PAX East: First Look at World of Warplanes « CEO Victor Kisly admits it: even with the global success of World of Tanks, tanks are more of a Russian thing. Dogfighting P-51 Mustangs, though, is as American as Abe Lincoln’s beard. That’s why is so enthusiastic about World of Warplanes. And after seeing it in action for the first time at PAX East, I’ve got to admit I’m excited, too. This is a game I can get behind.

Not Quite a Sim

To make sure Warplanes fulfills that potential, is throwing its significant World of Tanks-generated war chest behind it. “Our budget after one year of development is already higher than all of the flight sims before it combined,” Kisly claimed. The studio is now 800 employees strong, and will likely grow to roughly 1,500 globally by the time Warplanes is launched.

Permission to buzz the tower?

But comparing World of Warplanes to typical flight sims might not be apples-to-apples, in that this game is more concerned with skipping straight to the action. There’ll be no taking off or landing in World of Warplanes, Kisly noted.

“We don’t want our players to first have to learn how to fly a real plane in order to become a World of Warplanes pilot.”

However, appears to be doing its best to give flight simulator fans the experience they love, offering flight stick control support along with a variety of different keyboard and mouse options.

Pretty View From the Cockpit

Despite my enthusiasm for jumping into the cockpit, my Warplanes demo was strictly hands-off. But what I saw is looking sharp.

Even in alpha, the level of detail to the environments is impressive.

Planes ranging from 1930s bi-planes to the first jets of the Korean War will be available, and I saw a lovingly detailed German Messerschmitt Bf 109 dive, barrel role, and climb across a Pacific theater-style map, with a number of small islands dotting the open ocean.

As the demo jumped to a canyon map, Kisly pointed out that, like in WoT, is willing to sacrifice realism and historical accuracy for fun. Dog fights will take place at a much lower elevation than they do in real life, enabling players to seek cover among the twists and turns of an ancient riverbed. And though I didn’t see it, Kisly said a city map is also in the works, and players will be able to do battle around skyscrapers.

The terrain I saw in the canyon and island maps looked terrific, with a nooks-and-crannies-level of detail that I was surprised to see given that Warplanes is still in alpha. This one should be a visual stunner by launch, especially for a free-to-play game.

Pay to Win? also wants to add more variety in gameplay with Warplanes, and Kisly said that various objectives will be included in different modes. For example, on escort missions, one team will have to safely lead a heavy bomber to its target as the enemy does its best to shoot it down. Other missions will feature gun batteries that need to be destroyed or protected, and battleships that must be sunk or kept afloat.

You won’t have to buy bombs to blow up ships. Might help, though.

Naturally, I had to wonder if these various missions would be easier to accomplish if I decided to pay to play World of Warplanes. One of the biggest criticisms against World of Tanks is the agonizingly slow pace at which players earn those new, more powerful tanks.

The business model has been set with the success of World of Tanks, Kisly confirmed, though he views it slightly differently. The free game is intended for teens without paying jobs that have the time to invest in the game, he said. The paid options are intended for employed 30-somethings that don’t have the time to go through the lengthy unlock process, and simply want to jump in and have full access right away.

We’ll all be faced with that choice right around this year’s E3 in June, when World of Warplanes should be ready for open beta. I for one am looking forward to becoming a P-51 Mustang ace in 15v15 dogfights. I just hope I won’t have to suffer through too many hours of bi-plane embarrassment to get there.


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