World of Warplanes review
The mouse and keyboard controls also begin to show their limitations as the aircraft get faster. With slow, agile Tier 1 aircraft, you can do a lot of small movements and tight, twisting turns. Not too hard with a mouse.
But when you're trying to stay with a BF-109 while turning out of a 350 MPH dive, suddenly that joystick gathering dust in the corner looks a lot more inviting. While there are more advanced options you can enable that make the planes behave a lot more like actual planes, tuning the mouse controls and fiddling with automatic stabilizing settings takes a lot of trial-and-error to find a good balance. I still have yet to find a group of settings that makes a barrel roll as natural and effortless as it is in a proper flight sim. It's the irony of accessibility: the basics get so basic that intermediate techniques end up being much harder.
Still, mouse and keyboard is the way to go. To its credit, Warplanes offers great support for advanced flight sticks such as my Saitek X52. But the problem is that it's not really the tool for their simplified flight model. Because Warplanes completely separates pitch, roll, and yaw from one another, it becomes almost impossible to execute even a simple banked turn without applying tons of rudder. It is also manifestly not the way planes work, to the point where it breaks from reality so completely that it introduces its own dissonance.
Still, World of Warplanes doesn't really need to have brilliant, convincing controls. It is succeeds at what it sets out to do: make fast-paced air combat easy, accessible, and fun for a large audience. It brings to life the chaos and excitement of a huge aerial furball, with planes diving and twisting through rivers of tracer fire and dense clouds, black smoke belching from the engines as they avoid collisions at the last possible second.
Warplanes also manages to make the achievement chase fun and meaningful, even though the stat tracking itself is nowhere near as detailed as it should be. Winning an “ace medal” by racking up five kills in a single mission is a tremendous achievement, and running up the kill count on the “sky scourge” medal—basically a kill-streak tracker across several games for as long as you can avoid being shot down—turns World of Warplanes into a tense score chase where death suddenly has consequence.
I'm not sure World of Warplanes will ever become an obsession the way some competitive free-to-play games do. Even here at the end of my review, I can feel my interest starting to wane. It's still something I will likely jump into at odd moments, when I only have a few minutes to play a game and feel like some quick, action. But on those terms, it succeeds brilliantly. In time, perhaps new game modes and aircraft types will make it more diverse and interesting, but for now, it's everything it needs to be: a fast, accessible air combat game with no flight-sim baggage to bring you down.
With lovely graphics and great matchmaking stability, World of Warplanes remains entertaining even as its simplicity wears thin.