Darkwind: War on Wheels

By: Derek Yu

On: October 7th, 2009

Darkwind: War on Wheels

Darkwind: War on Wheels is a physics-based, turn-based, squad-based vehicular combat MMORPG with a real world timescale and detailed economic simulation. And as improbable as that sounds, it’s apparently quite real. Shaun (udm on the forums) writes:

You create a gang, and the main goal is just to survive. Do whatever it takes – trade, race, banditry, fight etc. My favourite aspect of the game still has to be racing, mainly because my gang’s roots are too firmly ground into races. Think of the tabletop game Car Wars having sex with EVE Online, then doing a threesome with Autoduel and Auto Assault, and finally making out with Football Manager. You get to do trading and other miscellaneous activities which I haven’t explored yet via the web browser. When a battle takes place, you launch the in-game client, and you fight in turn-based 3D.
But let me elaborate more on my favourite part of the game, since it’s also my most familiar, and hopefully it will excite more people – the races. Races and deathraces are held on a regular hourly basis, so there’s no shortage of races to take part in. The game is turn-based. You select the degree of turning, select the optimal speed, and end turn, and the cars will move according to how the players/AI choose. Sounds boring on paper, but the physics are so well executed in-game, it’s a thrill ride. I’m even willing to say that this feels even more intense than any real-time racing game I’ve played. It’s just… addiction at its best.
I know there’s bound to be disbelief, but this game is really amazing. You have to play it to believe it, and I urge you guys to try it.

I haven’t played Darkwind yet myself, but I’d be impressed if the game lived up to even half of what it claims to be on the website! I will point out that character permadeath and persistent NPC gangs are two of the game’s features. I just thought those sounded particularly interesting.

If you’re interested, you can try the game for free for an unlimited amount of time. Buying a subscription, however ($20 for 3 months, $34 for 6 months, $58 for 12 months), enables you to buy, sell, trade, and customize cars, own facilities, and participate in subscriber-only events, among other things. And if you subscribe now, your subscription is free until October 19th.

TIGdb: Entry for Darkwind: War on Wheels

Video after the jump:

  • mark

    Sounds like a lot of hype to live up to, and a recipe to set someone up for disappointment. Perhaps I’ll give this game a try when I have the chance. Although I’ll try not to keep my expectations too high although the creator has already set the bar pretty damn high enough.

  • Phasma Felis

    “Think of the tabletop game Car Wars having sex with EVE Online, then doing a threesome with Autoduel and Auto Assault…”

    Wasn’t Autoduel just the video game of Car Wars?

  • UDM

    Phasma: well, yeah. Got me there.

    But semantics aside, I urge you guys to give this a shot. The physics make the game very unpredictable in nature.

    Case in point: yesterday, I went on my 3rd scouting event with a friend, each of us bringing only one vehicle. Big mistake. We got an encounter of 4 NPC vehicles in the wilderness.

    Our plan was to reach for one of the hilly areas, then turn around so we can get a clear shot at the enemy vehicles’ top armor, which was weaker than their front, rear and flanks. Big mistake. We didn’t get enough speed, and my partner’s car slid down the mountain.

    Long story short, we got encircled by them. Our drivers were demoralised. One of my gunners wanted to escape. They kept bombing us with rockets, which nudged our cars back and back some more, so we couldn’t pick up speed. In the end, we did what we had to do: we surrendered.

    Now, our guys are in Firelight, fighting for freedom. A new feature was added in recently: Gladiatorial combat, where if you get captured by slaver gangs, you’ll get taken to Firelight. From there, you need to fight in the arena, win points, and win your freedom eventually.

  • Gr.Viper

    I remember trying it. The graphics may be dated by gameplay is really brilliant and sometimes unpredictable. In one of the races I had (with bots) on a free account none of the cars made it to the finish line. The last one, half dead was blown up on a mine…

  • Tim James

    I never thought turn-based driving could be so fun.

  • raigan

    I really like this whole “turn-based simulation” thing; the tutorial/battle reminded me of playing Critical Mass: http://www.windowsgames.co.uk/critical.html

  • Mooseral


    This sounds like the kind of odd thing that is usually dreamed about, but does not actually exist.

    The web-interface thing seems a bit antiquated (clumsy), but I’m still definitely interested in having a look.

    I mean, turn-based physics-based car battles? Can’t say no to that.

  • TheBeefiest

    It is a very unique game that is really well done in terms of the turn based 3d combat, the mmo part of it however is dull as hell and the monthly price is too steep for me.

    Then again this is coming from someone who never plays mmos and only commits to finishing about 10% of the games i purchase.

  • Ezuku

    I’m normally love games that cross genres, but this is rediculous.

    Sounds cool though.

  • Mooseral

    It seems to me that everything is ridiculously slow-paced and time consuming.

    I dunno, the results vs. time invested appear to not be worthwhile, from my initial impression. The whole game kinda feels like it’s held together with duct tape, too.

  • UDM

    Well I’m going to sound pretty much like a broken tape recorder if I continue attempting to persuade you.

    In any case Moose, I strongly urge you to try out the rest of the game. I think I’ve seen you around in the Driving School. Have you tried the normal events like races and deathraces?

  • Jay

    too… many… things…

  • UDM

    TheBeefiest: if I didn’t interpret wrongnly what you just said, even though Darkwind is one of the few MMOs to keep pulling me back constantly, that’s one of my chief complaints about the game. Uh, well, the MMO part at least – the pricing part is perfectly reasonable i.m.op

    The chief complaint I have with DW is the “web based” part. While intuitive (though to new players, it is daunting), I’d very much like to see it being internalized into the game client. Playing from the website feels a bit unprofessional compared to the rest of the game, and there’s no real social aspect – ie. you don’t get to walk around in 3D, feel and explore the towns, see others going about their business.

