First Impressions: de Grasse

The following is a PREVIEW of the upcoming release of de Grasse, a ship provided to me by Wargaming. This is how the ship appeared in the testing period up to and including the publish date of May 22nd, 2017. The statistics and performance discussed here are still being evaluated by Wargaming’s developers and do not necessarily represent how the ship will appear when released.
The USS Kidd has been the talk of the town.  Even the other CCs seem more focused upon the new destroyer than some middling offer for the French navy.  I can’t blame them — USS Kidd is a Fletcher at tier 8 which is pretty cool.  However, my first impressions of Kidd were more than a little tainted by all of the talk I heard from the other community contributors, which doesn’t lend itself well to writing one of these articles.  So, I’m going to start with a ship I know very little about except its post-war, anti-aircraft design.
While I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to see a ship with the same specialization as USS Atlanta, I quickly put that behind me to begin this review of the new tier 6 French Cruiser, de Grasse.
First Impressions
 Wow.  I mean, I love dazzle patterns but this was very much a shock when I clicked on her.  The first three things that went through my mind were zebras, the old Weebls Kenya song and a Trojan ad. Colour me interested right from the word go.
Without looking at port stats, it’s evident she’s a nine-gun light cruiser (it would shock me if those were anything bigger than 152mm).  She looks light on torpedoes, and light on AA and secondary guns.
Upgrades, Consumables and Captain Build
I’ll take my usual cruiser build for this one.  Main Armaments Modification 1Aiming Systems Modification 1Damage Control Systems Modification 1 and Steering Gears Modification 2.  We’ll see if I learn to regret not bumping up her AA gun range when we get into a match.
For consumables, she looks interesting.  There are four slots.  Naturally, Damage Control Party is in the first slot.  Next comes Defensive Fire which can be swapped out for Hydroacoustic Search — nice to have the choice.  I’ll go with Hydro as what  few AA guns I can see on deck look to be rather small caliber.  Next is Engine Boost.  Why was I surprised to see this there?  It’s French, Mouse — wake up.  Last is a Catapult Fighter.  So nothing really out of the ordinary with her consumables.
 I’m going to borrow my Dunkerque commander to captain this.  He has a modest 10 skill points in Priority Target, Adrenaline Rush, Superintendent and Concealment Expert which shouldn’t be too shabby for this first foray.
Alright, let’s get stuck in!
Positive Perceptions
  • Fast turret rotation
  • Tight turning circle
  • Good range for a light cruiser
  • Decent rate of fire
  • Sets fires nicely
  • AP isn’t awful
  • Torpedoes have nice reach.
Negative Perceptions
  • Her Concealment isn’t good.
  • Bad gun angles
  • DPM doesn’t feel particularly spectacular
  • Only a small torpedo armament
  • Her durability is also not good.  She loses modules in a hurry.
  • She doesn’t seem to be very fast.
  • AA power feels “meh”.


