ShipComrade

Premium Ship Review #103: Salem

The following is a review of Salem, a ship kindly provided to me by Wargaming. This is the release version of the vessel and these stats are current as of June 16th, 2018.
She was definitely more fun as a tier 4 boss-ship.
Quick Summary:  A short-ranged Des Moines-class cruiser with British mutant-healing powers.
Cost:  Undisclosed at the time of publishing though we know she is being made available for the new coal / steel resources.
Patch & Date Written:  0.7.5 to 0.7.5.1, June 9th to 16th, 2018.
PROS
  • Thick, 27mm bow which prevents AP shell overmatching of 381mm guns and smaller.
  • Repair Party consumable heals up to 23,856hp per charge (!) with four charges.
  • Citadel is HE proof with a belt of 152mm.
  • Ridiculously fast rate of fire for 203mm guns with a 5.5 second reload.
  • Improved auto-ricochet angles on her AP shells.
  • 203mm HE shells allow her to easily stack damage against all targets without the requirement of a deep skill build.
  • One of the best fire starters in the game.
  • Good anti-aircraft firepower.
CONS
  • Small hit point pool for a tier X cruiser at 49,700hp.
  • Citadel sits well over the waterline.
  • Horrible torpedo defense.
  • Very short ranged for a tier X cruiser with a stock reach of 15.8km and no Spotter Aircraft consumable.
  • Low shell velocity on her main battery which makes her shells ‘float’ over long distances.
  • Sluggish gun handling with a 6.0º/s turret rotation speed.
  • Surveillance Radar consumable is the Atlanta version — short ranged (8.5km) and short lasting (25s).

  • The ship has no significant economic bonuses beyond a reduced repair cost.  She earns less experience than a tier X ship with premium camouflage and playing her regularly may end up costing a player credits, making regular play unsustainable. (!)
Overview
Skill Floor: Simple / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: 
Low / Moderate / High / Extreme
Des Moines-class cruisers are not easy to use.  They punish reckless behaviour.  Without good map knowledge, they’re just an experience piñata.  All it takes is for the enemy team to crack them open with a good whack or two and they’ll split her in half for all of those tasty rewards.  Their saving grace is the relative ease of using their guns.  Even improper ammunition choice will still yield decent numbers.  The challenges presented with this ship should be nothing new for a player that has climbed up through the USN Heavy Cruiser line.  However, the difficulty increases as you ascend the tiers where the stakes get higher as more ships are capable of delivering monster alpha strikes that can outright delete an out-of-position cruiser.
 Veterans will love and loathe this ship.  She’s a Des Moines-class cruiser after all — the darling of the USN Heavy Cruiser line.  The amount of firepower this ship puts out can make a battleship blush.  However, unlike Des Moines herself, Salem struggles more with spotting for herself, making her even more dependent upon her team (or Division) to perform.  Still, when set up in the proper position, the amount of hurt she can dispense is horrifying.  Her diverse tool kit makes her a tremendous asset for her team.  The more knowledge and skill a player demonstrates, the more dangerous this ship becomes.  Her increased durability can keep her in the fight longer.
Here are how her individual components break down:
 – One of, if not the worst at its tier. This is a pronounced weakness.
 – Middle of the pack at its tier. Not terrible, but not terribly good either.
 – Has a significant advantage over her tier mates. A solid, competitive performer.
 – No other ship at its tier does this as well as this ship.
Range is Salem’s Achilles Heel.  Most of her problems can be laid at its feet.  Her main Firepower is excellent but her lack of reach makes using it difficult.   Her Anti-Aircraft defense is similarly denied penultimate excellence simply because it doesn’t reach far enough.  Finally she gives up any pretense of being able to ambush destroyers because her Surveillance Radar craps out at 8.5km (and it doesn’t last long enough besides).  Thus Salem performs well in two categories but is only a middling offering in the rest.  She’s held back from being the  in at least one aspect because of her issues with coping with engagement distances at tier X.
Options
For those used to Des Moines, Salem’s consumable options look weird.