    In the long run, when Sam’s doing well enough and has more people helping him, maybe we’d see this. Not directly controlling one character a la Guild Wars though, but perhaps in the style of Football Manager combined with Simcity – I’d like to see that.

    In the meantime, I’m pretty contented to LFP in the lobby to go scouting. Even though there’s no direct interaction with others in town, the game still feels like an MMO through and through on scouting missions, and standard events like races.

  • raigan

    For some reason my previous comment was eaten :(

    Anyway, there’s an old Sean O’Connor game called Critical Mass that has “turn-based simulation” mechanics like this, it’s nice to see the idea continued with this game and Toribash.

    I just wish there was an indication of the previous velocity of the cars between turns; as it is now, it’s impossible to judge how cars are moving relative to you unless you pay attention to them during the update to see if they’re gaining on you or falling behind.. and you can only do this for a few cars at once.

  • UDM

    Hey raigan,

    you can press F2 or F3 to switch to speed indication. Those headers you see, like your gang name or number of laps finished – you can easily change them to indicate something else, like speed or gang member names by pressing F2 or F3.

  • thebeefiest

    Funny you should mention critical mass! Someone made a much cooler/modern version called Shadow armada. It even had online play. but it was fairly buggy/crashy and the developer told me he was going to give me the source code but then never did. So its probably lost forever.

    It also sounds like space wu is trying to incorporate some of the same elements, but i havent seen any updates onthat in a longlong time as well.

  • raigan

    thanks UDM! I did notice that F2 cycled through like 858935 different text options, I guess I missed the good one.

  • ema nymton

    I like the idea of the game, it’s an interesting premise and sounds both unique and intriguing… However, I don’t like the idea of paying a subscription fee, more so because of the price. I realize developers need money to live but this is a game that I can’t see selling in the same way as other MMO’s… I think it should be much cheaper to encourage an ever growing community which would afford the devs to still live… But, I guess at this price people would most likely be into the game and enjoy it very much so that they keep coming back and get their moneys worth. Still, it would be a shame to see it die out like a generic fad because it does sound and look awesome.

  • UDM

    I know what you mean. Here’s one solution: you could subscribe 3 months per year. In that 3 months, it should be enough to get your gang members to a good enough skill level, and you should have earned enough to buy your own cars for scouting trips. So, in that way, you’ll be supporting the developer (1-man team), and at the same time it’ll be more bang for your buck.

    The other alternative would be me telling you to go play it, so that you’ll hopefully get hooked and subscribe unhesitatingly ;)

  • Mooseral

    Yeah, I love the idea here. But it just takes too much time to play.

    It’s just that for every five seconds of gameplay, you have ~30 seconds of setup, the ACTUAL five seconds of driving, and then another ~15 seconds of damage calculations (which is basically part of the 5 seconds of driving stuff). That’s near a minute of time spent for every 5 seconds of actual stuff happening… which is rather a lot of time.

    I’d prefer it if it worked like Toribash, where you had damage and physics going at the same time. The targeting system _could_ work differently, with the gunners going at it during the un-paused time steps whilst the cars move.

    But yeah, intriguing none the less. I don’t think it’s what I’m looking for, but I can see it’s merits as a social game. I might try it out with some friends before giving up on it, though.

  • UDM

    Understood, that’s cool. It is a very niche game after all, so fans of tabletop games, or games that are slower and require more planning ahead of time, may view it differently.

    I know what you mean by Toribash though. It’s another very niche game, and even though I love it, I can see that it’s a very different kind of turn based game. You have to hand it to the geniuses at Nabisoft :)

    But trust me. Driving school is not where you want to be. At least give the Deathrace a shot first, and make sure you join one with at least one human player in it. Better still if you join one with rockets or lasers.

    (I’ll see you on the tracks, hopefully!)

  • PT

    @ Mooseral

    Eventually you’ll see why things work the way they do.

    The damage coming after the second of movement allows the players to fire in order based on character’s speed and dexterity. This way, if your faster character shoots and disables someone else’s slower character, they don’t get a chance to shoot back that turn. If everything happened at once this wouldn’t be possible.

    Unfortunately Darkwind is a slow game to develop. The developer has done an amazing job and the amount that is in the game is a real testament to his ability as a programmer.

  • JDBasher

    I’m glad to see some good, positive, open minded comments coming from people who have very little experience with Darkwind.

    Kudos to you all for giving the game a chance. Yes, the game IS an ongoing progression with just ONE developer working on it and the critcisms players have are addressed quickly by Sam. (Which is something you rarely see in ANY game.

    Thanks again for not ‘flaming’ the game before actually trying it out!

    JD (The voice of DW)

  • gulo gulo

    what the hell you guys it’s called darkwind war on wheels it rules

  • JDBasher

    @ gulo gulo:

    Yeah, cars with guns…… What’s not to like?

    “More fun with guns!”…….

    Can you drive your car at 1400 feet per second?….
    If not,……… Your head better be bullet proof!

  • Grograt

    You will also find one of the most helpful, social and friendly communities any where in gaming ( and i certainly have tried a few ). Off course i am biased as this over the last year has become more than an addiction, as my wife says ‘ he is on his car game again, call him after he has killed the chomper ‘

  • Anonymous

    This game sounds a lot like Roadwar 2000, where you don’t just have one person, but a group of people as well. I might check this out. I want a game like Autoduel, and this seems the closest too it.