After a lengthy closed beta, Gaijin's free-to-play multi-sim War Thunder has finally rolled out its naval combat component. The game now allows players to shoot holes in each other in the air, on the ground and now at sea in around 100 different ships. While the British navy is still in paid, closed beta testing and Japanese ships are still a ways off, ships for America, Russia and Germany are now a standard feature, along with helicopters. The full patch notes for update 1.83 - Masters Of The Sea - can be found here, and a trailer below, mostly showing off the in-testing British ships.
For those wanting to jump straight in at the deep end, the only obstacle between players and their first free ships is a hefty download. While part of it is due to changes in the game's file structure, there's a 19gb download ahead of people wanting to play today. Beyond that, everyone now has a German, Russian and American light torpedo-boat (or equivalent) to jump into straight away, and experience earned with it will start you on your trip up the new naval tech-trees. Boats are still technically in 'open beta', but future updates should see them further integrated with other modes.
Naval combat starts out faster than you might expect, especially if you play in Arcade mode. Torpedo boats are agile, speedy little things. Their machineguns may not do a huge amount of damage to heavy hulls, but torpedoes can flatten far larger ships if you can close the distance. As is War Thunder standard, ships use almost identical controls to planes and tanks, although there's obviously less to worry about crashing into at sea. The helicopters also use a similar core control system, but they're somewhat more demanding (and arguably rewarding) to wrangle.
The Masters Of The Sea update isn't all naval-focused. Helicopters - previously accessible through extensive grind or a premium bundle - are now free for anyone to fly, assuming they've worked their way high enough up the US, Russian and (new in this update) German tech trees. There's also a handful of new ground vehicles, including the premium Japanese Type 75 MLRS for those who think huge cannons are too subtle. Aircraft see the least love this update, with a pair of US model updates, one new French plane and a new German premium - the JU 288 C.
With naval combat now officially in the game, what next? The global, dynamic World War campaign mode seems the next logical step, described as major, complex operations featuring NPC forces as well as players. That, and submarines seem like an easy pick. Gaijin have previously teased subs through an April Fools event, but they did that with helicopters too, and you can fly those now.