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Premium Ship Review #141 – London

The following is a review of London, the tier VI British heavy cruiser.  This ship was kindly provided to me by Wargaming for review purposes.  To the best of my knowledge, the performance and statistics discussed in this review are current as of patch 0.9.1.  Please be aware that the ship will change in the future (like, it’s guaranteed).

Quick Summary:   A British heavy cruiser with smoke.  Effectively, she’s the chubby, slower Exeter I was wishing for from last year.  She uses a mix of British destroyer and cruiser consumables.

PROS

  • Smaller citadel area than you would expect.
  • Powerful main battery armament of eight 203mm guns.
  • Heavy torpedo armament with torpedoes that may be single-fired.
  • Access to a (weird) Repair Party consumable.
  • Access to a Smoke Generator consumable.
  • Her Hydroacoustic Search has a very long active period of 3 minutes.

CONS

  • Painfully short main battery gun range of 13.4km.
  • Very low DPM on main battery guns.
  • Low top speed, large turning radius — she feels like a heavy cruiser.
  • Most of her AA firepower is very short ranged.
  • Her Smoke Generator has a short emission period, making it easy to overshoot her own cover before the ship comes to a stop.
  • Her Hydroacoustic Search is very short ranged.
  • Her Repair Party is severely limited.

Overview

Skill Floor:  Simple / CASUAL/ Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling:  Low / Moderate / HIGH / Extreme

London should be a harder ship to play than she is.  For a novice player, her short range, long reload time and poor handling are all marks against her.  However, the presence of her Repair Party and Smoke Generator largely alleviate any challenges presented by this ship.

For an expert player, London is almost (ALMOST) a dream ship.  It’s her lack of speed and range that really holds her back her carry potential and then only just.  She has an excellent suite of consumables which, when properly used and abused, allows her to pull off all sorts of shenanigans.  You’d think Wargaming would learn to stop putting smoke on HE-spamming cruisers, but whatever.

Options

Consumables

London’s consumables are pure weirdness, being derived largely from British Destroyer versions.

  • Her Damage Control Party is normal, at least.  Unlimited charges, 90s/60s reset timer and an active period of 5 seconds — everything here is in order.
  • The presence of her Repair Party is nice but it’s odd, akin to that found on high-tier British destroyers.  It starts with a single charge (!), healing back 1% of her health per second (!) for a mere 10 seconds (!).  Unlike other cruisers, this only queues up 10% of citadel damage (!).  So yeah, hella weird.  At least it’s reset timer is kinda normal at 120s/80s.
  • London’s Hydroacoustic Search is also strange.  She uses the version found on British Destroyers.  This gives her a ship and torpedo detection range of a mere 3km.  On the plus side, it has a very long active time of 180 seconds.  It comes with two charges and an 180s/120s reset timer.
  • Unlike other British heavy cruisers, London has access to a British light cruiser Smoke Generator.  She starts with two charges.  It has a 15s emission time, so make sure you’re slowing down before deploying if you intend to sit in it.  Each cloud of smoke lasts for 99 seconds.  It has a 240s/160s reset timer.

Upgrades

The new upgrades don’t change a whole lot for mid-tier ships.

  • Start with Main Armaments Modification 1.
  • Next, if you can afford it, spring for Hydroacoustic Search Modification 1 from the Armory.  This will set you back 17,000 Coal .  If you can’t, default to Engine Room Protection.
  • Aiming System Modification 1 hasn’t been dethroned by the new upgrades like I was hoping it would.  It’s still the best bang for your buck and always a reasonable default.
  • For your fourth slot, you have a choice.  If you’re the type to park in your smoke often, then Propulsion System Modification 2 is probably your best choice.  It gives more grunt to your engines when you first accelerate which can be critical for dodging incoming torpedoes.   If you’re always mobile, then Steering Gears Modification 2 is the better choice.

