War Thunder‘s 1.67 update “Assault” came out last week, and I’ve been having a blast with it.
The update introduces the eponymous game mode Assault, which sees players playing cooperatively against waves of enemies. As of last time I checked (yesterday), Ground Assault is yet to be released, but Air Assault is all sorts of fun.
In Air Assault, which is currently at an Arcade Battles difficulty, eight players defend a ground target against waves of enemies. The difficulty of the AI is based on the highest battle rating (just like in PvP), and the enemy waves consist of different plane classes (dive bombers, fighters, high altitude bombers, etc.), though sometimes you’ll have to take out Howitzers on the ground. I believe there are a limited number of waves, since there is a red number in the bottom left of the screen that decreases with each wave, but I have yet to win a battle.
At any rate, Assault brings an entirely new sort of fun into War Thunder. While battling it out with enemy players is good and all, Assault allows your game time to take on a sort of story. The separation of a narrative versus a player-created story is something I’ve alluded to in the past, but in short it’s the difference between a plot created by a writer and the random events that happen within a game that define your own experiences with the game. Anyway, what I love about Assault is how much it doesn’t feel like a game at times. In Arcade Battles – or player battles in general – it’s a little difficult to really appreciate the grand scale of warfare when you realize that SPAA is actually an 8,8 or you forget what the controls are and accidentally bomb a friendly unit. The first time I played Air Assault, however, I was a little intimidated by all the enemy bombers flying in formation. There was something sobering, something epic about the scene. Now each wave of enemies spawns about 10 – 14 kilometers away from base, which means you have about that much distance to gain speed. When you enter their sights at about 700 meters (I currently use Tier II planes), the air explodes with fire. I like taking the leader head-on, then weaving through the formation to the side. Seeing those bombers not break formation and my plane whooshing past them with meters to spare is exhilarating. Then, of course, with all of the gunners at the rear of each plane, suddenly you have to contend with way too many angry machine guns, and it becomes a desperate balancing act of survival and duty; when do you keep engaging the enemy, at the cost of your own plane? When do you back out and repair for the next bout?
As fun as the individual moments of chaos are, though, the entirety of Assault gets somewhat tedious. The constant crush of defeat after defeat gets a little bit boring, and it feels a little unbalanced towards the AI (which I get is the entire point, but still). I still love engaging an entire formation on my own, and it’s fun competing with friends, but I just wish it was slightly easier to win; that way we’d be able to tell our own stories. At any rate, though, Assault is still fundamentally fun. I happen to be more of a tank person, though, so here’s hoping that mode comes soon.