War Thunder online is a free to play realistic multiplayer online World War II flight simulator game that allows you to pick a side and fight for your country against other players or bot controlled enemies. War Thunder shines best when you use a joystick to control your plane, but it also uses mouse and keyboard controls as well so that anyone can jump in and play.
The game developers have designed the aircraft to be pretty realistic with how the planes fly and behave with physics, they have it pretty close to the real thing but it does have a few minor glitches, I’ll get more into that below. War Thunder also has dozens of planes that you can choose from with each country, and allows you to upgrade the planes to make them stronger, lighter, and a bit more maneuverable.
War Thunder Gameplay
Currently I have been playing War Thunder on Steam for about four months now, so I decided to write a review and share my thoughts about the game. One of the best features that I like in War Thunder online is that every single plane has a fully 3D modeled first person cockpit and player body that you can look down at and see, as well as fully destructible airplanes with visible damage; both features really adds to the realism of the game. Other video games get cheap and have fake painted pictures for the inside of the cockpit which results in your vision being static so you can’t look around properly and it gives the feeling that you are stuck in a preset box, but I never had that feeling in War Thunder.
As for combat, there are three major game types in War Thunder, each with smaller objective based missions within these game types with large open maps for you to fly around and dog fight.
The first is arcade mode, it is exactly what it sounds like with arcade style flying controls, unrealistic acrobatics, and more fast paced death match style combat. You can also respawn a set number of times to help your team win, and countries are often times mismatched into two even teams, so there are times the battles are not historically accurate.
Next, is the realistic/historical battles. As the name implies they are far more realistic than the arcade battles and the physics and damage reflect this, the acrobatics are not as ridiculous in this mode as well so players often times fly (more or less) as if they are in a real plane because you cannot respawn, you only get one life to win. However, there are still arcade style indicators on the screen as well as the arcade mouse and keyboard control schemes so that players can jump in and play.
The full real simulator has realistic damage, weather effects, and no onscreen indicators or hud of any kind. The controls also force you to be inside the cockpit and use realistic controls for all of your actions which forces players to be a lot more cautious. On top of all of this, if you die, you stay dead, there are no respawns and you only get the one plane. Mouse and keyboard controls are almost impossible to use in this mode because it is very complex trying to keep the plane steady, but I have seen some people make it work.
The overall combat experience is very intense no matter which game mode you choose, all of the battles make your palms sweat and your heart race as you battle other planes to stay alive, but I must say that the realistic and flight simulator game types are the best and most fun to play. Full real simulator battles are not for players that play Halo or Call of Duty because the simulator battles take patience, skill, and a whole lot of team work to survive.
If you dive too fast while making a turn you can rip your own wings clean off, climb too fast and you can risk going into a stall and spin to the ground. Arcade mode has some wonky physics that makes it frustrating at times because players can pull off complex and unrealistic maneuvers like stopping in mid-air then pulling a really tight U-turn upside down and shooting the enemy pilot out all while the engine is off and never risking going into a stall. Because the arcade mode has odd physics, a lot of the hardcore players stick to the realistic and simulator game modes.
Gaijen entertainment, the developers of War Thunder online, has recently revamped the game and changed the airplane ranking system and grouped into smaller ranks so that the matchmaking wait time has been drastically cut down to about a minute or so, which is a HUGE improvement from when it started.This allows players to find and join a game rather quickly without sitting at the computer for 30 minutes trying to find a match.
Cash shop. Is it pay to win?
The cash shop on War Thunder is not pay to win, you can get most of the planes for free, but there are a few bonuses you can use that mostly only work in Arcade mode. Most of the cash shop items consists of getting rare planes that you can’t buy with the normal in game money, and the other cash shop bonuses grant you with more research points or money for a short time, but it doesn’t break the actual combat in any way. I have shot down cash shop players several times because it doesn’t give them any real combat bonuses, so in that regards the game tries to keep things fairly realistic and skill based.
For players that are impatient and want to grab their favorite plane faster they can choose to dish out real life money to get it, but just be prepared to actually learn how to fly it because every plane handles differently.
I love the music, I love the combat, and I love all of the planes that the game has to offer. War Thunder has recently made a few new updates with how you unlock new planes. Instead of earning experience points then buying the plane you want, you now get research points to unlock new planes and then pay for them using the game’s currency that you earn through winning battles, or assisting teammates in combat. This new system almost works the same as the old experience system, but I did notice that based on performance in combat you can unlock new planes and upgrades a lot faster. I still have mixed feelings about this new system though because a few of the higher ranked planes seem a bit harder to unlock.
War Thunder has also launched the closed beta for tanks which are coming to the main game soon. The developers also said that they were adding water fleets ( and there was a time you could see the disabled tab to select them in the game), but there currently has been no word yet when the other vehicle types will actually arrive in the game. I am hoping that when all three fully launch we will have land, air, and sea battles all within a single mission with players playing their own preferred vehicle type to win the battle; that would be extremely fun. But for now, regular players can only play airplanes.
The game has launched for PC, Mac, and PS4, so if you haven’t played it yet I highly recommend that you check it out and give it a try. In total I would give the game a solid 9 out of 10.
If you would like to learn more, please visit the official War Thunder Website.