Captain Skills

London doesn’t gain vast amounts of improved performance from most skills.  I suppose with the incoming changes to Inertial Fuse for HE Shells, this is going to be a increasing trend.  For your first ten points, I recommend:

  • Start with ONE of the following:  Priority Target, Incoming Fire Alert or Expert Loader depending on your personal ability to keep situationally aware.
  • Next up, Last Stand is highly recommended given the relative fragility of her rudder.  This breaks often, especially when dodging HE shells.
  • Superintendent is your best choice at the third tier.
  • And to no one’s surprise, Concealment Expert rounds out your 10th skill point.

Other useful skills include:  Demolition Expert, Adrenaline Rush and Expert Marksman which are all no-brainers, really.  You can feel free to play with some of the more odd skills like Smoke Screen Expert (handy because London doesn’t slow down particularly fast) if you want.  Again, this ship isn’t starved for commander skill points like some other ships, so you can experiment a bit.

Camouflage

London comes with Type 10 Camouflage.  She also has access to Victorian White – London which can be acquired through bundles or by paying 2,000 doubloons.  Both camouflages have identical bonuses, providing the usual:

  • A 3% reduction in surface detection ranges.
  • A 4% increase to the dispersion of enemy gunfire.
  • A 10% reduction to post-battle service costs.
  • A 50% increase to experience earned.
London’s default camouflage.
London’s Victorian White camouflage.

Firepower

Main Battery:  Eight 203mm/50 guns in 4×2 turrets in an A-B-X-Y superfiring configuration.
Secondaries:  Eight 102mm/45 guns in 4×2 turrets with two turrets per side behind the funnels.
Torpedoes:  Eight tubes in 2×4 launchers mounted on deck behind the funnels with one launcher per side.

HE and IFHE penetration values are reflective of patch 0.9.1… which means they’ll be obsolete shortly.

Guns

There are largely two different types of 203mm guns among British heavy cruisers.  The first are what I like to call “the old timey premiums”.  The second are the “tech-tree ships”.  The difference is an artifact of the balance process with London preserving the first-draft version of the British heavy cruiser armament. While on paper, Devonshire, London, Surrey, Exeter and London all appear to use the same guns and ammunition, the two premiums diverge considerably.

The differences are as follows (tech-tree vs premiums):

  • Muzzle Velocity:  814m/s vs 855m/s (London’s shells are initially faster)
  • Shell Drag:  0.304 vs 0.346 (They bleed speed more quickly, though)
  • AP Damage:  4,500 vs 4,550 (London’s AP shells hit slightly harder)
  • AP Krupp:  2,650 vs 2,400 (But they have 10% less penetration at comparable velocities)
  • HE Damage:  3,300 vs 2,850 (Her HE shells are worse…)
  • Fire Chance:  17% vs 15% (… much, much worse)

On the whole, London’s gun performance is a step down from her tech-tree counterparts.  This is especially evident with her lack-luster high-explosive performance.  Her AP shells aren’t as good either, though the practical difference is so slight as to largely be a non-issue in this case.

Penetration and shell flight times of the cruisers with 180mm+ guns.  Compared to the other heavy cruisers (and Molotov), London’s lacking in both penetration and ballistic speed. Still, it’s not like she doesn’t have enough penetration. She’s fully capable of landing citadel hits against just about any cruiser she comes across up to her maximum range.

Being patently inferior to the guns of her tech-tree counterpart does not immediately relegate London’s main battery firepower to the “meh” category, especially on the eve of the Inertial Fuse for HE Shells rework.  Heavy cruisers are largely immune to the performance changes coming and London is future proofed in this regard.  She’s only going to appear stronger compared to light cruisers when the patch rolls around.

I tend to put London’s gunnery on the “good enough” category, barring the deficiency of their range and reload time.  London has painfully little reach which would be downright crippling were it not for the presence of her Smoke Generator.  Her consumable transforms any pretense of challenge and risk-management to a non-issue.  Approach target, blow smoke, hold down the left mouse button.  Yes, expert players might snipe you in your cover.  Yes, her in-smoke detection range is kind of high.  But on the whole, London’s gunnery benefits enormously from her smoke and it glosses over any perceived flaws in her main battery firepower.

