With the free to play model currently dominating the PC gaming market right now, every time i hear of a new title entering the fray, I often give out a little sigh and contemplate just how this is affecting the industry as a whole.
I don't pretend to be a great business mind, studying the ripple effects of these decisions, at times however, I cant help but wonder if, A-This is a healthy move for the industry and B- Are these free to play titles any good?
Having sifted through quite a selection, I have only found a handful that, to me, warrant any attention. Thankfully though, War Thunder is one such title worthy of at least a small chunk of your time, brining community to its title and offering up some free laughs!
Another WWII battle game, War Thunder allows you to sit in the cock pit of a large array of classic aircraft, or dominate from the ground in some rather hulking tanks. Think World of Tanks but with a slightly smaller list of vehicles to choose from. Based around 16v16 matches that offer up gorgeous battlefields and vehicles, It’s a great game to simply sit and watch others play, something I was quite happy to do when I gave my older brother a go, noticing his eager twitching to get hold of a plane and soar through the hail of bullets filling the screen.
The real joy though is obviously diving in yourself and getting to grips with the battle. Controlling the tanks, with a slow crawl along the ground, was fun and offered some unique moments of action but while Gaijin Entertainment have done a stellar job in building a tank game that offers a lot of control and fun action, I still felt that the best to come from War Thunder, was based in the sky.
Flying around in some of the most classic aircraft, diving, weaving and reaching insane heights as the sun draped and reflected off the steel panels of my machine, is when I really fell in love with the game. This beauty doesn't simply stop at the visuals, as the games audio is perfectly crafted and well balanced. Engines roar and hum with great realism, while bullets sound meaty and cataclysmic when they surround your headset. Each aircraft has its own unique sound too, which means you’ll be able to work out just whats coming up from the rear by simply listening for the familiar buzz and hum.
Dog fights in realism mode are really well paced and offer a greater challenge than Ive had the privilege to enjoy in any game so far, with extremely limited ammunition and a harsh damage system which forces you to fly and fight smart. Realism also restricts you to fly aircraft from your nations roster, meaning battles maintain as much historical accuracy as possible.
Aside from realism mode, you could step up the difficulty one more notch with simulation or step back down to arcade mode which while still incredibly fun, gives you the safety net of unlimited ammo, more respawns and a much more forgiving damage system which will let you survive those little mistakes that aren't looked over in harder difficulties.
The battles on offer include Domination and Ground Attack which offer unique objectives that need to be completed and specific roles that you can fill within your fleet to get the job done. Both modes required serious communication skills amongst the team in order to call for support when you’re taking too much fire. So, rather refreshingly, you wont find everyone playing with their microphone off, something that has become quite common, especially in the console gaming community. I myself preferred to pilot the more nimble aircraft and go head first into capturing the enemies base while screaming ‘all your base are belong to us’ in my creepiest voice (hey, thats not weird)
The controls offer something for everyone from the newest players to the most hardcore around. With a vast array of options, controls can be tweaked and fine tuned to suit your skill, starting with a more basic set up that leaves practically all steering for your mouse to deal with.
I was never brave enough to really fly my planes in any other way, but the PC release offers a whole host of different settings to challenge you as well as offering support to a wide range of flight sticks and any other peripherals you may want to throw in for that feel of realism.
There really is little I can say that is of any negativity about War Thunder as it seems to do everything right. Well, almost everything as, for me at least, it fails in the same area most free to play games do, and that’s the monetisation side of things along with the menu system in general.
You see, War Thunder uses two types of currency, in the shape of Silver Lions and Gold Eagles (you could also count research points but they're more for the free side of things) all of which completely eluded me, leaving me highly confused with what I needed or wanted to buy and how exactly to do it. The menu system really doesn't help matters, offering so many different things to read and setting to tweak, I was lost long before I could find the volition to decode the screen. Slowly I began to understand the levelling system and how to tweak my crew to better improve my time with the game but with regard to the paid for features, fortunately War Thunder offers so much simply for playing the game, I cant say that Ive missed anything out by not paying for anything, giving me a huge dose of faith that the free to play system, really is free!
Overall, War Thunder was a roaring success for me, offering fun times for all. A great community and brilliant battles are more fun than you could shake a fight stick at! If you can ignore the menu screens in between battles then definitely give this one a go!