She has no access to any kind of aircraft.  Rather than choosing between Defensive AA Fire and Hydroacoustic Search in her second slot, Defensive AA Fire is the only choice.  Hydroacoustic Search instead competes with Surveillance Radar in her third slot.  Salem therefore has the option of doing something Des Moines can’t — she can equip Defensive AA Fire and Hydroacoustic Search at the same time.  It’s up to the individual player if they believe that hydro is more valuable than radar, however.

Like all American cruisers, she gets access to a bonus charge of her Defensive Fire consumable (up to a maximum of 5 total).  In addition, her default camouflage is odd for a tier X premium with minimal economic bonuses.
Consumables:

Two of her consumables are non-standard.

  • Salem’s Surveillance Radar is a nerfed consumable. It has 8.5km range (instead of 9.9km) and it only lasts 25 seconds (instead of 40 seconds). This is identical to that found on Atlanta at tier VII.
  • In exchange, all of the suck from her nerfed radar consumable was traded in for a god-tier Repair Party. This is almost identical to that found on high-tier British cruisers and heals back up to 2% of her health every second for 20 seconds — or 19,880hp.  She starts with two charges base.  With the India Delta signal, this can be boosted up to 23,856hp per charge. She queues up 50% of penetration damage but only 33% of citadel damage (instead of 50% like British cruisers).  This has the standard 120s / 80s reset timer of a normal consumable.

Upgrades


Choices, choices, choices.  This all looks terribly complicated, but there are really fourdecisions to make here:
  1. Are you going to play an AA ship?  If you are, then take the special upgrade, Defensive Fire Modification 1 (2nd slot), AA Guns Modification 2 (3rd slot) and AA Guns Modification 3 (6th slot) to maximize your AA power.  If you don’t want to go quite so heavy handed, pick and choose among these for a softer AA build.  AA Guns Modification 2 (3rd slot) arguably provides the most benefit for what’s sacrificed to take it.
  2. Now you need to choose how to emphasize your main battery.  Do you want to go for range or DPM?  For range, take Gun Fire Control System Modification 2 (6th slot) and look towards taking Aiming System Modification 1 (3rd slot) to help tighten up dispersion at these distances.  Otherwise, Main Battery Modification 3 (6th slot) should be considered optimal to increase her rate of fire.
  3. How good are you at hiding behind islands?  Propulsion Modification 2 (4th slot) and Concealment Modification 1 (5th slot) can help with this, with the former allowing you to back away more quickly if you get spotted and the latter helps keep you hidden.  If you prefer a more active, open water play style then Steering Gears Modification 2 (4th slot) and Steering Gears Modification 3 (5th slot) may be more attractive alternatives in some form of combination.

Camouflage

Salem comes with Type 10 Camouflage. This provides:

  • 50% bonus experience gains
  • 10% reduction to repair costs
  • 3% reduced surface detection range
  • 4% increased dispersion of incoming fire
Firepower
Main Battery: Nine 203mm guns in 3×3 turrets in an A-B-X superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery: Twelve 127mm guns in 6×2 turrets.
Without exaggeration or hyperbole, I’m of the opinion that the auto-loading 203mm weapons on the Des Moines-class are the  cruiser-caliber guns in the game.  I don’t really care about her secondaries, so bleh to those even with their 6.0km range and potential 8-gun broadside.  127mm/38s aren’t going to win any prizes at tier X, especially off a cruiser.
 You can keep your 305mm cruiser-killers on Stalingrad and Kronshtadt — they cheat, sneaking in battleship sized guns into a cruiser-competition..  These Soviet behemoths are amazing at what they do, have no doubt, but they exist on a whole other scale.  Stalingrad and Kronshtadt both are capable of delivering massive citadel hits to unsuspecting cruisers and even angled battleships at the extremes of their range.  However, they pay for this monstrous output by having limited effectiveness against smaller, squishier targets. The USN 203mm guns don’t have this issue, reflecting the US Navy as a whole in World of Warships with their jack of all trades style.  The trade off is that they do not have the overwhelming superiority in one particular field that specialization grants which kinda hurts their final evaluation.
Unlimited Powah
The core strength of Salem’s armament comes from her reload time.  Despite being a heavy cruiser, Salem boasts a rate of fire on her 203mm battery that’s the envy of many light cruisers.  Each one of her weapons cycles in 5.5 seconds (which may be reduced down to 4.8 seconds with Main Battery Modification 3).  Combined with her larger shell, she easily competes with her tier X light cruiser counterparts and outperforms all tier IX light cruisers in damage per minute (DPM) races.  This is insane.  But, it goes beyond raw damage potential.
Her larger shell provides two additional benefits in regards to her High Explosive (HE) rounds. A larger shell means a larger bursting charge which leads to an increased chance to set fires. She can hold her own when competing against the twelve-gun light cruisers (except for Worcester which is just nuts).  Perhaps more importantly, her larger gun caliber allows her to penetrate a greater range of targets with her HE shells than a light cruiser.  She doesn’t need the Inertial Fuse for HE Shells commander skill to artificially boost penetration as 152mm armed cruisers do.  This again leads to a higher fire chance.  Salem doesn’t require as deep of a skill build to make her guns competitive, allowing her to specialize in other roles instead.