In short:  Her guns aren’t the best, but they don’t have to be.  Smoke makes London’s gunnery super-simple to use.

Fish

While London may share Exeter’s guns, her torpedoes are a modest step down.  They aren’t without their merits.  London has quadruple tubes on her launchers and her fish may be fired individually — this gives her excellent alpha strike potential.  Like her guns, range is the issue.  London’s torpedoes have a mere 7km reach compared to Exeter, Leander’s and Devonshire’s 8km.  This really relegates her to launching them at “suicide close” ranges — which admittedly happens often enough thanks to her smoke screens.

Like her guns, London’s torpedoes aren’t ideal but they’re entirely satisfactory.

Summary

On the whole, London’s weapon systems are all kinds of middling meh.  With the upcoming changes to IFHE, her 203mm weapons get a bit of a boost, if only grace that that smaller caliber  guns are getting nerfed (supposedly — we’ll see what finally makes it into the game).

While London’s fire angles aren’t great they’re at least consistent.
As of writing this article, the IFHE changes haven’t been finalized yet, so consider them a Work in Progress and subject to change (I’ll honestly be shocked if WG doesn’t change something to do with IFHE before I publish — if only to invalidate the couple of hours it took to make this).  If it goes through as advertised, light cruisers will have to choose between being able to deal direct damage to battleships or being good at setting fires.  Heavy cruisers, like London, don’t have to make that choice.
London’s DPM is pretty terrible. Thankfully, her Smoke Generator makes it easier for her to sustain fire — something a lot of the other cruisers on this list (barring Perth, Huanghe and Leander) can’t boast.

Verdict:   Good enough.  Her smoke makes them better than they appear.

Defense

Hit Points: 34,600
Minimum Bow & Deck Armour: 16mm
Maximum Citadel Protection:  114mm belt armour
Torpedo Damage Reduction:
4%

This graphic is going to be out-dated shortly after publishing. Oh well, let it remain an archive of what-was.  The best that could be said about London’s protection scheme is that her citadel is a small target.

Eh, I don’t want to spend too much time talking about London’s armour with the upcoming Inertial Fuse for HE Shell changes in the works that also affects hull plating thickness.  These changes should be a buff for London — not a significant one, but a buff none the less.  At the time of writing, these changes are still a work in progress — they’re not exactly confirmed at this stage.  So I’m going to keep light on discussing London’s armour.  Changes are coming and what’s written here is not future-proofed.

As far as citadel protection and placement goes, London’s alright.  Her citadel sits over the waterline (that’s bad) but it’s not a large target (that’s good).  Her transverse bulkhead is a mere 25mm thick, easily overmatched (that’s bad) but her citadel roof, at 35mm, cannot (that’s good).  Her citadel contains potassium benzoate.

The size disparity of London’s citadel is largely owing to her magazines being placed outside of it — which isn’t uncommon for lower tiered cruisers.  Despite this apparently normalcy, London’s magazines really should have been included.  London’s magazines are heavily protected, with between 76mm and 102mm worth of armour surrounding these boxes, largely echoing the citadel of the higher tiered cruisers starting with Albemarle.  That London (and the other lower-tiered heavies) get away with having their magazines considered separate is really to their advantage.

Special mention needs be made about her Repair Party, which has pronounced differences compared to those of other British cruisers (light and heavy both).  London makes use of a British destroyer consumable, healing back up to 10% of her health over 10 seconds rather than 14% over 28 seconds.  Furthermore, London’s Repair Party only queues up 10% of citadel damage done (as opposed to 50% for other British cruisers).  Combined with fewer charges, London’s heals are much less potent than the presence of the consumable would otherwise indicate.  Still, she is one of the few mid-tier cruisers with a heal at all, so that’s a big plus right there.

