“The aeroplane is an invention of the Devil and will never play any part in such a serious business as the defence of the nation.”
— Sam Hughes, Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence, at the start of the First World War.
Many of you will never have heard of Sam Hughes, but in Ol’ Pappy’s homeland of Canada, he’s notorious for numerous reasons.
A puffed-up blowhard of a man, Hughes bullied his way into politics in the early 1900s, crushing his opponents with a shock-and-awe combination of bluster and bombast. After the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Steele was placed in charge of the country’s defense.
It was a bad idea. This is a man who invented a shovel with a hole in the blade, which made the dirt fall through — and then promptly sold the shovels by the thousands to his own government at huge profit; a man who championed something called the Ross rifle, which regularly jammed in muddy and wet conditions, i.e., in the trenches where the actual war was being fought, because his friend made the rifles. So terrible was the Ross rifle, Canadian soldiers would regularly scour the battlefield for fallen Allied soldiers, just so they could use their British-made Lee-Enfields instead of the Canadian Ross rifle.
Another of Sir Sam’s biggest flubs was his failure to recognize the potential of air power in warfare. Hughes thought WWI would be won like all the previous wars of the late 19th Century: with heavy cannons, cavalry charges, and boots on the ground. To Hughes — and to be fair, to many other generals of that age and era — airplanes were frivolous, ridiculous things, buzzing around like nuisance flies while real men did the heavy lifting below.
But within two short years, all major militaries were pushing for the creation of air forces, and the air war was increasingly vital for victory.
Flying aces like Germany’s Red Baron or Canada’s Billy Bishop became celebrities on the Home Front, part of a growing legion of “the knights of the air.” Whether it was providing aerial surveillance and intelligence for military planners, conducting bombing raids, or engaging in dogfights, pilots, and their flying machines, turned the tide of many battles.
The same can be said today for War Robots.
Since the earliest days of the game, the ability to take to the air, to seek and hold the high ground, and to survey the battlefield and assess the enemy’s weaknesses have given high-flying pilots the upper hand.
Much has changed since the early days of Walking War Robots, when only Rogatkas and Griffins could jump. Just like in the real world, where air battles have progressed over the decades from pilots in open cockpits armed with hand pistols, to today’s air forces with stealth fighter bombers and laser-guided missiles, the flying machines of today’s War Robots have evolved.
Each member of the War Robots Air Force has its pros and cons. Some were the Sopwith Camel or Spitfires of their time, but have since been eclipsed by deadlier and more powerful machines. But all jumping or soaring bots can help to turn the tide of a battle.
Introduced in June of 2014, the lowly Cossack once populated the hangars of most pilots in the game’s earliest days. Equipped with a single medium weapon slot and the ability to hop around like a methed-out grasshopper, Cossack was a revelation to pilots used to trudging through the trenches of Springfield in their Destriers and Pattons. A beacon-capper with bite, the build came into its own with the creation of the Orkan missile weapon. Suddenly, the grasshopper could sting like a bee. While virtually no one runs Cossacks anymore, it deserves its place in the WRAF hall of fame as the game’s true flying originator.
Many of you will have no memories of the glorious Rogatka era, before the introduction of plasma and energy-based weapons. Introduced in September 2014, the Rogatka instantly changed the game. Packing two medium weapon slots, and boasting decent land speed and the ability to jump barriers and obstacles, our green friend ushered in the era of the “death button” — the ability to kill an enemy in a single weapons volley. Two Orkans was generally enough firepower to cripple or kill most enemies, making battles between two Rogatka pilots a thing of deadly beauty, like two mongooses leaping and darting in a dance of death.
If Rogatka hinted at the potential of aerial warfare, then Griffin, with its overwhelming combination of firepower, health and durability, is the bot that transformed the game. Introduced in January 2015, Griffins quickly came to dominate. Equipped with Molots and Molot Ts, Griffins could annihilate long range enemies. This was prior to the great ballistics weapons nerf, and a Punisher Griffin back then could chew through close-range enemies like a buzz saw. Tulumbas and CRV Pins were quickly adopted by Russian pilots, hence the term “Russian Death Button,” while North America pilots gravitated to Pinatas and Orks, a build known rightly as the “death button. With the introduction of Tarans and Magnums in September 2015, Griffins became even more dominant.
Ever since 2016, when robots were introduced with special abilities such stealth, and built-in anciles and hard shields, WR has been in a state of constant escalation when it comes to new robots.
Today’s flying machines all boast a host of special abilities that give them an edge, especially on maps with plenty of obstacles and obstructions where the ability to jump or hover is an advantage. And while each of the following three bots can be equipped with all manner of weapons, here are the best builds for each:
What’s big and red and likely to leave you dead if you face it? If you guessed Inquisitor, then congrats, because with the combination of stealth and jump, Inquisitor can make even the strongest-willed pilot break down and confess his sins. The best builds for Inquisitor are likely Ember + Tarans, and Ember + Orks. That said, it takes timing to use your stealth and jump to full effect. Jump at the wrong time, and you become a sitting duck for Dash bots packing Shocktrains and other OP weapons.
When Pixonic announced that it was creating a “flying bot,” many veteran pilots were skeptical. With so many long-range weapons out there, we guessed flying bots would easily be targeted and taken down. And it’s true, to a large extent. The trick with Hover is to not just float around like a dummy, but to use the hover ability to access hard-to-reach high-level terrain. Equipped with Aphids and Vortex, Hovers hiding on high perches can use their verticality to hit with the full impact of their missiles. And, armed with Shocktrains and say, a Gekko or Arbalest, Hovers can use obstructions to their advantage, employing a hit and hide strategy.
This member of the WR flying circus offers endless possibilities for pilots. Its combination of stealth and massive jump makes it a perfect ambush predator when armed with Orks or Tarans. Four Shocktrains are devastating; four Scourge, withering. Even four Hydras turn what is really an annoyance of a weapon into a game changer. But be careful — Spectre is a glass cannon and can easily go down in flames if the jump ability is mistimed.
The latest aerial assassin, Mercury brings the pain when it crashes to earth, thanks to its special ability, Helldive. Equipped with one heavy and two light weapon slots, Mercury goes into stealth mode when it jumps, and can be made to dive straight toward enemies on the ground at any point during the leap. Upon impact, it detonates an explosion that damages anyone within range of the blast. Since it places itself in harm’s way after leaping, it’s best to equip Mercury with weapons that deal tremendous damage in a short period of time; good weapons pairings include: Thunder + Gusts, Thunder + Pinatas, or Ember + Magnums.
As the game continues to progress, it’s certain that more and more bots will be inducted into the WRAF. Just like hot air balloons and gliders and biplanes gave way to today’s hypersonic fighter jets tomorrow’s WRAF will likely make today’s flying machines seem like paper airplanes.
So pilots, head to your hangars. It’s time to take to the skies — and make your damage scores soar!