War Thunder is an airplane combat game currently in Open Beta. It is easy to get into the beta, just go to the website and sign up for an account. The game features dog fights with fighter planes, and bombing runs with bombers currently. Future features include: ground combat with tanks, and naval combat with boats.
When you start the game you will be prompted to do some tutorials. Do them. Not only do they teach you how to play the game, which is most important, but they also give you premium currency (the ones you would have to pay for) as a reward. You don’t get enough to say, buy a premium aircraft, however you do get some to help build up your funds to do so in the future. Speaking of premium currency, this game is a freemium game. Meaning that it is now and will be free to play with micro-transactions. As it stands right now after playing for a while, it unfortunately feels like a pay-to-win system. Most people who are on the top of the leaders boards have a premium plane and most people who aren’t have the standard planes. In other words, they aren’t balanced. Hopefully this gets changed.
There are numerous planes to control, fly, and master. When you start playing it is a good idea to choose a faction. Currently there is America, Germany, Britain, Russia and Japan. Choosing a faction does not mean you will only be on a team with that faction, it just means what planes you get. It’s all about play style and country preference here, Japan has some good fighters, America has good bombers, but overall, they both have good planes. I chose Britain, and I like them so far.
Moving on to gameplay, I must say that the combat feels right. You can use your mouse and keyboard, a joystick, and I think a controller if you set up correctly. I use a mouse and keyboard and I can control my plane fairly well. A friend of mine uses a joystick and he says it’s better, giving him more control to do fancy air tricks. However if you aren’t planning on during aerial gymnastics, you can control it just fine with a keyboard and mouse. The game controls much like Freelancer with a keyboard and mouse. The mouse controls the current direction you are looking, but it takes a second for your aircraft to catch up. You shoot with mouse 1, and you drop bombs with space. WASD controls your nose, tail, and wings respectively. You can perform sweet flips and barrel rolls quite easily. It’s a simple key set-up overall, but it is very difficult to master.
The game has a few game modes, each varying in difficulty. At the time of this review, I have not done any of the Historical or Full Realism battles. These are very difficult. You start on a runway and you must take off and fly miles to the fight, like in a real battle. Death is more important, which means kills are essential. The battles are supposed to mimic real life battles in our history, all during World War II. The game allows you to re-write history, if your team is good enough. The game mode I played was called Arcade. In this game mode you start already flying and the enemies and objectives are very close to where you start. It’s an easier game mode, and perfect for get in and play, then leave players. The maps and missions you are set on in this game mode are condensed missions from the Historical game mode. Within this game mode there are game types, but currently there are only two I have come across. These are Domination and Ground Strike. In Domination the goal is to capture and control airfields for as long as possible to win. You can capture them, or the AI controlled ground forces can, however it takes them longer to get to their destination, and they are easily blown up by bombers. In Ground Strike, each team has an AI controlled ground force that will engage battle with each other or enemy aircraft in range. The goal here is to destroy all of the ground forces to win. This game turns into a deathmatch more than anything, with everyone going after each other in the air, than engaging the ground forces. There are talks of adding in an Air Strike game type that is basically deathmatch or “destroy the most air targets to win.” It could even be in the game already, but I haven’t come across it.
Another issue I encountered is the matchmaking system, or rather how it seems to be non-existent. I constantly get put into the game with people 10 or more ranks higher than me, and with planes that can destroy my planes in seconds. The balancing is off, but it is beta, so I shouldn’t complain too much.
So is War Thunder worth it? Well as it stands right now: maybe. It’s a fun game, however the pay-to-win aspect of it is daunting to say the least. Also, the balancing issues need to be resolved before I can say anything better about the game. If you would like to play, head on over to the War Thunder website and sign up and download. I’ll see you in the skies!