The subs are a nice addition to the game so far, even in their “Work in Progress” state. The visuals that have been designed for underwater are outstanding and the controls are concise and easy to use – though still takes some getting used to. Further, the skill necessary to make torpedo hits worth while gives this new ship type a bit more clout that I would have originally thought. You need to play these ships strategically, even more so than with a destroyer due to your fragility, choosing your targets wisely and sneaking up on them correctly. Map awareness will be key in avoiding detection by other ships and aircraft. Once your target has been chosen, you need to predict their behavior for your torpedo line-up, such as with a destroyer, but now you need to ping the bow and stern targets to maximize your damage. While the first ping initiates homing, and the second sends the torpedoes ‘deep’ to avoid the torpedo protection allowing for ‘citadel’ hits, you have also alerted that ship to your presence and incoming torpedoes. That’s where the skill gap will exist. Good players will not only be able to hit each target consistently with 1 ping each, they would have predicted that players reactive maneuvers with the initial torpedo line-up to ensure a solid strike.
Issues with Known & Proposed Changes
There are a number of play and balance issues that currently exist with the submarines. Some of these issues might just have to do with the fact that this is still in testing and the full image of what they will be capable of has not been released. While the others seem to be part of the current design. Below is a short list of what I have noted to be of issue as well as others that were on the test server that I questioned about their current impressions. I’ll also discuss each one of these briefly along with possible and known solution or changes.
- Good against BB’s and CVs Only
- Stacked ping targets
- No real counter to other subs
- No real counter against DDs
- Damaging a sub at periscope depth (with guns)
This was more of an issue that others seemed to have with the submarines, though no specifics were given. However, based on the current mechanics and game play, I would say that 5km for surface detection might be a bit high given the size comparison to destroyers, as an example, as well as their fragility. Though I would not ask for less than 4km surface detection, but perhaps something closer to 4.6 – 4.8km, or at the very least, a detection that is that low attainable though camo and or modules. I would not recommend, however, that submarines have a sub 4km surface detectability, at least at tier 6.
Once again, this was an issue that was brought up by others when questioned with little specifics given. To that point though, detecting a submarine that is anything but fully below the surface is simple enough, though I believe the concern at hand would be in regards to hydroacoustic search as is was designed specifically to detect submarines. In the case of detecting a sub with hydroacoustic search, I would suggest some kind of counter, such as ‘Silent Running’ or 1/4 speed to avoid detection, or at the least a way for a sub to determine if a ship is running hydro. This I believe could be important as the destroyers that are equipped with that consumable, with the current power of depth charges, will easily be able to send a submarine captain to port. While that would be my recommendation, Wargaming has currently stated that detection of subs while fully submerged via hydro will not likely happen and they believe that it would be such a hard counter to submarines and I can certainly agree with that.
Submarines are currently very fragile. While this is likely key to the current envisioned balance, as they stand in testing, if you are spotted, particularly in the late game where your oxygen will be reduced, you’re toast. In this instance, a 15-20% buff to HP might give players a bit more wiggle room.
Good against BB’s and CVs Only
Right now, a sub can realistically only attack battleships and carriers as they are slower and less maneuverable. While your torpedoes can certainly damage every other ship type in game, the likelihood of hitting a destroyer, cruiser or even another sub outside of a point blank strike is slim. This is largely due to the slow speed of the torpedoes paired with the faster speeds and better maneuverability of those ship types. Further, as pings will give away your strike, the only real way to hit is via ‘dumb’ launches.
Stacked ping targets
Part of the effectiveness that a sub has against battleships and CV’s as well as the potential for effectiveness against a cruiser is pinging the ships. While a submarine can ping any ship, hitting both ping targets on a ship sends the torpedoes deep, nullifying any torpedo protection that ship has and, in the case of those three types, giving you a chance at hitting their citadels for full and devastating damage. The issue here is that if the two targets are apparently close on the horizontal plane, such as a steeply angled ship or one that is bow or stern on, it becomes impossible to hit the second target as the first gets in the way. I personally don’t see this as an issue simply due to geometry and other current in-game mechanics. While it is impossible to hit the second target on a completely bow in or stern in target, with an angled target, even steeply angled target, it is possible to hit that second marker, but it will take some skill. That is, I would assume, part of the point as this is supposed to be a very skilled based ship type.
No real defense against DDs
While in testing, a submarine has no counter or defense against a destroyer. Though the destroyer is currently the only surface ship capable of countering a submarine, you have do defense against them if they come after you. However, it is proposed that subs (all vs. certainly tiers vs. certain nations is unknown) will get a unique consumable that will allow them to go to ‘Maximum Depth’ to avoid taking damage from depth charges. This will be huge and quite honestly, should make it into the testing phases sooner rather than later so that players can better gauge how they can counterplay destroyers.
No real counter against other submarines
Similar to the issue with destroyers, a submarine cannot effectively hunt other submarines. While other subs, like you, are vulnerable to attack at either periscope depth or surfaced, any oxygen will allow them to dive below your launched torpedoes making them almost impossible to hit. Historically, the best counter to a submarine was another submarine, that is currently not the case in this most recent test or from anything currently published by Wargaming. What I would recommend is that subs can launch torpedoes while underwater but ONLY at other submarines. Part of this recommendation would be some kind of homing or even player control. If the later were to be introduced, I would also recommend that the control of the torpedoes be the only thing the player has control of. Similar to how the CVs work with their planes.
Damaging a sub at periscope depth
While is is not impossible to damage a submarine at periscope depth, it is certainly on easy, nor is it intuitive where to aim or why one shell did damage when another did not. This could be either a bug, something that needs more tweaking, or intentional design to give a detected destroyer a chance. Only Wargaming knows.
Submarines, even though they were never intended on being introduced into the game, will certainly add new dimension to the game in more than one way. My biggest concerns lie with the interaction that both subs and CVs in their current state will have on the game. It’s bad enough when a player must pay enough attention to not give broadside to another ship, let alone consider what’s about to bomb them from this sky. Add is the addition of submarines and I fear many players will become even more discouraged than they already are. Further to that point, while to potential for damage against a battleship from just 2 torpedoes is balanced by the reload, new battleship players will become increasingly discouraged, particularly at the lower tiers when they take 30-40 damage from a single strike and then get finished of by a CV they have no real counter against. Though they could have maneuvered away from the initial strike, they are still learning and lower tiered battleship are not very maneuverable OR fast. This doesn’t necessarily scream disaster, but it speaks it for sure, particularly if things are done right.
While few details have been release about the unique game more and how it will play, I’m hoping it is at the very least some mix between co-op, randoms and operations where there are clear objectives as well as bots and real players on BOTH sides. If not that, then an Operations type game mode with all the like rewards but is strictly PvP. More incentive to play (more data points!) with the rewards but also allows for the human element which will give a better representation of the balance or how to properly balance submarines. Just my thoughts. Let me know what you think of the subs whether from what you’ve read here, what you’ve seen on streams or YouTube, or if you have played in the beta test, what your thoughts are from that. You can either comment here or join me on our Discord https://discord.gg/8pnGgXX