It’s one of our all-time favourite games here at PC PowerPlay and PC & Tech Authority - the group editor plays it more than any other game and has been at it for years, and we’re here to share just why it’s so fantastic if you haven’t had a look before, or if it’s been a while since you last looked so we can help excite you about how far it’s come.
What’s it all about, then?
Fighting in planes, tanks and ships, in short. In a massive multiplayer environment where there’s always huge numbers of players going at it, and all in beautifully structured game modes and maps that cater to raw beginners through to hardcore simheads.
It all started as a flight combat game with planes covering WW1 through to just after WW2 and the early Korean War aircraft. It’s since been expanded to include epic ground warfare with a huge variety of tanks, mobile artillery, AAA vehicles and several very funky vehicles, all with unique uses in the tactical environment.
Most recently naval warfare has been added and is being developed through its public beta phase with ships of ever increasing size. It started with fast torpedo boats and the developer Gaijin is now rolling out much larger destroyers and cruisers, and with those, whole new strategic ways to play.
The historical period has just been extended with the recent 1.77 Advancing Storm update with many new vehicles that cover the 1970s and very early 1980s and that includes beastly vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank!
Who plays who, and how?
It’s super easy – log in, choose the vehicle from your collection that you’re in the mood for and it quickly launches you into battle. Most games are structured around two teams going at it, with teams determined by whether their vehicles are Axis or Allies, or NATO v Warsaw Pact for later stage vehicles, or generally how the countries were at it for the Korean War or other conflicts.
You will be fighting alongside other vehicles from around the same time period too, so your little WW1 biplane won’t be hammered by jets!
Once a battle starts it’s all on until the enemy team has been eliminated or the main objective achieved. Because the game covers so many vehicle types everyone has a unique role to play. If, for example, you chose a fighter then you need to destroy other fighters, try and take out their bombers while protecting yours, and maybe shoot up some ground targets. Bombers are a lot of fun to play too, and can win or lose a battle if they get through to their targets.
Meanwhile on the ground you may well have teammates in tanks slogging it out, or mobile artillery or rocket launchers raining death from above on key targets or enemy vehicles. If you’re the one in a tank you sure do appreciate some air cover because you will have your hands full fighting in the best tank game on the internet. A good team will communicate, calling for support when needed and marking targets to get the win, and the community itself it one of the best and very welcoming to new players.
Not very, or intensely challenging – depending on what you feel like and can handle. There’s three basic game modes: Arcade, with simple flight physics and unlimited weapons. It’s a high intensity battle that throws you into the action immediately and is huge fun. A step up is Realistic, which has far more detailed physics and limited ammo. Realistic maps are also generally larger and you start some distance from the combat zone so it’s great to take that time to race to a good strategic position in your tank, or gain altitude ready for the dogfight. Sim mode is the hardest with full physics and vehicle controls. If you’re flying, Sim mode also forces you to use a joystick and cockpit view, so that’s the one for the super hardcore.
In Arcade and Realistic modes most people play using a mouse and keyboard which is partly why War Thunder is so popular – you don’t need any special setup and Gaijin has done a great job of making mouse control fun and effective. You can also choose the view you like best – in the cockpit or turret/driver’s position, third person external so you can see your beautiful vehicle or full first-person mode with no vehicle bits to get in the way of your view.
It’s all about guns in War Thunder. The time eras mean there’s nothing with radar or guided missiles – it’s all down to your skill and gun battles mean the action is always close and intense.
And, if you don’t feel like multiplayer or just want the time to cruise around and figure things out at first, there are many beautifully designed tutorials and single-player missions.
With the immense variety and number of vehicles, the ability to easily choose your difficulty and realism, and a massive player base it all adds up for an amazingly engaging gaming experience.
Do I need a supercomputer?
Hell no. Gaijin’s Dragor engine is one of the modern miracles of gaming, it looks incredible yet runs beautifully smoothly on any game-capable PC. Netcode is also remarkable, able to handle thousands of bullets, bombs rockets and shells flying around at a time, extremely detailed hit zones and ballistic damage modelling - all with potentially dozens of players from around the world in each match. We even have a local Asian region server for the lowest pings, but on any global server the performance is still totally playable.
Tell em the price, son!
It’s free. And can stay free for as long as you want without penalty. War Thunder isn’t ‘pay to play’ at all and that makes it extra fantastic! If you want to improve a vehicle’s performance you can certainly buy in-game Gold to do that quickly, but anyone can level up a vehicle through experience without paying a cent.
It’s a keeper
War Thunder is addictive and easy to keep coming back to. Gajin regularly adds new content, features and game modes as it has since the very beginning. Special events are regularly hosted, usually based on historical events as commemorative battles, or just silly stuff for the fun of it like the annual Floatplanes battle weekend, or Gaijin’s now legendary April Fool’s Day shenanigans.
The future is very bright. Over time you will level up your pilot and gain access to new eras, you will unlock countless new vehicles, you will win medals and awards and might even be featured in the weekly highlights reel. The War Thunder community is warm and welcoming, Gaijin itself engages with the community and the sense that the game is constantly evolving is real and makes it all the better.
We love it. Head off to www.warthunder.com and download the game where every single battle is a memorable adventure!