The Flare Path: Is Thunderstruck

By 1945, though the U-boat threat had greatly diminished, Britain’s reserves of weather-related aircraft names were dangerously low. Spurred into action by scathing press criticism of the Boulton Paul Breeze, de Havilland Drizzle, and Bristol Beaufort Scale, in early February the Air Ministry took steps to address the issue by organising a summit of leading aircraft designers and meteorologists. Tragically, the meeting never took place as the Airspeed Anemometer carrying 9 of the key participants to the venue was struck by a Republic Thunderbolt while manoeuvring to avoid a Fairey Fogbank.

War Thunder! Yesterday afternoon I finally got around to introducing myself to this work-in-progress WW2-in-the-air MMO. Yesterday night I crawled away to bed grinning like a man that has just violently revoked the airworthiness certificates of 8 heinous Heinkel 51s, 4 furious Furies, 4 peevish Peashooters, 2 fractious Falchi, 2 chase-me Chaikas, and a deeply confused Kingfisher, and strafed dozens of AAA positions, armoured cars, and tanks.

Coincidentally, I had just violently revoked the airworthiness certificates of 8 heinous Heinkel 51s, 4 furious Furies, 4 peevish Peashooters, 2 fractious Falchi, 2 chase-me Chaikas, and a deeply confused Kingfisher, and strafed dozens of AAA positions, armoured cars, and tanks.

Online dogfighting arenas can be pretty dispiriting places for those attuned to AI bandits. It comes as a rather pleasant surprise to find that not only is War Thunder extremely easy to slip into, it’s also not the ego-eviscerating bearpit it might be. Do as I did and devote your first day to tutorials and the low-realism high-octane team-based arcade modes, and within an hour or two, assuming you’ve got a few years of SP flight sim experience under your Sutton Harness, you should regularly see your name nestling near the top of post-match score tables.

As in World of Tanks, a game War Thunder plainly draws much structural inspiration from, in battle a little canniness goes a pleasingly long way. Official forums are no doubt already crowded with folk complaining that the Martin Monsoon doesn’t turn as nimbly as it should or the Grumman Groundfrost’s cockpit armour is under-modelled, but ignore all this and use a few simple common-senses tactics, and, even at the controls of a basic Tier 1 biplane fighter, you should be able to make a serious nuisance of yourself.

In arcade matches flight models have had all their jagged edges filed off. There’s no spins or stress-related damage. Engine management is ignored, and respawns – the number of which is dependent on how many hangar slots you’ve purchased – are at high altitude and close to the action. Empty ammo boxes are automatically refilled after a nailbiting 15 second wait. Often games involve advancing AFVs that must be protected or punctured, and airfields that can be captured to hasten victory or repaired to for damage repairs.

I’m sure there will come a time when I tire of the breathless pace, and go investigate the slower, more resonant historical arenas (historically consistent aircraft mixes, no respawns or automatic ammo replenishing) but for the moment the quick, picturesque violence of the public servers is satisfying my need for sky savagery very satisfactorily indeed.

It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that played Gaijin’s last Forties flight effort to hear that War Thunder is bally handsome at times. Maps range from geographically plausible renditions of the Stalingrad and Ruhr areas, to far-fetched-yet-fun depictions of Alpine and African terrain. Peering over pretty canopy-shadowed panels at somersaulting snowcaps and cluttered, smoke-streaked urban skylines, only the gaudy plane icons and lead-calculating crosshairs (features deactivated or toned down in high realism modes) overblown pyrotechnics, and bizarre aircraft mixes betray the illusion.

War Thunder assumes, probably correctly considering wot WoT has achieved, that the way to keep us keen and constant is to lure us up Giant Sequoia-sized tech trees with the promise of regular XP-purchased unlocks. The number of WW2 aircraft types and Korea-era jets theoretically accessible is astounding even if all (?) of the bombers at present must be controlled from HUD or external views. It will be interesting to see whether the associated flight and damage models are as faithful and diverse as the fuselages and wing shapes.

