It was over 100 degrees in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago. Hell, it probably still is. Heat-waves made the distance look wobbly and a bottle of water was always in my hand. But the heat was never a problem because I spent the majority of my stay in Austin at Wargaming’s studio checking out World of Warships: Legends—the console version of the PC-centric World of Warships, as well as the soon-to-be-tested-in-the-wild submarines. While the air outside was heavy with a dry heat, my mind was transported to various oceanic settings of war from World War II—the Pacific, straits off of some archipelago, and ice-pocked northern seas booming with cannon-fire.
Wargaming, best known for the ever-popular tank-based multiplayer experience World of Tanks, first launched World of Warships on PC in 2015. Since then, the title has grown and fostered its ever growing fanbase with period-accurate ships from various nations and navies, regular updates, fun one-off events (take last year’s Halloween event, for example) and regular community events. After spending two days at Wargaming, it was easy to see how important their community is to them, and how they regularly listen to fan feedback. Their fanbase skews older, as often happens with slower, military-sim-lite games, but Wargaming is always looking for avenues to expand that player-reach. Enter World of Warships: Legends.
World of Warships: Legends is Wargaming’s answer to the call to bring the popular naval warfare title to consoles, and they’ve answered in a big, surprising way. Far more than just a pared down port of the complex PC experience, World of Warships: Legends is very much its own beast, and the developers at the Wargaming office in Austin emphasized this. At face value, it didn’t seem all that different, but once I got to sit down and give Legends a go, it all just clicked. The PC experience has been simplified and honed in for controller-play and, while inherently less of an experience, the core essence of the PC version is very much still intact. Tactics are king, team-play is paramount, and the engagement distances are probably the longest in any videogame, ever. Volleys of cannon-fire and torpedoes are leveled at enemy warships from miles (or kilometers, I’m a stupid American so I don’t know) away. There is a palpable sense of satisfaction when you line up a torpedo arc just right and sink a ship that hardly breaks the horizon line.
What is even more special about World of Warships: Legends is the Commanders system. Each nation’s navy has a litany of commanders to choose from. These commanders act as a sort of perk(s) system that grants players with certain attributes and boosts that gives players a one-up in combat. These commanders, rooted in history, add an extra layer to the Legends experience in that certain commanders complement certain types of vessels, and choosing the right commander is almost as important as choosing the right ship. Once I grew to understand that, I started to find more success on the high seas, but I’m no war-dog. My ships were sunk, blown up and shredded by enemy players more times than I’d like to admit. But that is what makes World of Warships: Legends so compelling. It is welcoming with a high skill ceiling and there is nothing quite like it on consoles (well, except for World of Tanks, but come on, warships are way cooler).
World of Warships: Legends was not the only thing I saw while visiting Wargaming’s office in Austin, Texas. I also saw bats! No, really. But more importantly, I saw and heard what the Wargaming team is doing with submarines. Yes, submarines—after ages of teases and fans desire to see them in-game—are coming to World of Warships on the PC. These deep-sea vessels of subversion and espionage seem to be the glass cannons of the game. They can inflict lots of damage on unknowing vessels, but when detected, they can be destroyed rather easily. The subs are, first and foremost, reconnaissance vessels that will add a brand-new layer to team play, and the Wargaming developers went through multiple phases of how the submarines will play. And when they showed the version they will be releasing onto the Super Test servers soon, they did so with enthusiasm and a sense of accomplishment that was rather infectious. Submarines are complex to play and, to a layman like me, controlling one with mouse and keyboard was a Sisyphean effort.
Games have systems in varying degrees. The submarines have a lot of systems and I am but a man—a man who is used to simpler videogames—and I had almost zero luck controlling the submarines. That was a me problem, though, because everyone else at the studio were real Captain Nemos. In order to control the submarines in World of Warships, players must take into account their oxygen supply and the lack of vision when the submarines dive below the ocean’s surface. In order to refill a submarine’s oxygen supply, the vessel must surface for a given amount of time before it can lurk back into the depths. Furthermore, submarines are rather slow and to make up for their lack of vision underwater, they must use the hydrophone ability to detect surrounding enemy warships as well as their undersea surroundings. Was I good at this? No, not really, but it is quite interesting and it genuinely feels like an entirely new experience. Subs can fire torpedos after pinging a ship with their sonar, but now Destroyers are well-equipped to hunt down enemy subs. There are, spread throughout each map, special zones that will appear when a Destroyer is close to honing in on a submarine. Anti-sub mortars and depth charges will (and do, trust me) make quick work of submarines.
In the end, I was taken aback after my trip to Wargaming in Austin. No, World of Warships: Legends is not perfect—there is little to no onboarding—and the submarines in World of Warships have yet to be fully balanced in the wild, but what the Wargaming team is doing with their game for both console and PC players shows that there is a deep desire to remain in the now. Whether it be an entirely new console experience or new type of vessel, the team is always looking ahead to add new elements to the original and monumentally challenging experience that is World of Warships. I arrived in Austin with no sea legs and left as a not-so-seasoned vet. The future looks bright for World of Warships and I, for one, am happy to see what comes next, even if I’ll never be any good at it.
Upon the release of submarines in World of Warships, the U.S., Soviet, and German navy will have featured submarines in-game. To see more about World of Warships: Legends and submarines in World of Warships, be sure to check out the videos below.
Cole Henry is an intern at Paste. He’s on Twitter @colehenry19.