ShipComrade

Premium Ship Review #119: Charleston

The following is a review of USS Charleston, the tier III American cruiser.  This ship was not provided to me by Wargaming.  I purchased it all by myself.  Lemme tell you, it was a real pain trying to get access to it too.

  Seriously, this damn thing initially had a limited release-run given away to new players.  However, no one I talked to had any idea how these players were selected because it wasn’t just any-old new players that were receiving her.  Now compound this with trying to get ME access and it was a bloody mess.

  This was back in November.  We’re now creeping up on March and stats are changing every other patch.  It’s hard to keep track.  Anyway, this should be considered current with patch 0.8.0.3 from the end of February 2019.  Be aware that her stats may change in the future.

Charleston is designed to be a new player’s first taste of a premium vessel. She’s ostensibly the tier III St.Louis tech tree ship painted blue — about as safe a purchase you could make short of gift-wrapping a Bogatyr…

…except they did gift-wrap a Bogatyr in 2017 and it was a steaming pile.  Granted Oleg is much better now but that’s only because they carpet bombed some key ships at tier III with nerfs to make her more palatable.  Don’t get me wrong:  Oleg still sucks, but at least you’re not actively hating yourself after the ride.

But this review isn’t about Oleg.  This is about Charleston, the Noo Bloo Saint Loo.

PROS

  • Enormous hit point pool for a tier III cruiser.
  • Massive broadside of eight 152mm guns.
  • Easily able to shift fire from port to starboard.
  • Good range of 12.5km.
  • It’s a premium St.Louis — one of the most reliable and powerful cruisers, tier for tier, in the game.

CONS

  • Slow with a top speed of 22 knots.
  • Only 1.8 sigma on her guns as opposed to 2.0 for most cruisers.
  • Terrible anti-aircraft firepower with no flak bursts.
  • Very large surface and aerial detection for a tier III cruiser.
  • It’s a premium St.Louis — she’s not offering you anything more than you’d find in the tech tree.

Overview

Skill Floor:  SIMPLE / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling:  Low / MODERATE / High / Extreme

St. Louis has a faster rudder shift time over Charleston.  This is the only performance difference between the two that I’ve been able to find.  That’s it.  You can add on some economic differences and her permanent camo but all other metrics are identical.
Protected cruisers are some of the simplest ships to play in World of Warships.  They’re not my first choice for teaching players the basics — you’ll learn how to aim and maybe how to dodge torpedoes but that’s about it.  It’s only with an appreciation of higher-end player-skills, such as exploiting terrain, engagement distances and target selection that players can differentiate themselves in terms of performance with Charleston.  As such these ships are only really useful for instructing the absolute basics of gunnery and navigation yet nothing else.
Charleston is defined by her huge slug of hit points and her solid damage output. This gives her a BEST and GOOD rating in Defense and Offense respectively. Her agility and anti-aircraft firepower are scarcely worth noting. She has some of the worst surface and aerial detection at her tier, though, making her BAD overall for concealment and vision control (which I’m still calling Refrigerator because of Lert).
iTQteVr.png– One of, if not the worst at its tier. This is a pronounced weakness.
jr7vbn9.png – Middle of the pack at its tier. Not terrible, but not terribly good either.
OzA23Hz.png – Has a significant advantage over her tier mates. A solid, competitive performer.
G8OWSR4.png – No other ship at its tier does this as well as this ship.

Options

There’s not much to say here so we’ll skip the usual format.

  • Charleston has one consumable – a Damage Control Party.
  • She has two upgrade slots.  The first should be filled with Main Armaments Modification 1 and the second should be player’s choice, though I’d default to Steering Gears Modification 1 in an effort to keep your rudder intact. With all of the HE shells being thrown about, it’s likely to break often.  There’s no wrong choice here though.
  • And her camouflage is standard Type 10 Camouflage, providing the usual 50% experience gains on top of a 10% reduction to service costs.  Enemy dispersion is increased by 4% when shooting at her and her surface detection range drops by 3%.
Two camouflages in one. If you complete the ‘American Cruisers’ collection, you unlock an alternate palette for Charleston, turning her from blue to off-white.  New players won’t have access to this for a loooong time, so if you see a white Charleston, it’s probably me or another a seal clubber.  Make sure to say ‘hi’ before you show us no mercy.

Firepower & Defense

Main Battery:  Fourteen 152mm rifles with one on the bow, one on the stern and twelve in casemates divided evenly on either side of the ship.
Secondary Battery:  Eighteen 76.2mm rifles in nine casemates per side.

Hit Points: 29,500
Maximum Citadel Protection: 102mm belt + 76mm turtleback
Minimum Bow and Deck Armour:  6mm

I’m smooshing these two sections together with good reason.  The St. Louis-class cruisers are some of the best “battleships” at their tier with a combination of good survivability and excellent firepower.  Charleston loves it when enemy ships are dumb enough to try and trade fire with her.  There are few ships she can’t bully.  Lemme show you why:

Why You Bully Me?