Weapon System Feels
 The first thing that I noticed when the game loaded in was how quickly de Grasse’s guns rotated.  While not quite Atlanta levels, they certainly weren’t sluggish.  After having spent so much time in Battleships, this was a warm welcome.  Her rate of fire feels about what I would expect for a tier 6 Light Cruiser — in and around the 7.5s to 8s reload rate.  Both her AP and HE shells performed as expected with a decent chance to start fires and quite capable of causing citadel hits against exposed cruisers at medium close ranges.  She’s also got the range to sit back and snipe.
It didn’t feel like she spat out a massive amount of damage, though.  This may be hinged to not having Inertial Fuse for HE Shells on this particular Captain (I really should have one for my French Cruisers).  I also felt I was struggling a bit with her firing angles — like her guns couldn’t get as far over as I was expecting them to, though this may have been a consequence of being under manoeuvres all of the time and losing track of where my bow an stern were.
Weapon System Facts and Figures
  •  De Grasse’s guns rotate at 12º per second (15s for 180º) which is hella quick.  This explains a lot of the comfort of her gun handling.  The only down side is that her rear turret  has a 288º firing arc.  Her forward gun turrets have even more limited arcs of fire with 284º and 270º.  This means you have to expose a lot of side to bring it to bear, especially on the retreat.  This explains why I was taking so much damage while trying to return fire with all three gun turrets.
  • With a 16.2km range on her main battery and a 9km range on her torpedoes de Grasse has decent reach for a light cruiser.
  • In terms of putting out damage, her shells do 3,300 and 2,200 alpha with a 12% chance of starting fires — this is identical to Budyonny’s shell damage but with Cleveland’s fire chance and reload rate.  She so it’s the best of both worlds.  This puts her ahead of the Soviet cruiser in terms of DPM and fire chance (though well behind the American cruiser with only nine guns to Cleveland’s twelve).  Her guns are not high velocity though.  As a tier 6 ship, Inertial Fuse for HE Shells is crucial to getting the most out of these weapons within her matchmaking spread.  Without it, you’re more dependent on fires to damage big targets.
  • De Grasse only has a single triple launcher on each side of the ship, limiting how much damage she can do with her fish.  These hit for 14,833 damage with a 60 knot top speed and a 1.3km detection range.  They have a painfully long reload rate of 90s for being such a light armament.
  • De Grasse has three secondary gun turrets with two guns each mounted rearward.  These have good reach (5.0km) and a great rate of fire (15rpm).  It’s a shame she doesn’t get many of them.

Her guns will surprise you.  They have a higher rate of fire than la Galissonniere with better reach yet the same shell performance.  This makes her better than the tier 6 tech-tree counterpart yet it doesn’t make her overpowered on the whole.

Agility Feels
This felt like a bit of a mixed bag.  De Grasse has a great rate of turn and she’s very responsive to her rudder.  But she doesn’t feel very fast.  I only glanced at my top speed a couple of times during game play when I was trying to open up the distance on my pursuers and it felt a struggle to get the engine speed up over 30 knots, especially after turning violently.  As ever, the French Engine Boost is nice to have but it didn’t wow me.

