War Thunder is a F2P online multiplayer warfare sim, is probably the best way to describe it, or rather, what it will eventually become. Currently, the game only allows players to fly planes, but tanks and ships are also going to be added. You might now be thinking, “hold on, that looks just like World of Warplanes”, true, it does, originally it was even called World of Planes, but that was later changed to distinguish it from World of Warplanes and due to the fact that it wasn’t only going to be about aviation. Micro-transactions are used in the game, allowing you to buy premium planes and convert free research points. The costs aren’t too expensive, with prices ranging from 182 eagles per GBP to 262 eagles per GBP with a premium plane on average costing between 1000 and 2000 eagles.
The game looks great, with a selection of graphics options, including modes for making in game movies and screenshots (which gives a warning not to use for gameplay), there should be a setting for everyone to run the game at a playable FPS. One the highest setting, the planes look incredible, with highly detailed surfaces and textures, along with special effects such as engine fire and tracers. You’ll also see your plane deteriorate as it’s shot, with holes appearing all over the body, and you’ll also feel it, depending on where you’ve been shot, you may lose control of an aileron, or an entire wing may become so full of holes that it can no longer produce any lift, sending you into a downward spiral. The game also provides a well detailed cockpit view for even more realism, although I’ve just been using the 3rd person view so far so I can droll over the planes. The environments and ground/naval units are also relatively well detailed, with individual people being visible in the boats or APCs.
The default control system uses the keyboard and mouse, with throttle, roll and yaw controlled using the WASD keys, with the mouse controlling pitch and also assisting with roll and yaw in more extreme manoeuvres. Speaking of extreme manoeuvres, don’t ignore the excessive G force warnings that pop up when you’re flying, if you keep a high G manoeuvre going, your pilot will black out. You can increase your pilots ability to cope with G forces by increasing his skill in that area using the pilot skills options. As you get more hours in the sky, your crew will gain more skill points, these can be spent on pilot skills (vitality, stamina, G force resistance, and view range), gunner skills (for the planes with turrets) or ground crew skills (reload time, repair time). Some of these options, such as the ground crew skills, will most likely be of more use in the realistic and simulation battles, where you may have to land at an airfield to rearm and repair, but in the arcade battles, they’re pretty much redundant, as you won’t be landing very often, unless your engines destroyed or your fuels all leaked out, and you won’t be landing on an airfield if that happens.
There is a wide variety of planes to choose from, with British, American, Russian, German and Japanese nations to pick from, each with a selection of fighters, light bombers, naval bombers, ground attack aircraft, torpedo bombers and heavy bombers ranging from pre-WW2 to early Korean war eras. For each nation, you can own a number of planes. As you accrue more planes though, the cost of hiring a crew for them increases, retraining an existing crew for a new aircraft isn’t as costly though. When you enter an arcade game, you are able to use each plane in your hangar from the nation you selected, so you should have at least 3 lives per match, giving you more flying time per match. Most matches seem to have around 32 players, 16 per side, which gives you plenty of airborne targets if you get bored of destroying the currently NPC ground targets. The tier 1 games all require you to destroy enemy ground units and bases, with higher tier games offering other objectives.
So far, I’ve only played arcade games, but from some research, I have found that in historical battles, you can damage your plane from excessive speed for G force, like ripping off a wing. A more realistic bullet trajectory is used with gun convergence (allowing you to focus fire from multiple weapons into a smaller area). You also start each game on the ground and have to take off, you must also land at an airfield to reload and repair. Arcade games do not have these features and use mixed nation teams. The full-real/simulation mode, is much the same as the historical mode, but locks you to the cockpit view and gives you full use of all aircraft controls.
War Thunder is a superb combat sim, allowing you to choose how seriously you want to play with a choice of game modes with varying realism. The aircraft models are exquisite and the gameplay is highly entertaining. With the promise of controllable ground and naval units, it can only get better. I haven’t come across any major game killing flaws yet, which considering the game is still really in BETA, is very promising.