Bogatyr is listed here using her upgraded 130mm guns instead of her stock 152mm.  The St.Louis-class doesn’t quite top the DPM charts at tier 3, but it gets close enough. Don’t worry about Kolberg. The apparently monstrous damage output of her guns is tempered by horrible ballistics and terrible penetration. She needs all of the help she can get.
“The Best Battleship at tier III” doesn’t quite hold water when you compare her effective hit points to an actual battleship. I stuck South Carolina in here to show the starting point of tier III battleships (I could have gone a little lower by using her stock hull, but whatevs). Don’t get me wrong, the St. Louis-class has a enormous chunk of HP for a tier III cruiser, but it doesn’t compare to an actual dreadnought’s. Thankfully, most dreadnoughts won’t be running with all of the potential recovery perks … well, unless someone’s seal clubbing. Moreover, short of meaty citadel hits, battleships cannot keep up with Charleston’s damage output.

When you look at those two charts, it readily becomes apparent that Charleston is well setup to out trade just about any other cruiser she comes across.  It’s only some of the Russian cruisers that present any sort of competition.  This is facilitated by a lack of precision for her guns.  Charleston, like St. Louis, has only 1.8 sigma compared to the nominal 2.0 sigma found on other cruisers.  You generally won’t feel the difference unless you’re trading at long range.

Even then,  taking on a full health St.Louis-class isn’t advised unless it’s meant to be a game-winning play.  Anything that crosses Charleston is going to come out gutted.  Turning fights into slug-matches is exactly the American heavyweight’s forte.  With guns spread evenly down each side, switching fire from left to right is a snap, mitigating the dangers of close-range ambushes so commonplace on the claustrophobic, low-tier maps.  Charleston rewards you for firing and manoeuvring, turning about to foil enemy fire and torpedo spreads.

IFHE Need Not Apply

The armour profile of low tier ships will appear strange to anyone more comfortable with higher tiered matches.  Cruisers have almost no protection whatsoever.  Contrarily, most battleships have dispersed armour schemes  — making them simultaneously incredibly bouncy while still having very convenient holes to play with.  The extremities of battleships within Charleston’s matchmaking spread do not exceed 19mm making the need for anything more than the 25mm of penetration from her HE shells largely superfluous.  However, these same battleships have decks and upper hulls far exceed this armour value, with large areas with armour so thick that even with the IFHE skill, Charleston wouldn’t inflict any damage.

Charleston’s armour piercing rounds are a bit of a mixed bag. While they are some of the most effective cruiser AP shells at their tier, their penetration performance drops off quickly over range.  Most cruisers within her matchmaking spread have less than 100mm of citadel protection, making her AP shells effective at blowing out machine spaces at ranges up to 8km or so.  This range is generally a good rule of thumb for engaging battleships with AP as well provided they’re offering up a flat broadside.  Aim for the upper hull you’ll see more reliable damage than trying to find the few squishy spots with her HE.

Of course, you could elect to ignore AP entirely and simply hope to set the ship on fire.  While this will work (sorta), it’s leaning on the hope that your opponents will mismanage their Damage Control Party.  Charleston is only a passable fire starter.  In this manner she pales compared to the Russian ships at this tier and it’s probably the only fault of her weapons.

Compared to her tier mates, Charleston is only a modest firebug.  Again, Bogatyr is listed here with her 130mm guns.

Her own protection scheme demands respect from AP slinging ships.  She has an impressive combination of a 102mm belt and 76mm turtleback — more than enough armour protection to keep out most cruiser-caliber AP shells even at point blank ranges.  What’s more, there’s a hidden 51mm sloped plate that runs the mid-line of the ship from bow to stern, preventing overmatch from any large caliber AP shells trying to strike through her citadel roof.  This doesn’t give her any kind of immunity to citadel damage from battleships — they’ll happily blow out your machine spaces if you give them a chance.

Her defense falls apart in the face of HE spam, however.  While her 102mm external belt will shatter its share of incoming rounds, the 6mm and 13mm of external structural plate on the rest of the ship will give away penetration damage like no one’s business.

Best Battleship

In the end, Charleston is very well armed and very well protected for a cruiser. She has comparable firepower to the Bogatyr-class cruisers with a better protection scheme and a bigger chunk of hit points.  Given the teething troubles of battleships at low tiers, she stands a good chance of giving novice dreadnought players nightmares.  You don’t quite have the Russian flame throwers going for you, but you’ve got everything else on your side.

Oh, she also has secondaries but they suck.

