Should You Play War Thunder in 2021?

(Yes, you should)

War Thunder is a free to play vehicle simulation PVP game that allows players to compete in aerial, sea, and ground warfare. The lineup of vehicles ranges from a wide variety of famous, under appreciated, and outright experimental creations that may have never seen combat in reality, and from many different countries. I think it goes without saying that this game isn’t going to be everyone right out of the gate. For those who don’t care much for vehicles, or aren’t open to learning about them (which is a must if you want to compete against decent players) you might as well pass this game up from the get go. That said, there’s a host of good things (and problems) awaiting anyone who’s even slightly interested in the vehicles of WWI and beyond within this game. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this game as it stands in 2021.

The Gameplay Itself

Conceptually, fighting in vehicles is fun. Fighting other players is fun. So all that’s really left to discuss is whether or not Gaijin delivers in the design department, and yeah, they really do, to put it simply. For the more casual players, the arcade mode serves to ease the gameplay into one’s mind in a forgiving manner more akin to World of Planes (though not that bad, to be sure). Dive speeds don’t rip your plane apart, G forces are lenient, flaps don’t mind a ton of pressure, and by now you’re probably noticing that I’m only talking about the planes and nothing else. I only have authority on the air combat, everything else in the game are things I have limited experience with, but I’ll touch on the tanks and boats, don’t worry.

From Arcade Mode, you can move to realistic battles. In RB, flight models behave far more realistically, ammo and fuel is scarce, you only have one life, and the Germans win just about everything that doesn’t involve a P-51. When it comes to arcade, your aim and ability to turn your plane properly is really what separates winners from loser.

In RB, so many more factors come into play that the game takes a steep incline in its learning curve. Understanding your planes flight characteristics; How fast it goes in a straight line and at what altitude, how well it retains speed in a climb, how quickly it gains speed in a dive, how quickly it turns 360 degrees, how its engines behave, the list goes on. Simply put, there’s a lot to consider, and even after you master one of the many planes for a single country, you still have to study up on what planes you might face in matches and try to get an understanding of their behaviors.

An in-game model of the lovely Spitfire

This is the game mode where the game shines, in my opinion. This is true for planes, boats, and tanks alike. Arcade is really the ‘newcomer’ mode, and RB is how War Thunder was truly meant to be played. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting knocked out of an Air RB match not 5 minutes after getting into it, but that frustration doesn’t compare negatively to the positively triumphant feeling a pilot gets in War Thunder when than putting in a good performance, getting back to landing safely at your airfield, and winning the match because of your efforts. In terms of lows defining highs, Air RB is a staple in the field, no pun intended.

For tanks and boats, this is mostly true, except for the fact that getting up tiered (that is, getting into match with vehicles one league above yours) is a horrid experience. The difference between two planes of different battle ratings is defined, but not as well defined as the jarring changes between two tanks of a different time. There will be situations for tank players where there’s nothing, offensively, they can do in a situation. Their shells will never pierce, their speed will never be sufficient, etc. Its pretty upsetting for the community, but they manage. I can only imagine this problem is similar for Boat players.

From there, Gaijin allows players to take part in ‘Simulator’ mode, which is one step above Realistic mode in what we’ll call realism. Its not quite DCS World, but it does offer some notable changes for the hardcore players in terms of flight models and dog fights from RB, as well as bringing in the ability to use a flight stick to good effect. In fact, a flight stick is the preferred method of control in this game mode if you want to be competitive.

This game mode, while decent at accomplishing what its supposed to do, is often cited as being the most ignored piece of content in the game. Too few updates, too few rewards, and too few objectives. It’s likely the Gaijin understands that this game mode is the least played area of their game and have decided to put resources elsewhere. All the same, if you’re a hardcore simmer, this mode may be worth checking out at least a couple times to get a feel for it.

In all of the aforementioned game modes, you can play as a myriad of historically faithful ground attackers, bombers, dog fighters, heavy and light tanks, anti-aircraft vehicles, and whatever kinds of boats existed back then. This is a blessing due to staggering variety offered up to the player in terms of gameplay and roles. This is also a curse due to the

Sheer Fucking Grind of War Thunder in 2021

Reminder, this game is free to play. This means that Gaijin needs to monetize the game in one way or another. And the way they do that is by reducing grind times of unlocking every vehicle at the cost of monies.

Want to get to the top tier jets ASAP instead of months of deliberate practice and grinding? You might consider buying a premium subscription for roughly 13 dollars a months or so. Or, you can outright buy the research points needed to get the plane you want right away. There’s numerous ways to cut corners in the game, and all of them include dishing out some cash. Sometimes outrageous amounts for one plane.

War Thunder’s single tree of planes just for the Italians, each taking, on average, at least 4-5 hours to get when playing without premium.

Now, to Gai’s credit, all of the vehicles have their strengths and weaknesses, so you’re never going to be able to auto win most of your games by virtue of having some premium tank/plane/boat you shelled out for. So don’t fret, P2W isn’t a rampant problem in this game. In fact, I’d say that problem is almost non-existent, if its even present ever. But the grind is quite the pain for most players, resulting is many choosing one or two nations to focus their grind on, leaving most of the content untouched as they climb the trees.

So yeah, play this game. If you like it, experiment with different vehicles and nations and find your playstyle. If you love it, you can buy a sub and improve your grind experience. But some words of warning

For you New Players

You’re going to get absolutely smacked. There is no ‘newcomer’ queue to hold your hand into the game. You’re going to be thrown into a match (start with arcade, please) and get stomped on. This will happen repeatedly until you get at least a slight grasp of how you’re supposed to play. Veterans playing with early-game planes and destroying new players is just a part of the matchmaking system and its not going to be changed any time soon, so get strapped in and prepare to be the new player who sucks for a while.


  1. The Game is fairly well balanced, despite having issues with the new player experience and high-tier vehicles
  2. The grind is insane, reduced by spending cash, but never P2W.
  3. The various game modes give a lot of variance for gameplay and allow different kinds of people to find their niche in the community, leaving a lot of room for different strokes.
  4. A good in-between the market game for veteran simmers and casual players to enjoy together.

Strong 6/10, light 7/10, Solid. Play this game if you’ve got some time to blow and want to learn some history while enjoying some accurate to reality models of various vehicles through multiple iterations and generations.