One of the lasting joys of being a predominantly PC game-player is that there is a lot of diversity out there and a lot of it is Free. Well, "Free", I guess, as the "play to win" model is ever-present in there, but there is also a lot of games you can get a lot of fair, and balanced enjoyment out of without paying a penny for. I tend to find that if I've got a certain amount of play out of a game I'll end up spending money anyway, partly as a thank you, and partly because the sort of shinies a lot of these games offer can indeed be pretty shiny. In the case of World of Warships, we're talking about shiny, shiny battleships.
World of Warships officially releases on the 17th September, but has been in Open Beta for several months. It's the third in a series of games which are all arena combat games based around 20th century warfare; first World of Tanks and then World of Warplanes, but it's the lure of the big ships that finally really lured me in. Each match features ships of a mix of classes - Battleships (including Battlecruisers, for you ship nerds out there), Cruisers, Destroyers and Aircraft Carriers. Objectives are drawn randomly, from simple kill missions to area control and there is a wide varity of maps to play on. You shoot, fly and torpedo your way to victory or defeat in the space of 15-20 minutes, earning cash and exp for upgrades.
First off, the core gameplay is pretty solid. Each of the main classes is a different game in itself and each have a tightly defined battlefield role. Cruisers shield the big ships from Destroyers, Destroyers hunt each other and Battleships and Carriers, Battleships smash Cruisers and each other apart. Carriers have their own private game of moving squadrons around an overhead map and hoping no-one actually finds them and turns them into burning scrap. You'll naturally gravitate to one type, I suspect, that suits you, although I've played them all pretty much equally.
Earning all this cash and exp is then used to upgrade your ships or progress up the tech trees. At launch there are two; US and Japan, with a smattering of Russian, British and German ships available to buy. Starting with late 19th century pre-dreadnoughts, each tier progresses you into bigger and nastier ships, when then gets you matched against bigger and nastier ships in the actual matches. The leaps are decent sized, too, so at least that exp feels like it is going somewhere, and it's not too grinding either, at least until you hit Tier 4 (of 10), at which point the vague urge to buy some boosts starts to creep in. Alternatively, you can just buy a premium ship straight off the shelf, but they're not cheap - the Tirpitz sneaks in about fourty quid.
I've had a lot of fun with World of Warships and so far I've not spent a penny. It's mechanistically solid and pretty well balanced (with the odd exception), whilst retaining a lot of variety even with only two tech trees available. With a WW1/WW2 German tree on the way "soon", that should spice up the game a lot, I can see myself going back to it periodically, if only for a couple of matches at a time in between other things. And at "Free", its a price you really can't complain about.