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War Thunder

War Thunder combat flight sim tank sim f2p

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#1 Janichsan

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:39 AM

I don't know whether the military sim buffs here have already noticed this, but there's a MMO free-to-play WW2 combat sim called War Thunder, which has a Mac version. A beta version of the Mac port (of a game which technically is also still in beta – so it's a beta beta) was already available from the developers themselves for a while, but now they seem to think the version is ready for prime time and have released it on Steam.

The game is from Gaijin Entertainment, who also developed a couple of other decent combat sims like Il-2 Sturmovik: Birds/Wings of Prey and Apache Air Assault, and that shows. There are tons of different aircrafts and variants of them from five nations available, all modeled in high detail. The fight model is great and can be highly realistic, depending on the selected level of realism you play on. And the scenery is detailed and gorgeous.

You can also play tanks, but I haven't touch that mode yet (due to a lack of interest). In the future, there will also be a naval combat mode. Up to the most recent patch, plane and tank combat was separated, but now there are also combined game modes.

There are a couple of different game modes. Online, there are arcade battles, realistic battles and simulator battles, which differ in the realism settings and the choice of available planes for the teams: in arcade mode, both teams can choose every plane, in the other modes, you are limited to planes fitting to the team's nationality. For example, when you play on a Battle of Britain map, one team can only choose German planes, the other only British ones.

There are also single player (semi-)dynamic campaigns and missions available, though you have to unlock the latter with in-game currency.

From the technical side, the Mac version does not really convince me. For one, it's not particularly well adapted to Mac specifics. For instance, it dumps a couple of folders right in your home directory, instead of putting them in more fitting sub-folders. It's also not very well optimised. The game defaulted to high settings on my 2012 Retina MBP at 1440x900, but struggled to achieve 30 fps. Mostly, it averaged at 15–20 fps. To get a half-way decent and fluid framerate (ca. 30–40 fps), I had to take down the settings to medium (which still look quite good) at 1280x800. Reducing the settings even more helps almost nothing: more than 50 fps seem to be impossible, and even then it reaches that only on occasion. (And the game really looks like butt on these settings, actually running in an upscaled very low resolution.) (EDIT: I found that the framerate also highly depends on the map. The values I've given all are valid for a map set in the relatively flat Southern English countryside. On the very mountainous "Cliffed Coast" map, the framerate is basically halved.)

There are also a couple of weird interface bugs. For instance, the game reverses the axis of my scrollwheel, also when using it for its intended purposes (i.e. scrolling), without any obvious way to change that. Which leads to my next criticism that the user interface is in part not very clear.

On the positive side, the game recognised almost all buttons and axes of my Saitek X52 Pro flightstick without problems, which is probably a first under OS X. (In other flightsims, including Falcon 4 AF and X-Plane 10, I had to use ControllerMate to make use of all knobs and levers on that thing.)

If you don't have a flightstick, you could also use a gamepad (which I haven't tried) or even keyboard and mouse. For the latter, there's a "mouse aim" mode that actually works quite well, but severely limits your ability to control your plane. For instance, you cannot roll your plane (it only banks up to a certain angle) or fly a loop. So forget about fancy dogfighting manoeuvres like Immelmanns, Split S's or even a barrel roll.  (EDIT: Just after writing this I found that there is an option buried within War Thunder's convoluted and confusing menus to disable that limitation. There's somewhere a toggle where you can switch the mouse joystick from "simplified" to "normal", where the latter allows you full control about your plane. But I'll be damned if I will ever find that option again…) On the other hand, the mouse aim mode makes aiming much easier – unfortunately to an extent that flightstick users are severely disadvantaged against k+m players. This problem is somewhat alleviated in simulator battles, since you cannot use mouse aim there.

The biggest problem I see in this game is its free-to-play nature. While it's technically possible to unlock every (or at least most) things simply by playing, this will come down to a horrible grind. You gain all the game currencies for kills and completing missions, but in relation to the amount you need to unlock new skins, missions or even planes in pitiful amounts. If you want to get your desired plane faster (and the crappy starters plane will make you want that), you either play a lot of games, or cough up real money.

The bottom line is that I'm still a bit undecided about the game. On the one hand, it's a very decent combat flight simulator – and these are very rare on the Mac. On the other hand, it's tarnished by the not very good port (at least it's stable), some design choices that were made to cater to casual players and the free-to-play aspect.

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#2 Frost

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 04:10 PM

Tanks sound fun, but I like modern MBT combat waaaaay more than WWII tank combat. Gimme an Abrams.

Hearing it's from Gaijin is good news. I love Apache Air Assault to death. Its only downside is the lack of support and the fact that they didn't bother to finish patching it before abandoning it. The game itself is fantastic though and the flight model is spot-on enough that I saw a couple real life Apache pilots who are also sim buffs heaping praise on it online.
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#3 Frigidman™

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:13 PM

Oddly, the only flight sims I liked was Hellcats. I tried the jet ones, but they were always too fast paced and hectic, vs the flying about with props and machine guns ;) I saw Janichsans screens on Steam before he posted this thread, and was like "hmm, what the hell is he playing that looks so fun?"