On the whole, London’s scores pretty well in this category.  No, she’s not going to be bouncing battleship caliber AP shells left and right, nor does she have any particular HE immunity.  But her large chunk of health, her small(ish) citadel and her heals make her objectively better protected than most of her contemporaries.

I’m shocked they gave a smoke-generating, HE-spamming, chunkamungus cruiser like London a heal at all. Perth and Huanghe don’t have them and they’re far squishier.

Verdict:   Pretty darned good, all things told.

Agility

Top Speed: 32.3kts
Turning Radius: 710m
Rudder Shift Time: 7.8s
4/4 Engine Speed Rate of Turn: 5.6º/s

It was a bit of a shock to play the British Heavy Cruisers the first time.  If London is your first foray into these ships be prepared:  they do not have the British Light Cruiser (and Exeter’s) ability to fold space and time itself and defy physics.  London, along with the other British Heavy Cruisers, do not have the improved engine power at 4/4 settings like their predecessors.  They are entirely normal, behaving exactly as other cruisers do.  This makes them feel like big, heavy ships (which they are).

I admit, setting this bias aside was difficult and it coloured my initial impressions of this ship negatively.  She felt like a thunderchunker — a bulbous chunkosaurus, a chonk-stonk-wallowiscious lard-laden-lass.  God, making these ships flop about felt unpleasant.  I kept expecting to see melted butter oozing out of shell holes punched into her hull.

Once I finished fat-shaming this new ship, I could finally start analyzing and evaluating her properly.  So here goes:  “Good” agility for a mid-tier cruiser is defined by having one or more of the following:

  • A top speed in excess of 34 knots (with or without the use of consumables).
  • A turning radius that’s 650m or smaller.
  • A rate of turn of 6.0º/s or faster.
  • Marked improved acceleration / energy preservation.

London doesn’t have any of these things. In my head I was expecting Leander.  Instead they handed me a tub of old mayonnaise.  Her turn radius is on the large side for a tier VI cruiser — even a tier VI heavy cruiser for that matter.  This combines with a downright pedestrian (and disappointing) top speed that barely squeaks over 32 knots.  So that’s not good either.  Her rate of turn understandably suffers because of this low speed, putting her on the low end there too.  The only really good point here is that she doesn’t out-turn her turrets.  Poor marks all around.

In short, London is fat. This becomes an issue with the use of smoke if you’re not careful — leaving her vulnerable to torpedoes strikes even with the use of Hydroacoustic Search as she can’t accelerate particularly fast from a dead stop.  This can also be a problem when receiving counter-battery fire — getting out of the way while parked in her smoke screens isn’t easy.  Propulsion Modification 2 is highly recommended to help alleviate this if you intend to sit her still when smoke’s deployed.

I say boo-urns to you, London.  Boo-urns.

The new British heavy cruisers handle quite similarly to the German cruiser Nurnberg. London is all kinds of bloated meh for a tier VI cruiser, lacking the high top speed of the Soviets and French.  Nor does she have the reckless acceleration of the British light cruisers.  She doesn’t even haver the nice tight turns of the American & Italian ships.  Of course, compared to higher tiered cruisers, she’s okay, but let’s not let facts and figures get in the way of tier VI feels.

VERDICT:  Her theme song is a mad tuba solo.  London and Graf Spee should hang out.

Anti-Aircraft Defense

Flak Bursts: 2 explosions for 1,120 damage per blast
Long Ranged (up to 5.8km):  16 damage every 0.32s (50.4dps)
Medium Ranged (up to 2.5km):  24 damage every 0.32s (75.6dps)
Short Ranged (up to 2.0km): 40 damage every 0.34s (119dps)

The bulk of London’s AA firepower is too short ranged to be effective.  You’re really relying on her 20mm Oerlikons to do the heavy lifting here, and they’re only engaging just as or after the aircraft have launched ordnance which is far from ideal.  I mean, as far as a tier VI cruiser goes, her AA is alright — better than average even in terms of raw numbers but it’s difficult to call any of the tier VI cruisers as “good” AA platforms.