Agility Facts and Figures
  •  De Grasse has a top speed of 33.5 knots.  This is at least faster than la Galissonniere, but it’s certainly not going to win any prizes in a race, especially not when compared to Molotov, Duca d’Aosta or Budyonny.  With her Engine Boost engaged and driving flat out, she can get this up to 38.5 knots which is much more impressive.  At least she’s not a slug like la Galissonniere.
  • In a turn, de Grasse’s speed drops down to 26.8 knots.  Most other cruiser at her tier bleed 20% of their maximum speed while in a turn (except for Leander and Perth), so this value is normal.  What is exceptional is how long she holds onto her speed.  It takes over 38s for de Grasse to fully decelerate, meaning she preserves her speed for longer than most ships.
  • While she felt manoeuvrable, de Grasse has a turning circle of 690m and a rudder shift time of 8.8s.  This makes her rather average all things considered.  Her initial rate of turn is 5.3º per second, accelerating to 6.0º per second once she finishes decelerating.  This isn’t bad, but it’s not spectacular, placing her well behind ships like Perth, Leander and Duca d’Aosta.  She’s best compared to Cleveland and la Galissonniere.
Other Stuff Feels
She’s huge, fragile and vulnerable.  De Grasse feels like a large cruiser.  Dimension wise, she feels much larger than some of the other light cruisers I’ve played recently, like Duca d’Aosta.  For all of her size, she doesn’t seem to have a lot of hit points (or I was getting killed especially quickly).  Citadel penetrations are common, even while angled.  She loses her steering gears and engine often, as well as getting her guns or torpedoes knocked out.
The biggest problem, really, is that she has a huge surface detection range.  This isn’t a cruiser you want up on the front lines, doing some scouting.  She’s definitely more akin to the Soviet Cruisers in that you want to keep back on the second line, let others absorb the attention and pew pew from the rear.
Other Stuff Facts and Figures
  •  De Grasse’s citadel isn’t fully submersed.  It peeks up over the water’s surface beneath her #2 turret and extends well back, stopping just before her deck mounted secondaries.  Beneath the surface, it continues, covering both her #1 and #3 turrets too.  Her forward magazine, while completely submerged, is especially large and wide.  Expect to take frequent (and catastrophic) citadel hits in this ship.
  • Her citadel has at best 100mm + 18mm of protection provided shells pass through her belt. This is sufficient to bounce shells when angled, but only at close range.  The sides of and extremities of de Grasse are 16mm thick which is proof against all cruiser-caliber weapons (short of Graf Spee).  Once you encounter anything with 230mm guns or larger, her armour falls apart.  All HE shells can penetrate her reliably.
  • At best, de Grasse can get her surface detection range down to 11.4km.  This gives her a comparable surface detection range to Cleveland but it’s a far cry from ships like Duca d’Aosta, Perth, Leander and Nurnberg.
  • De Grasse has 31,200 hit points, demonstrating that she has a rather large displacement.  She’s a big target and a large ship.  This does give her more hit points that most of the other tier 6 cruisers, but she’s going to be an easy ship to spot and damage.
  • De Grasse has a whole swathe of different sized AA guns.  This gives her a combined DPS of 66dps with a maximum reach of 5km where 45dps can be brought to bear.  Both her main battery (!) and secondary 100mm battery are dual purpose.  It’s a shame they don’t have more punch.  In theory, with the proper set of skills, her long range AA DPS could be boosted to 108dps to 140dps between Manual Fire Control for AA Guns and Basic Fire Training against focused targets.  Coupled with Defensive Fire, this could spike up to 420dps which is downright respectable.  It’s no wonder it felt meh to me with no specialized skills or modules to boost them.

 Premature Conclusions
De Grasse is the ship that la Galissonniere used to be during testing, except she’s even better.  She has better range, she’s faster, she has a heavier torpedo armament.  Most importantly, de Grasse preserves a great rate of fire — something that ended up being a casualty in la Galissonniere’s case.  De Grasse’s current gimmick is that she has no gimmicks.  She’s been largely built around being a large, squishy light cruiser that poops out rainbow arcs of high explosive shells and makes people feel the burn.

 It’s refreshing on the one hand to be play testing a ship without gimmicks.  On the other, I am holding my breath.  La Galissonniere didn’t survive with the current combination of range and rate of fire.  Will de Grasse?  That alone will be her selling point, I suppose, if she can hold onto what she has currently.  This won’t be enough to rocket her to the top of the pile when it comes to the power level of tier 6 cruisers.  De Grasse cannot unseat Budyonny or Graf Spee from primacy at their tier. She doesn’t have the ubiquity of the Leander-class either.  She cannot trade fire with a Cleveland and expect to dominate.  But she’s definitely solid.
It’s strange, but I’m not terribly excited about de Grasse.  Maybe after so many gimmick boats, I am a little blase towards anything that doesn’t pair up some unique combination of consumables, weapons or modules.  De Grasse is a good ship in her current build, but she’s not a terribly exciting ship.  As a Captain Trainer, she’ll do just fine as she is, but part of me not-so-secretly wishes for a little more pizazz.  You know what?  If they just baked something into her awesome premium camouflage, I think that would scratch the itch for me — a little more Captain training, perhaps?  Something innocent.
De Grasse feels good to go as is.
Angry YouTuber Assessment:
GARBAGE – Grossly uncompetitive and badly in need of buffs.
Mehbote – Average ship. Has strengths and weaknesses. Doesn’t need buffs to be viable, but certainly not advantageous.
Gudbote – A strong ship that has obvious competitive strengths and unique features that make it very appealing.
OVERPOWERED – A ship with very clear advantages over all of its competitors and unbalancing the game with its inclusion.

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