Even at the arcade level there’s evidence that Gaijin are putting considerable effort into ensuring warbird death throes are interesting. I’ve already discovered what it means to limp home with a wounded wing that refuses to do its aerodynamic duty, to glide to the deck with a kaput engine and a canopy liberally sprayed with oil. Having collided with the odd plummeting wing and tail fragment, I suspect damage from debris impacts is also represented. Apparently, at the highest realism settings, a single well-placed or extremely lucky MG or cannon round can disable a system or kindle a fire.

Plane painting, crew training, engine management, jets, monoplanes… there’s acres of WT content I’ve yet to manhandle, and if the roadmap is to be trusted some potentially fantastic features on the way. Waiting patiently on the main menu are tabs for accessing playable AFVs and naval vessels. The thought of nosing a Ju 87G towards sentient tank skirmishes, or parking a Flakpanzer in a quiet courtyard and waiting for customers, is pretty damn exciting. Whatever have planned (hopefully I’ll be be sharing some World of Warplanes impressions soon) it’s hard to imagine War Thunder not surviving and prospering.

Those prepared to put up with a few unfurnished nooks and the odd freeze now and again, should start downloading the 7GB beta ASAP. The sooner you get started the sooner you’ll have amassed the 8,000,000,000 XP necessary to unlock a Blohm & Voss BV 238 or the 670,000,999,775,209,81,4,2995 required to unlock the Heinkel Hellsquall XI spotted by Spits in the following vid.


The Flare Path Foxer

Last Friday between the hours of 13.00 GMT and 14.00 GMT two lexicommandos by the name of deejayem and skink74 bluffed their way into Flare Path HQ and ruthlessly neutralised one of Reichsmarschall Stone’s favourite Foxers. For their courage and resourcefulness, the pair have been awarded posthumorous Flare Path flair points made from Gammon bomb caps.

Defoxing of a similarly high standard will be required if this week’s cartographic cartouche is to be deciphered. Correctly identify the linked locations shown in the brine-blurred maps below to claim flair points carved from genuine Bühlmann table legs.



  1. Faldrath says:

    Sigh, Tim. Stop making me want to buy a joystick! (actually, how are the control methods for that game?)

    • Tim Stone says:

      I’ve only flown with a stick so far, but I hear mouse and keyboard is practical.

      • Flameberge says:

        Ooh, exciting news that mouse and kb is practical. Having spent a year on the other side of the world working, I don’t yet have a permanent desk set up with space for a joystick.

        On a related note, are there any other flight ‘sims’ or otherwise out there where it is practical to play without a joystick?

        • Hydrogene says:

          MS Flight was crap (they stopped developping new planes and scenery), but the mouse control was pretty good.

      • Dana says:

        Unless you play full realism cockpit only, mouse is superior method of control to all others.

    • DK says:

      Mouse and KB (and third person view) is by far the most accurate and easy to use control scheme for arcade mode. Historical MKB still works but you start to lose some of the accuracy due to more aerodynamic effects and wind. Sim mode you need a joystick or you’ll spin and stall to the ground pretty quickly.

      Incidentally, the article has a little inaccuracy in it – you don’t have 2 respawns. You can as many respawns as you have airplanes – the first 4 hangar slots being purchasable with play-money (and fairly cheap) and the next 4 requiring real-money (the first of those also being fairly cheap).

  2. PhilD says:

    Hmmmm, interesting Foxer. I’ve got b & d, which gives a couple of possible connections, but I’m damned if I can get the others so far.

  3. Vagrant says:

    I read about this yesterday in some RPS comment, and nerded out over youtube videos for a bit. I need to remember it exists when I’m not at work.

    IMPORTANT QUESTION! Does it actually let you play multiplayer with your friends, or does it think everyone is an asocial loner like WoT? I’d still play WoT if I could play it with my friends.

    • DK says:

      Because it’s based on Wings Of Prey, it still has all the Wings of Prey functionality. Not only can you play with up to 3 of your friends, it still has custom games you can make with your own rulesets and dynamic campaigns you can play coop vs AI.