I think what I lament most about London’s AA power is the lack of a catapult fighter.  Their presence does more to dissuade the average CV player than Defensive AA Fire ever could (not that London has either).

Overall, poor marks, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Verdict:  Insufficient and forgettable.  Park in smoke if you desperately need to avoid being bombed.

London’s AA power is best described as “an angry smoke cloud spitting out small-caliber shells”.

Refrigerator

Base/Minimum Surface Detection: 12.06km/10.53km
Base/Minimum Air Detection Range:
6.58km/5.92km
Detection Range When Firing in Smoke:
6.79km
Main Battery Firing Range:
13.4km

“Good enough” sums up London’s surface and aerial detection.  I might beef with these values more if she didn’t have a Smoke Generator but because it’s present, London’s consumables will largely dominate the discussion of this section.  Suffice to say, London’s concealment, when upgraded, is good enough to get her into position and out of trouble when needs be, so long as she keeps her guns silent.  Even then, her short main battery range allows for some pretty easy disengagements grace of their relatively short reach, provided there are no smaller ships or aircraft keeping her lit.

So!  I’m not sure if you heard, but London has smoke.  I know!  What a shocker!  I’ve only mentioned her interactions with smoke fifteen times in this review already.  This consumable largely defines London’s performance in the hands of most players.  London’s Smoke Generator is panacea to all of the ship’s possible woes.

  • Is the threat of return-fire preventing you from maximizing your low DPM?  No problem, get into position and blow smoke.  That way you can cycle your guns freely without having to stop  for dodging or weaving.
  • Are you struggling to use your torpedoes?  You can bait enemy ships into charging your smoke screen, making it much easier to bring those fish into play.
  • Fragile hull?  Never fear, smoke is here.  You can feel much safer about your exposed citadel if they struggle to hit you.
  • Not enough AA?  Only chumps Just Dodge™. Blow smoke and frustrate that CV drop.

Now, London doesn’t have enough charges of her smoke to cover all of her bases all of the time.  Furthermore, it’s not like she’s holding onto an American Smoke Generator with their stupid-amazing long emission and duration time.  With only a 15 second emission time, it’s generally a good idea to already be slowing down if you intend to park inside her smoke.  This does mean that if you’re already spotted, you might be setting yourself up to get your machine spaces blown out before concealment takes effect.  Thus, her smoke is best used preemptively to spare yourself the humiliation of being blown out of the water before dropping off enemy screens.

Once she’s in her smoke, things are pretty comfy.  London does have a rather large smoke detection bloom of nearly 7km every time she fires her guns, so that’s worth keeping in mind.  Though once that detection goes off, you at least know you’re in range to use your torpedoes, provided you can survive the next few moments.

The short range of London’s Hydroacoustic Search largely limits it to defensive uses … unless, like me, you end up constantly running into destroyers that get the bright idea to charge your smoke when their torpedoes don’t hit.  I’m sure it seems like a good idea to them at the time, but I chalk it up purely to emotional reasoning.  The lesson here, children, is that listening to your heart gets your face stoved in by 203mm HE shells — don’t do it.  London’s DPM may not be great, but it’s still good enough to put the smack down on a pervy lolibote trying to sneak a peek under another ship’s smoke-skirt.

Speaking of her Hydroacoustic Search, it’s only “okay” at spotting torpedoes.  Given London’s rather sluggish handling, this lead to one too many close-calls.  While this may make for some excellent highlight real footage for a Yuro Torpedo-Beat clip, you should still be wary even while this consumable is active, particularly if you’re parked at a dead stop in smoke.  If you’re caught broadside like this, her hydro won’t save you.  She’s just not agile enough.  It will simply give you enough time to string together a particularly colourful string of expletives.

