Gaijin certainly pulled no punches when GameGrin visited them at gamescom. Realism, says Community Manager Keith Donachie, is paramount when it comes to War Thunder. The studio creates “simulations”, unlike other “arcadey titles”. That’s not to say it didn't flirt with the idea of having fully-fledged battleships steaming around. Trying to simulate complex naval combat, which would often take hours or days, was found to be detrimental to the player experience in the game. Players, says Donachie, just don’t want to sit around calculating the one salvo of cannon fire aimed at another player between two to six miles away.
That’s not to say that larger ships won’t be present on the battlefield. The AI will take control of carriers, destroyers and battleships and some will act as objectives to be destroyed or protected in the midst of the fight.
Yet there is a whole other side to naval combat, one that is much more frantic and action-packed, that Gaijin wants to capture with Knights of the Sea. Smaller boats, manned by between six and 12 people, often zipped between huge naval exchanges lobbing torpedos and taking on aircraft. It’s these craft that fit the style of War Thunder more readily. The first starter pack for the game features armoured river boats and torpedo ships, with more planned for each of the extant factions in the overall game.
Combat between ships is bombastic and explosive, as I found out later during a hands-on gameplay demo. The tactic of “fire everything” seemed to be the order of the day for my allies and I. A careful use of torpedoes (fired rather ungentlemanly into the enemy’s spawn) secured the win for my team. The game’s visuals are impressive - water splashes from bows and churns when raked with weapons fire. Torpedoes leave a trail of rising bubbles in their wake and ships shudder and smoke when damaged beyond repair. It’s a different sort of combat to those in the air and on the ground in War Thunder, and left me wondering how exactly all three might be able to come together in a larger battleground.
Knight of the Sea has been in closed beta since late 2016, with open testing planned for later this year.