The first time I loaded War Thunder, the Free-to-Play WWII airplane MMO from Gaijin, I was very hesitant. You see I haven’t “flown” in over 15 years. So many great flight heavy games have come out in that time I can’t even count them all. I have just always been intimidated by flight games, especially when they sometimes require you to actually land the plane.
War Thunder is a LOT like World of Tanks in that you’re fighting other players from around the world in random engagements. In fact, War Thunder is doing the same thing World of Tanks is doing but in a different order. The makers of WoT are currently working on World of Warplanes and Battleship updates that will add human players to the air and sea in their various battlefields. War Thunder started in the air and is currently working on adding ground and naval warfare.
The comparisons will be many and in rapid succession, especially as both games expand into different areas of warfare. The true question will be who does which one best. Currently that isn’t a factor for either game when they look at market share. If you love dog-fights then you’ll feel the Thunder, if you prefer launching shells then you’ll be Tanking the night away. If you’ve ever played one or the other then you’ve really played both and could easily hop between them. Their tech trees, Nation options, and character advancement are very similar. The one thing I found that War Thunder has that I could never find in WoT are single-player missions.
War Thunder’s single player missions offer the opportunity to hone your skills in a variety of missions and environments. This is welcome practice and offers an avenue for character advancement when your friends aren’t online to fly with. At the end of the day though, War Thunder is all about the Player-vs-Player gameplay.
This game begs to be played with a flight set (throttle/joystick) but doesn’t prove to be much of a hassle to play with a mouse and keyboard. Given that it’s F2P you could always spend the cash you’d have spent on the game on a flight setup, or you could spend it in the cash shop. Even with my mouse and keyboard I found the game relatively easy to control and I only seem to go plummeting to Earth after attempting a particularly daring (or some might call it stupid) in-flight maneuver.
Planes come in a variety of shapes and styles, all historically sound. You can get a great, maneuverable, little fighter or something beefier with bombs or even rockets. Each type of plane has it’s limitations in speed, armaments or just usage. You won’t be landing to capture an airfield in a plane with pontoons for landing gear.
The only “problem” is that you’ll come across some folks who’s main play style is flying full bore at you and trying to clip or ram you. This can work in your favor or theirs depending on how they hit you and the status of your plane. I found myself spiraling to a fiery death on more than one occasion at the hands of a “rammer”. The easiest method of avoiding this is just learning to fly with a little more pizzazz, or having rockets that you can fire when they’re heading toward you. This makes you look wicked awesome as they turn into a fireball and you fly through their smoldering remains like something out of an action movie.
Extras & Replayability
The game holds up well through numerous play-throughs and the progression is slow enough that you’ll want to come back often to get to the better planes. If you just can’t stand taking a long time you can always buy experience boosters in the cash shop. Numerous nations, each with several fighters, bombers, etc. will offer you plenty of reasons to want to fight through the tech trees of each type. The achievement system will reward you with various decals, pilot images and so forth if that’s your thing.