship small bonuses such as faster speed or repair times. These have to be ether won or bought. 
Ship captains also get better over time. As they gain experience, over time they get experience points. You can use them to give then abilities, such as being able to see which ships are training their guns on them to being able to make buffs/consumables last longer. 

You can also give your ship Economic Bonuses. In the past, these were signal flags, but more recently changed to separate economic and experience buff

You can get up to three bonus containers per day by getting enough experience points. The first you need only a couple thousand, which takes me usually just one or two matches. The second takes more, about ten thousand. The third is fifteen thousand. You can choose between containers with mostly signal flags to economic bonuses to coal (for use in the armory). The last option is to take a chance and if you're lucky you get a supercontainer, though odds are you just get a small one with a small reward.
Players also get a reward for logging in daily. This can be free XP to silver currency to bonus containers. Log in enough, and you get a supercontainer. You may get upgraded to a Premium account for a week, lots of signal flags, or *maybe* a new ship.

If you have ships tier five or above, there are missions that they can qualify for. These can be as simple as winning one or a few battles, to spotting so many ships, to winning a certain amount experience or credits over time. The prizes can be things from camouflage paint jobs to signal flags, to special flags that are awarded only at certain times. Some missions come in a series in which if you win them all you get a special prize. For instance in the Drydock missions in which a ship is slowly built as you complete objectives, if you win the last mission, you get the ship. One ship I got for completing a mission was the HMS Dreadnought, the first battleship as we think of them in history. As it's tier 3, I don't play it much, but it's neat to have.

Players can join clans. There are benefits to being in a clan such as small bonuses for research points earned and reductions on how many you need.

Fans of history, particularly naval history, should enjoy the ships. After the level 1 ships, you start out with early pre-WW1 vessels, with later and stronger models as you move up, ending up with the best WW2 could offer plus some post-war ships and concepts. This includes some famous ships, such as the battleships Bismark and Yamato. Some of the more recent warships introduced never made it past the drawing board in real life.

And then there's the music. The tempo was particularly fitting at times. It wasn't hard to imagine it in a movie about naval battles. 
On occasion, there are available scenarios in which some ships are temporarily available. The Halloween seasonal battles involve some fictional steampunkish vessels. The post-apocolyptic ones involve some freakish looking ones. There's also been some science-fiction themed ones taking place on an alien sea.

So what were my favorite ships to play? Early on, I liked the tier 3 US cruiser St Louis for it's rapid firepower, and the tier 5 US cruiser Omaha was another early favorite. The Japanese battleships Konga and Fuso, Tier 5 and 6 respectively, were also good. Over time I've also gotten a few premium ships. The Russian tier five cruiser Kransy Krym can be fun with it's firepower. But the tier seven US cruiser Atlanta can really pepper away with small but numerous guns, and can make quick work of a destroyer caught in it's fire. Same thing with the Flint, also a tier seven US cruiser. The tier seven British battleship Nelson stands out with all three turrets facing forward. 

One recent addition to the game are submarines. Players are still trying to figure these out. Some like them, others dislike them. They're more of a challenge to sail as they can dive and rise to the surface. They'll need to dive sometimes as they can't take much punishment and easily destroyed with airborne attacks available to be called in by certain ships, or depth charges by destroyers and some cruisers. One near the surface is also vulnerable to shelling. So far, I've had mixed results when sailing them (temporarily given one as a prize for missions). Against AI subs, more often than not I end up KOing them or helping to before they deal much damage to me, if any at all.

So how much does the game cost? Well, the initial price of the game is free. So what's the catch? Well, as I mentioned, gold currency often takes real money to get. And unless you can win docks in missions, you'll have to spend such money to get the docks. If you want a Premium account, that usually takes money. Unless you're willing to wait for months, and perhaps years, to get that shiny powerful ship in the Armory that looks really good, you're going to need to spend real money to get the needed doubloons. Patient players can play the game, and spend just a little real money to get the needed docks to eventually get some tier five ships so they can start winning some in missions. Less than patient ones will need to fork over more cash.

There's probably a detail or two or three that I've forgotten. But this should cover just about every important one in the game.  The game isn't perfect, and there are occasional glitches. I've gotten penalized for crashing while the battle is being set up, and the computer reading it as quitting in the middle of a fight. Still, it's a great game that I recommend, especially to those who like ships. It may not be truly free, but I've kept playing it for years.

Image Credit: Cynthia Farshore, "Foxyfluff," Nydia Tungsten

Bixyl Shuftan