 It’s not just her HE shells that are remarkable.  Salem’s AP shells are no slouch either.

There are a lot of odd ducks among the tier 10 cruisers as far as AP shell performance goes — everything from Hindenburg’s increased damage to Minotaur’s extra short fuse timers.  Salem’s gimmick is that she enjoys the improved auto-ricochet angles of other US cruisers.  A check for ricochet doesn’t occur until it strikes a plate angled 60º to the perpendicular instead of 45º, leading to a lot more hits dealing damage against targets when positioning isn’t optimal. Her shells are much more forgiving despite having only modest penetration values.  Still, Salem is fully capable of landing citadel hits against most other cruisers up to her maximum range provided she catches them broadside. Her AP shells can be devastating even to battleships as they cycle so quickly and stack damage so fast that even their enormous hit point pools quickly evaporate.

At point blank ranges, Salem can make any exposed target cease to exist in short order.  She is not to be underestimated.
These guns aren’t dream weapons, however.  They have some very real flaws, the most minor of which is her gun handling.  The real issue is her lack of reach.  Salem has just 70m more range than HMS Minotaur.  With upgrades, at best she can project her influence out to 18.36km at the sacrifice of increased rate of fire.  At a tier where battleships are (sadly) comfortable sitting back at extreme ranges and still punching in people’s faces for 20,000 damage at a time, this is a severe handicap.  Salem must get close to deal damage.  But at the limits of her own range, where her slow shell flight time leads high arcing ballistics, her predators weapons optimize.  Trading fire out in the open will simply get Salem killed with very little to show for it.  This isn’t like Hindenburg or Stalingrad where you can risk taking a face full of 16 inch AP shells and have a good chance of shrugging it off.
Thankfully one of her weapon’s drawbacks is also their salvation.

Island Waifus
Hey!  Does your ship have a citadel that gives away more hits than a pitching machine?  Are you piloting a brand new premium with shell arcs more peaked than maximum scaled chest-size slider of a Korean MMO?  Is the effective range so short that you’ve caught your bored Azur Lane commander drooling enviously at her friend riding a baguette?  Well, World of Warships has the solution for you:
Presenting ISLAND WAIFUS!
Yes, whore yourself by cuddling up to every cute stray bit of rock you come across.  Ingratiate yourself with strange, seductive land masses and grind your keel against their shoals.  Don’t worry about introducing yourself!  They don’t want to know where you’ve been.  They know you’ve got no scruples and you’ll leapfrog from one to the next so long as it’s to your advantage.  Getting tied down to any one piece of the archipelago isn’t the way your Salem swings!  You’re only there to spray your shells over their topography and avoid the consequences of getting caught in the act.  Push in and out of her cover as the action gets hot and heavy!
This largely defines Salem’s successful game play.  Find an island that’s big enough to cover your ship but with hill features that aren’t big enough to block your shots (Salem doesn’t like her waifu being too busty but she’s also not into loli-islands).  Make sure it’s in an area that can block line of sight from multiple vectors and even cover you from shell fire from one of these directions — you want to avoid being spotted if at all possible when you pull the trigger and you don’t want to be shot by their allies.  Also ensure your island is close enough to the action where you can lend supporting fire.  Don’t wait for enemies to come to you.  Hose down your targets until the battle moves.  When it does, find another waifu.  Rinse and repeat.
Success in Salem comes from having an in-depth knowledge of the map layout — which positions on a given map you can use and abuse to project Salem’s short range influence and keep your guns in the game.  Turn her disadvantage into strengths.  Her advantage is her rate of fire.  You need to be able to put it to use to play this ship to its utmost.

