World of Warships

Why removing Deadeye and nerfing Thunderer’s range won’t change the sniping, anti-pushing meta

As you can see by my flair, I've been playing since Closed Beta, and while I'm not any kind of unicum or CC, I am a player who loves an aggressive playstyle in virtually all of my ships and has played that way pretty successfully in over 11k Random battles. I've noticed, as I'm sure a lot of you have, that the aggressive playstyle is disappearing in game, and even those of us who still try to apply it tend to have worse and worse results over time. Let's talk about that.

By now I assume many people have had a chance to watch PotatoQuality's


. If you haven't, I think it's worth a quick watch.

I think PQ is almost certainly correct that the removal of Deadeye will have no discernible effect on how much/whether battleships push. And without battleships pushing, cruisers can't push. And without cruisers pushing, destroyers who push tend to overextend and die, nobody is willing to cap, and the game turns into a 20km snipefest where 18 minutes in you still have full-health battleships exchanging salvos from maximum range. Not every game is like this… but a really disappointing (and at least anecdotally, increasing) number are. Unfortunately, I think virtually nothing WG has proposed so far will change that fact.

The problem is, Wargaming keeps adding danger and risk to the game without any way to counter it, and in fact regularly nerfs defensive potential either directly or indirectly.

Think about all of the new gimmicks they've added in the last few years. Radar. Carriers. Torpedo Reload Booster. Main Battery Reload Booster. High-ROF flamethrowers like Harugumo and Smolensk and Mainz and Colbert (which reach HE DPM heights that the king of that crown at release, the Des Moines, could only dream of). Hard-to-detect deepwater torps. Rapid-firing extremely fast torps on the EU DDs. Single-firing torps on the UK lines. More and more highly accurate large-caliber guns that overmatch the armor on more and more of the ships in the game while being able to reliably hit from very long range. Battleship guns with very high HE penetration and fire chance.

I'm not arguing that these are bad additions to the game in isolation; they add variety, gameplay options, and many of them are indeed downright fun. But every single one of those is primarily an offensive tool that makes ships more fun by making them better at doing damage in some way. Compare that list above to how many defensive tools have they added to the game in the same timeframe. Smoke got nerfed (by adding the smoke firing penalty). Stealth firing got removed (which don't get me wrong, it needed to be). DFAA and AA control (and AA in general) got mega-nerfed. Crawling smoke and fuel smoke got added — but the smoke firing nerf plus the ubiquity of radar means that even these are nowhere near as effective as they would have been when the game was released. RPF means even being undetected won't fully keep you safe.

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Damage is king. The two most prominent numbers in the UI that change over the course of a game are how much damage you've done, and your own hit points. Seeing big damage numbers is exciting; firing salvos that don't have any effect is not. So it's completely understandable why tools that help players do more damage more often get added — and why players are so reluctant to make plays that mean those big damage numbers happen to them.

There are no consumables or skills that will let you counter radar or hydro, let alone MBRB. Torps, including TRB, are semi-counterable by hydro and skills, but only semi. There's no way to make your armor more effective against enemy shells or more resistant to overmatch, no real way to make yourself safe from enemy planes (the available mods and skills just don't make a difference against high tier carriers – you either have high enough base AA that you're immune, or you have low enough base AA that nothing will help enough; there's little to no in-between), only very limited ways to make yourself harder to hit or harder to set on fire or flood or better at surviving them, no way to really optimize most ships for aggressive action into the face of multiple enemies (RU BBs, especially with Kuznetsov, appear to have been an experiment in this direction, but if so it was a failed one – the playerbase seemed to regard a battleship that could shrug off damage to that extent as "completely broken" even though they are relatively easily citadeled and vulnerable to torpedoes when played aggressively)<1>.

As a further note, I think overmatch specifically is a terrible concept for the game; that plus the incredibly high fire chances many ships have mean there is no reliable way to avoid damage except by not getting hit — which is impossible if you try to play aggressively and push. Overmatch means that there's little penalty for big-gun battleships sitting way back, because pen dropoff over distance is completely irrelevant to them in many cases. It also means that armor angling is often pointless or unreliable.

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All of this means the game is essentially an ever increasing escalator of risk, and the only sensible evolution of the meta is to be more risk averse in order to not die immediately. Being focused — no matter what ship you're in — by 4 or 5 enemy ships will literally kill you in a minute or less no matter what you do because they have so many more tools to apply damage than they did 3 years ago. There is still a "sweet spot" where skilled players can make limited aggressive plays if they have support (almost always meaning a good division) or a good plan for getting out if they get focused too hard. That sweet spot is progressively shrinking; imagine how Dutch CA airstrikes can remove options from aggressive players for mitigating risk when in close, for example. And tools like that only punish aggressive plays, because they literally don't work farther than 9-10km from the target.

WG either doesn't understand that adding offensive tools repeatedly without adding balancing defensive tools makes aggressive/risky play more and more difficult and unrewarding, OR (and this is more likely in my opinion) they don't care because the only way to drive increasing spend from their playerbase (and they have to drive increasing spend per-player, because the playerbase is not growing at this point) is to ratchet up the "fun", which they define as "game influence", which means power creep, which means more offensive tools.

The only way the meta can or will shift back to favoring more aggressive play in randoms is if that kind of play is either more survivable or more rewarding than staying back sniping. But looking at WG's recent designs — Deadeye, the slow death of secondary builds (Napoli memes notwithstanding), crawling smoke on BBs who have smoke firing penalties of 15+km, MBRB and overmatch all over the place, the removal of survivability skills from the cruiser tree and making battleship survivability skills more expensive — there's not any apparent move towards increasing tools to succeed via aggressive play, and I don't see anything on the horizon to indicate they want it to be rewarding either. (For example, increasing the reward associated with tanking damage, or adding a reward for the amount of hit points' damage taken or healed in a given game.)

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I'd love to see some indications/ideas from Wargaming to make aggressive play fun and worthwhile again, because I've been playing this game for almost six years now and I have had a lot of great games and made a lot of great memories, but… it's just not fun to log in and play games where nothing bigger than a Shimakaze can successfully cross the midline of the map most of the time.

<1> For an example of what I mean — imagine there was an option for the tier 9 slot of an item that gave you something like a three-minute duration DCP, with a three-minute cooldown. That would give battleships and heavy cruisers the ability to absolutely shoulder their way through a defensive position (you'd be immune to fires and floods and once you finished your push you could consolidate, have your team push in to support, and spend some time recovering some of the hit points you spent taking it) but then you'd need a couple minutes of downtime for cooldowns. You'd be sacrificing some overall utility (range or ROF) for the slot, but it would help counter just how impossible it is to push into an enemy force, because doing that right now means you either save your DCP and die to fires/floods, or DCP the first couple fires/floods and then just get set on fire again 30 or 45 seconds later… and die to fires/floods, or turn out, expose your broadside, and die to direct damage.

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