  4. Hydrogene says:

    Is the Bristol Beaufort Scale flyable in War Thunder? I really want to try it out.

    Thank you again Mr Stone, the Flare Path is always the best thing to happen to my Fridays!

    • Elmar Bijlsma says:

      Beaufort Scale? Wazzat? Ordinary Beaufort is flyable, if that helps any.

      WarThunder is pretty fun.
      And not least the game does pretty much everything better then World of Warplanes rather weak effort. In fairness I gave up on WoWarp a few months ago so it might have improved. But I doubt it. Kinda lost most of my faith in a while ago.
      Also, WarThunders F2P aspect seems to be fairly decent value for money.

      Cannot wait for them to get to grips with the ground and naval war. But even if they never implement that, I’d still be happy with the current game.

    • Vagrant says:

      Their plane release lists:
      link to

  5. Flameberge says:

    I also note, though not directly related to this edition Flare Path, that Euro Truck Simulator 2 got released on Steam the other day after getting Greenlit back in December. So yay for that too.

  6. phelix says:

    Thanks for giving this game some attention, as a flightsim enthusiast this is one of the few games that I am truly excited for.

  7. Dana says:

    Finally some appreciation for Warthunder. My nagging was not in vain.

  8. Alex Bakke says:

    B is Kirkwall, I know that much! Trying to hunt down the other locations..

    • Electric Dragon says:

      It’s not Kirkwall, it’s Scapa (as in Flow).

      • Alex Bakke says:

        You’re right – Scapa is of course next to Kirkwall, I didn’t realise it was the body of water I had to name.

  9. Brun says:

    Here’s what I’ve found so far, I will update as I find new ones:

    A – ?
    B – Scapa Flow, Kirkwall, UK (German Kaiserlich Marine Fleet, 1919).
    C – Stockholm, Sweden (Vasa, 1628).
    D – Rambler Channel, Hong Kong, China (RMS Queen Elizabeth, 1972)
    E – Kea Island, Greece (HMHS Brittanic, 1916)
    F – ?
    G – ?

    EDIT: Based on what research I have done (quickly) the common thread among the ones I’ve found so far seems to be that these were all the sites of famous shipwrecks. Added the shipwreck in parentheses.

    • skink74 says:

      With thanks to Brun for giving me the link and a headstart…
      a – Bligh Island / reef Alaska – Exxon Valdez, 1989
      b – More specific than the German High Seas Fleet this looks to be the location of HMS Royal Oak, sunk 1939 in Scapa Flow
      c,d,e – ^ what he said ^
      f Giglio Island, site of the Costa Concordia grounding Jan 2012
      g is Tromso, Norway site of the sinking of the Tirpitz, 1944

  10. tigershuffle says:

    told ya so…..
    :) beta victory rolls

  11. Berious says:

    I really like War Thunder. The damage modelling is nice, there are no HP bars to whittle down – if you shoot someone’s wing right it’ll come off and he’s going down. Same if you shoot up a bomber’s engines and so forth. This also allows the lower tier planes to compete very well with higher tiers – long as you get on his six you can kill him.

    Also unlike World of Tanks you never have to grind in a plane you hate as you level up your country rather than grinding out a particular vehicle. You can level up in bombers then jump right into higher tier fighters or keep dicking around with biplanes for a long time then jump into the mid tiers if you like. It’s very flexible and much less grindy than Wargamer’s offerings. I’ve flown about 50 arcade missions an I’m already tier 10(of 20) in the Russian line.

    Anyone thinking of trying the game I suggest you start with Russian planes. They’re very easy to fly and excellent turn-fighters which rules the day in arcade mode.

    • MrOwen says:

      “I’ve flown about 50 arcade missions an I’m already tier 10(of 20) in the Russian line.”

      I call bullshit, it’s taken me weeks to get that far.

  12. Pootie says:

    Been playing War Thunder for over a month now and I must say its pretty good for a free2play game that is just in beta. Very easy to get into and definitely worth a try. Also its much much better than World of Warplanes. I tried that one too…