Summary

So here’s the take away from all of this:

  • London’s base levels of concealment are “okay”.
  • Her Hydroacoustic Search consumable doesn’t quite trivialize dodging torpedoes, but it makes it much easier.  It’s largely useless for offensive purposes unless your opponent is a blooming idiot.  But let’s be clear, that’s not the consumable doing the legwork, that’s your opponent handing you a win.  Similarly, you should be torpedo-safe with this thing active unless you screw up.  That’s not the hydro’s fault.
  • London is a decent heavy cruiser with a Smoke Generator, which immediately makes her a damn-good heavy cruiser.  This consumable is hella powerful when used (and abused) properly.

Verdict:  Smoke is overpowered.  It can make even a modest ship great.

Final Evaluation

London is a damn good heavy cruiser.  Rather, she’s a very respectable heavy cruiser and then Wargaming went and gave her a Smoke Generator.  The ship would have to suck moose-balls in many categories before I could consider any cruiser with smoke to be a bad ship.  And London’s pretty decent overall, with her glaring weaknesses being her poor range and slow reload time.  For most players, her Smoke Generator will be used as a crutch to overcome these deficiencies.  This won’t hold back expert players, of course.

It’s hard not to look at London and not think back to Exeter’s release a year ago.  Exeter.  Exeter, even with less hit points and two fewer guns, is a hands-down better ship.  Here’s the list of primary differences.

  • London has more health.  She out-classes Exeter by just over 5,000hp.
  • London has more armour.  Exeter’s belt is only 76mm and her citadel includes her magazines.  London’s belt is 114mm and her citadel is relatively smaller.
  • Exeter has British Light Cruiser engine power, making her accelerate and preserve energy much better than her stats might otherwise indicate.  Despite the 0.4kt advantage in speed London claims in a straight line, Exeter is much faster in the practical sense.
  • Exeter has 2km less surface detection.  She is stealthy as all get out.
  • London has eight guns to Exeter’s six.  Pretty easy comparison here.
  • Exeter has 1km more reach.  Longer ranged guns, yo.
  • Exeter has better torpedoes.  Exeter uses Leander’s tier VI torpedoes.  They have more range, hit harder and are faster.  London uses Emerald’s tier Vs.  At least London gets two quad launchers to Exeter’s two triples.
  • Exeter’s Repair Party heals up to 14% of her health over 28s.  Exeter has a normal Repair Party.  This includes providing her more health per use (despite their HP differences) and she gains an extra charge.
  • Exeter’s uses a normal cruiser Hydroacoustic SearchExeter’s consumable can detect ships 1km further but lasts only 100s vs Londons’ 180s.
  • Exeter has better AA power.  She has a fighter.  London has more AA DPS admittedly, but that matters less, sadly.

And the biggest difference of all, of course, is that London gets access to a Smoke Generator.  Exeter had one back during testing but it was nixed to shoe horn into a tier where she doesn’t belong.  Yes, I’m still bitter about this. While I’m glad to see London added to the game, I can’t help but lament how Exeter was included.  At least there’s a marked difference between the two ships.  Exeter feels more like a hybrid, bridging the old British Light Cruiser game play with the new heavy cruisers.  It’s just a shame about her tiering — she can’t be used in operations and her experience and credit earning is compromised too.   Strip out the consumables and Exeter is the better ship. I’ll take concealment and agility over two more guns and a few more hit point any day.  That’s even with the disparity between tiers.  But London is tier VI and London has her smoke.  She’s more useful to players than Exeter, I’m sorry to say.

London is a fairly safe purchase, or grind if you’ve been putting the time in to unlock her with the event that’s ongoing right now.  After all of the nonsense over this past holiday season, it’s nice to see an easy grind for some decent, free goodies.

Conclusion

I’ve given up on trying to understand and predict what’s coming in patch 0.9.2.  That HE penetration and IFHE change looks all kinds of disruptive.  I admit, I held my breath before reviewing London, hoping to get a better picture and then be able to speak with some authority on how heavy and light cruisers now compared.  No such luck, I’m afraid, and that’s a week’s worth of time lost.  Oh well.

Next up will be a review of Cheshire, the tier VIII British heavy cruiser.  I hope to have that out sometime next week.  Thank you very much for reading! ♥

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