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#4 Janichsan

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 12:21 PM

View PostFrigidman™, on 06 June 2014 - 06:13 PM, said:

Oddly, the only flight sims I liked was Hellcats. I tried the jet ones, but they were always too fast paced and hectic, vs the flying about with props and machine guns ;) I saw Janichsans screens on Steam before he posted this thread, and was like "hmm, what the hell is he playing that looks so fun?"
And fun it is, despite its flaws. I'm currently really enjoying it. Getting an aerial kill after some intense dogfighting is genuinely satisfying.

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#5 DaveyJJ

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 03:21 PM

I must jump into this fray as well. To the bat mobile!

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#6 Janichsan

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 05:36 AM

Well, the last small update killed full-screen mode in the Mac version… that's one more bug among quite an impressive amount of others. My favourite is the one where the command key gets "stuck" and any press of M, H or Q minimises, hides or… quits the game.

Anyway, I'm surprised how much I still enjoy the game, despite the bugs and other grievances.

One problem I have for instance that some maps come up a little bit too often. For instance, there is one map called "Military Exercise: Preparation for Landing on Hokkaido" which sometimes turns up three or four times in a row. However, since this is due to how the matchmaking works, there probably isn't that much that could be done about that. I'm almost exclusively playing Realistic Battles at the moment, where the players are sorted into teams according to the nationality of the plane they selected when entering the cue for a game. There are not that many players in Realistic Battles, those who are seem to favour US and British planes (at least on the EU server), the Hokkaido map pits US vs British planes – hence that maps comes up regularly. (If anyone who watches the screenshots I post on Steam has ever wondered why there seem to be so many shots were I'm attacking US planes: that's why…)

The second grievance I have is the really painfully slow pace at which new planes are unlocked for non-paying players. I'm focusing on a single nationality (Great Britain) and only on two branches of the tech tree*, but it still took me four weeks to unlock the first plane on tier 3 of 5 – and the planes need increasingly more research points to unlock. (* You need to research at least two branches to unlock the required amount of planes to reach the next tier.)

Third and lastly, Soviet planes seem to be almost ridiculously overpowered. Either that, or the players who fly the Soviet planes are the best pilots on Earth. I haven't seen a single battle against Soviet planes that the other side had won – no matter on what tier, no matter what planes the other side used. I've been in battles where the Soviet wiped out a complete team of 16 players within five minutes, with almost no own losses. In a game where the other planes have been meticulously and realistically modelled regarding their characteristics and capabilities, this is a quite peculiar bias…

Still, even if I repeat myself, I'm really enjoying the game. My advise for anyone who as serious interest in flight sims would be to completely ignore the Arcade Battles and focus on Realistic and Simulator Battles. They are much more challenging, since death can be swift and brutal and you cannot respawn. This can lead to some quite frustrating experiences when the only thing you manage to do in a battle is taking off, flying towards the enemy and then plummet towards the ground when someone has taken out your pilot with a single, well aimed shot. On the other hand, success is far more satisfying and exhilarating. The community is also much better in RBs and SBs: there are a few idiots who think it's funny to use their team mates for target practices, but those are really rare. I had far more experiences where the time on the way to the front was used to agree on tactics in the in-game chat.

For the ultimate experience, fly Simulator Battles. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be that many players, so it might take a while to get into a game, but it's really a completely different ballpark: the flight model is even more realistic (for instance taking engine torque into account), but more importantly, you are completely on your own to find and track the enemy. In Arcade and Realistic Battles, you get HUD symbols marking enemies, at least when they have been detected and identified by your or one of your team mates' plane's crew, and you can lock on an enemy to easily track him with a single press of a button. No such luxury in Simulator Battles. You want to attack a tank? Good luck finding that microscopicly small, partially obscured by trees dot on the ground. An enemy fighter just flew by you? Try finding that drab coloured spot again after you turned your plane around. Ever wondered why WWII planes had this spotted camouflage pattern? That's why.

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#7 Janichsan

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 12:57 PM

I'm increasingly frustrated by Gaijin's Mac support. The most recent patch basically halved the framerate for apparently all Mac players. Even on the lowest settings, it struggles to reach 20 fps, almost independently of the hardware. And that broken fullscreen mode is still not fixed. :angry:

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#8 macdude22

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 01:00 PM

Am I the only one that likes World of Warplanes over WarThunder? Even before the shoddy Mac port I tried them both several times and always came back to WoW, WarThunder always felt loose or sloppy, I can't really articulate it other than WoW felt tighter, smoother to play.
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#9 Janichsan

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 02:05 PM

View Postmacdude22, on 24 July 2014 - 01:00 PM, said:

Am I the only one that likes World of Warplanes over WarThunder? Even before the shoddy Mac port I tried them both several times and always came back to WoW, WarThunder always felt loose or sloppy, I can't really articulate it other than WoW felt tighter, smoother to play.
The general consensus seems to be that War Thunder puts more focus on realism. For instance, unlike WoWP, which has a lot of planes that never left an experimental or even planning stage, almost all planes in WT really flew and/or actually saw action in war. War Thunder also has a detailed damage model, while WoWP basically only has a health bar.

World of War Planes is more arcade, War Thunder more simulation. Neither is necessarily wrong, but it depends what you prefer. I prefer simulation.

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#10 fabforrest

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Posted 10 October 2014 - 05:56 PM

" the only flight sims I liked was Hellcats."

have you tried Sky Gamblers - Storm Raiders.  very good.

OSX Skyfighters 1945 was very much like Hellcats, but the developer died.  the game was busted for a while, but i found a mod that made it operational again.  my kind of sim. fun.