Weeknight Brawling in World of Warships

The latest in a long line of PC gaming obsessions for me is the brilliant multiplayer World of Warships. I was cruising Steam this winter in hopes of finding my next fun diversion when this one caught my eye.

“What is this, naval combat? Looks stunning – how have I not heard of this before?”

Intrigued, I checked the game’s product page for a closer look. Then I saw the price:

Rats! It’s one of those “free” games.

Don’t get me wrong, I love truly free games. I needed only one look at the World of Warships page to know that it couldn’t possibly be entirely free. It takes an entire studio to create something that detailed — teams of artists, developers and testers working for months, if not years. The finished product has to make money somehow.

I don’t mind paying. Hell, I was shopping the store when I found it. I’m just skeptical of all the new monetization schemes coming out in recent years.

After reading some reviews and researching the payment system (for most players it truly was free) I decided to give Warships a try. It just looked too enticing.

Each battle lasts twenty minutes, making the game quick to pick up and enjoy even when time is scarce. If you get knocked out of the match early, you can head back to your home port and enter a new fight with a different one of your ships. It’s fantastic for people like me that get sunk every time.

Every battle grants credits to the participants, and the more skillfully you perform the more you will receive. This currency can be redeemed for many things, like more capable ships, captains and armaments.

I soon learned that all ships are based on actual historical warships from the world’s primary seafaring nations — battleships, cruisers, destroyers and carriers from around 1910-1950.

The game is fast and fun, easy to control, but those historical roots gave it some nice weight and depth. If a battleship has 16-inch in real life, it’s going to pack a much bigger punch in this simulation, for example.

The publishing company makes its money selling premium accounts for players that want to accelerate their growth and premium ships for those that want an immediate edge over their rivals. Even though most players are freebies like me, the publisher does quite well. The USS Alabama will set a gamer (or historical buff) back $54, for example. The typical player keeps about a dozen warships in their home port, mind you.

I ran down the hall to retrieve the credit card twice after some frustrating, late-night defeats, but relented each time. The game still hasn’t cost me a dime yet despite being wildly fun. I am looking forward to seeing how long that will last.

Of course I can’t just play the game. In true nerd fashion, I have been slowly demystifying the powerful but little-documented 3D motion and recording features built into the game’s core engine. It is daunting and can be tedious, but most of the time quite fascinating.

I rendered a video successfully for the first time last night, strung together from a few sequences shot during a recent battle:

Sometimes I think of the helicopter arrival scene in Forrest Gump at the start of new World of Warships battles, all the ships assembling to charge off toward an unseen but certain enemy. I’ve even played this Credence song a few times, drowning out the sound of the game until the first shells start flying in. It’s pretty epic.

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