War Thunder 1.67

Get your Wagner tape ready.

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.

War Thunder

Victory is ours.

With my praising of single player experiences and my emphasis on story, it’s perhaps a surprise that I enjoy this game so much.

War Thunder is a free MMO combat game (or at least, it’s free for PC) that features tanks and planes from various countries. They’re supposed to be implementing sea battles in the near future, and I think there was some talk about infantry (though that seems more like a conjecture than anything else). It’s also the source of what I find to be one of the best video game trailers of all time (second version).

Now the reason I write about War Thunder is simply because it’s eating up a lot of my time. I had wanted to be diving deeper into the science of video gaming as a whole, especially in music, but unfortunately that does not seem to be plausible until my semester closes, mainly because I only have attention for about an hour of so at a time. War Thunder, then, is perfect for these quick bits of time, because battles rarely last more than fifteen minutes or so, regularly going under ten if all of my units are knocked out before the mission ends.

Anyway, what I enjoy about War Thunder is its fairly unique gameplay perspective. It’s certainly neither the first nor the only vehicular combat game; Halo has had its Scorpions since the first title and World of Tanks could be considered War Thunder‘s rival. I’m also not really the right person to comment on these types of games because as far as I know, War Thunder is the only game of this type I play.

Regardless, War Thunder is fun to me, and that’s why I’m writing about it today. I enjoy the sensation of starting on even ground, where territory is lost or gained by giant behemoths of steel and gunpowder. I enjoy the vaguely historic vehicles, able to track certain real developments between generations of tanks (I’m mostly a tanker in-game). I enjoy the satisfaction of one-shotting a hostile tank, or being able to become a wall for my allies as all the enemies focus fire on me. All aspects of the gameplay mechanics appeal to me, as do a lot of the aesthetic choices.

Unfortunately, as a free-to-play game, War Thunder needs to make its money through in-game transactions. New vehicles are unlocked through research points, gained as you play through more battles. Granted, the premium vehicles are more unique than they are better, but there’s also the opportunity to boost research, repairs, etc. Of course, to keep people interested in buying these boosts, research requirements have to be absurd. A Tier I tank, for example, may cost 4000 research points, but a Tier IV may cost 100,000.

Moreover, I’m talking within the same country. War Thunder features the major sides of the Second World War (I believe Italy will be coming soon), which means that there are actually four different ways (in tanking) to go. Because it already takes forever to grind for the higher tiers, that effectively means once you choose a country’s vehicles it becomes hard to start another, particularly if you want to play with friends (the game matchmakes your squad based on the squad’s highest battle rating). This still doesn’t help even if you’re playing solo, because you still have to start over in order to reach those higher tiers.

Some people find this system to be overly grind-y. I’m not in disagreement, but at the same time I don’t particularly mind the slog through battle after battle just to unlock a single tank. The game provides enough gratification for me to keep my attention; in the last two or three weeks I’ve already logged over 40 hours. Since my friends prefer tanks most of those 40 hours have been put into Russian ground units, though I’ve done a fair amount of Japanese planes and started Tier I British tanks.

At any rate, I can see the complaints lodged against Gaijin, but the game’s so fun I really don’t mind sitting through it.