Charleston’s citadel protection is excellent for a cruiser. The rest of her armour is very soft. On the plus side, poorly aimed battleship AP shells will over penetrate. On the negative side, everyone spams HE at low tiers…

Summary

  • Tough for a cruiser because of her trolly armour vs AP shells and big hit point pool.  Her durability does not compare to an actual battleship, though, and she’s highly vulnerable to HE of all gun calibers.
  • Very solid damage output.
  • She’s only passable fire starter for a cruiser.  She’s not bad, but she’s not a flamethrower.

Firepower Evaluation: OzA23Hz.png
What it would have needed to be G8OWSR4.png:  I’d have given it to her if she could have topped the fire-setting at her tier along with her solid DPM.

Defense Evaluation: G8OWSR4.png
What would have to happen to DOWNGRADE to OzA23Hz.pngThe St.Louis-class is pretty safe here.  Something bigger and fatter would have to come along — or something middling with a decent heal and a half decently covered citadel.  That’s why Caledon didn’t make the mark — her machine spaces are too exposed.

Agility

Top Speed: 22 knots
Port Turning Radius: 450m
Rudder Shift Time:
8.5s
Maximum Rate of Turn at 4/4 Engine Power:
6.1º/s

Low tier cruisers are all wigglebutts.  Charleston is  in great company here with most low tier cruisers able to turn about at 6º/s or more.  Charleston’s gun traverse is fast enough to keep up with said manoeuvres which makes her feel very comfortable to play.  This contrasts with some of the Russian gunships which are in bad need of some WD40 on their gun mounts.

Charleston’s relatively slow speed isn’t much of a handicap.  Lower tier maps are very small.  Her 22 knot top speed is more than sufficient to provide her the ability to flex  as needed or keep up with the pace of battle.

So, other than “twirling Charleston = very yes”, the only other element of note is her rudder shift time.  It’s slower than that of St. Louis which shifts all the way from port to starboard in 6.4s.  Charleston’s is two seconds slower.  That’s it.  That’s the big ol’ difference between the two boats.

Evaluation: jr7vbn9.png
What it would have needed to be OzA23Hz.png:
  More speed.  Her turning radius is fantastic but speed would make all of the difference here.

Anti-Aircraft Defense

Short Range: 27dps between 0.1km and 0.7km

Lemme just dig up a quick jpeg to summarize my feels on Charleston’s AA firepower.  It’s the same one I used on Varyag’s review and I think it’s appropriate:

The difference is, of course, Charleston actually has AA guns while a good third of the tier III cruisers don’t.  It’s a shame that doesn’t mean much.

A handful of 7.62mm machine guns aren’t going to do anything to deter a tier IV aircraft carrier from making repeated runs against Charleston.  Her AA isn’t worth specializing into.  Your ship is an ideal, squishy target for repeated rocket and dive bomber strikes.  Your terrible armour profile means they’ll have no problems stacking damage.  Your only hope to shoot anything down is for an already on-fire aircraft to attempt an attack run on you — so it’s owing more to the enemy CV misplaying than your own AA Defense.

There are two consolations I can offer.  First, as of patch 0.8.0.3, it takes forever for a tier IV aircraft carrier to kill anything.  Second, most of the other cruisers also have crappy AA so it’s not like you’re the juiciest target around.

Those CVs WILL kill you, though, if given enough time.  So don’t make it easy on them.  Go hug a Wyoming if they’re bothering you.

Charleston getting bombed by Langley’s dive bombers. Note that tracer firing at the aircraft overhead with a single ineffective “pew”.  This says a lot about the effectiveness of low-tier anti-aircraft firepower and none of it good.

Evaluation: jr7vbn9.png
What it would have needed to be OzA23Hz.png:
  Not much actually.  This speaks to how terrible most of the AA firepower is at tier III.  She’d just need a couple of medium caliber mounts to toss out some explosions and BAM, she might even be the best at her tier.

Refrigerator

Base Surface Detection: 10.98km
Air Detection Range: 5.1km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 9.59km
Detection Range when Firing in Smoke: 5.04km
Main Battery Firing Range: 
12.5km

You don’t need to know much else about Charleston’s concealment other than this graph. She’s chubby, sharing a surface detection range close to some of the low-tier battleships.  She’s going to be one of the first targets spotted by the enemy team, whether that be with surface ships or aircraft.  Note these aerial detection ranges are new with patch 0.8.0.3 representing a 20% reduction.  Charleston previously had a larger aerial detection range of 6.3km.  I don’t know yet if this change will be permanent.
Evaluation: iTQteVr.png

What it would have needed to be jr7vbn9.png: Greatly reduce that aerial detection or shave off a couple hundred meters off her surface detection.

Playin’ the Blues

Charleston is pretty forgiving when it comes to what skills you stick on her.  A lot of them simply don’t benefit her in any real capacity.  To this end, there’s only a few skills that are particularly good for her while the rest are kinda meh.

  • Priority Target (tier 1) – Letting you know when it’s time to get wiggly because ither a lot of ships are looking at you or when a hidden destroyer just switched from guns to torpedoes and back again.
  • Adrenaline Rush (tier 2) – Increased rate of fire is always good.
  • Demolition Expert (tier 3) – More fire!  Maybe.
  • Vigilance (tier 3) – Help you dodge the attacks of those few destroyers that can launch from stealth.  Maybe.
  • Concealment Expert (tier 4) – Make yourself less of a target.

Final Evaluation

It’s a blue St. Louis with worse rudder shift that you can buy for 15,000 Coal.  What more do you want from me?

Okay, okay, okay.  The tier III meta is one of the more interesting ones found in World of Warships, even if it’s rather simplistic.  All of the battleships can overmatch each other, but the prevalence of extended waterline belts makes bouncing AP shells through angling viable.  There are almost no vision-projecting consumables but destroyer torpedoes are either too short ranged or the maps so claustrophobic that it’s a challenge to remain hidden.   The variety of cruisers is amazing.  They have everything from armoured cruisers to scout-cruisers to destroyer leaders.  Some of the cruisers have durability that almost rivals battleships.  Fire and HE shells are a universal threat to all ships.

It’s unfortunate that low tiers are slapped with the (admittedly justified) label of being a kiddy pool.  I wonder if we’ll ever see a tier III Ranked Sprint season?

For veterans of the game, it may be a bit of a shocker, but the St. Louis-class (including Charleston) are no longer the heavyweight champions at their tier.  The nerfs the class received brought them back into line, with attacks to their sigma and rate of fire. Tier III is a much more comfortable contest now with Aurora and Bogatyr being close competitors with the American giants.  Varyag and Oleg are still unfortunate, but they’re not so far behind that they’re not viable (just don’t spend money on them).  Charleston’s champion-status is also more hotly contested now with some strong battleships to face.  Gone are the days where she could easily out pace and out range a Kawachi or South Carolina and win the crown.  She now contends with more balanced opposition in the form of Nassau, Bellerophon and Turenne (and unbalanced opposition in the form of König Albert).

For me, I have two issues with Charleston.  The first is that she’s a low-tier premium.  She’s great for having fun, derping around in small maps and against (generally) novice opponents and hunting down other seal clubbers.  However, being low tier, she’s not great for earning credits and she doesn’t earn nearly as much experience as higher tiered premiums.  The second is that she offers absolutely nothing different compared to St. Louis except that slower rudder shift.

So the take away is this:  If you earn her for free, awesome and grats to you.  If you have to pay coal for her, you can probably hold off unless you must-must-must collect ’em all.  There’s nothing wrong with Charleston.  She’s a great ship.  We know this because she’s already present in the tech tree under the name St. Louis.

Would I Recommend?

Eh, unless you’re swimming in coal, I’d hold off.

 

  • PVE Battles
    How well does the ship maintain profitability in Co-Op modes and how does she fare against bots?

Yes.  Charleston kicks butt against bots.

  • Random Battle Grinding:
    This includes training captains, collecting free experience, earning credits and collecting signal flags from achievements.

No.  While she does well in Random Battles, if you’re trying to grind credits or captain experience, there are much better choices out there.  Save up your coal and get an Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya instead.

  • For Competitive Gaming:
    Competitive Gaming includes Ranked Battles and other skill-based tournaments. This also includes stat-padding.

No.  Do you know why?  You can’t play in the King of the Sea Tournament with Charleston.  Did you know you can register for that right now?  IT’S SHAMELESS PLUG TIME!

  • For Collectors:
    If you enjoy ship history or possessing rare ships, this section is for you.

Meh.  She was built and steel and served during the first quarter of the 20th Century, including some escort roles in WW1.  She didn’t see combat, however, with most of her cruises being political in nature.

  • For Fun Factor:
    Bottom line: Is the ship fun to play?

Yes.  It’s a St. Louis-class cruiser.  It’s hella fun.

  • What’s the Final Verdict?
    How would the ship rate on an Angry YouTuber scale of Garbage – Meh – Gud – Overpowered?

GARBAGE– I hate it!
Mehbote – An average ship.  Probably forgettable.
Gudbote – The best thing ever.  Totally not overpowered because I like padding my stats in it.
OVERPOWERED – I hate playing against it!

Don’t worry, kids. That’s just ketchup. Maybe.

In Closing

Shut up.  It’s still technically “next week”.  I’m on time.  Really.  Ugh.  I’ll have another due out in a few days time, I hope.  It’s 75% written.  I just have … like … all of the graphics to do.  Which reminds me, I should get started.

patreon_shipcomrade.png

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