Salem has good (but not amazing) gun arcs.  You can use your X-turret to help you angle against incoming AP fire that’s 381mm or smaller.  If you can fire your X turret at the gun mounts of what’s shooting you, you’re at risk for taking significant damage.  Note this won’t save you from having your bow overmatched by larger caliber guns or from guns with improved autobounce characteristics.
Summary:
  • Amazing DPM potential with AP & HE both.
  • Can kill almost anything in short order at point blank ranges.
  • Make good use of islands to hide yourself so you can cycle your guns without interruption.
Evaluation:   
What it would have needed to be :  The literal arms race for best Firepower at tier X makes evaluating which one is  difficult with each ship going about it differently.  To be clear, Salem (and Des Moines) has some of the  artillery at her tier but her lack of torpedoes and the issues of range hurts.  Still, given the way that Stalingrad is shaping up, I would be a fool to ignore her influence in this evaluation and this is why Salem (and Des Moines) loses out on the top spot.
Defense
Hit Points: 49,700hp
Maximum Citadel Protection:
  • 27mm bow + 127mm transverse bulkhead (bow on)
  • 152mm belt (broadside)

Minimum Extremities & Deck Armour: 27mm thickening to 30mm on her maindeck.
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 7% (ew!)

Let’s get the good out of the way first.  Salem has thick armour for a heavy cruiser.  She boasts a 152mm armoured belt and her extremities are 27mm with her deck thickening up to 30mm amidships.  The former prevents Salem from being citadel hit by Royal Navy and German battleship caliber HE shells, even with their vaunted 1/4 HE penetration.  The latter prevents Salem’s bow from being overmatched by 381mm and smaller AP shells.  In addition, she has some protection against small caliber HE shells thrown by destroyers and battleship secondaries.  Without Inertial Fuse for HE Shells, they cannot damage her directly.  Even with it there are some areas of her deck that will remain immune.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s forget any pretense that Salem is a well protected ship.
The key fault with Salem’s protection scheme is (surprise surprise), her exposed citadel.  This sits over the waterline, abutting against the outer hull of the ship.  She has neither anti-torpedo protection nor any spaced armour to help absorb hits.  If you aren’t properly angled, Salem will gobble up citadel hits from anything within her Matchmaking spread that fires a 203mm shell or greater from almost any range.  Even when you are properly positioned, anything with a 406mm or greater will still punish you.  When things go wrong for Salem, they go wrong very quickly and often catastrophically with little chance for recovery.
This largely mitigates the main selling feature of Salem — her improved Repair Party consumable.  Salem boasts the ability of recovering between 40% (stock) to 48% (India Delta signal equipped) per charge, giving Salem a maximum potential of up to 145,124 hit points.  You’re never going to be able to sell that many to the enemy team, however.  Salem’s citadel is far too vulnerable.  While she does queue up to 33% of citadel damage, she’s unlikely to survive long enough to make use of all of her available charges if you’re  taking these hits in the first place.
Still, her Repair Party isn’t without its charms.  She is tougher than Des Moines which is a welcome feature.  Salem is functionally immune to fire damage.  With her consumable being able to heal 100% of the damage done and each fire only burning away a maximum of 9% of Salem’s health, you can let four fires blaze completely before having to reach for her mega-healing potion (five if you’re using the India Delta signal).  This doesn’t account for the HE sell damage that went along with it, but it is nice to know.
To me, this makes Salem’s Repair Party feel a bit of a poor purchase.  To get access to it, she lost a standard American tier X Surveillance Radar and that doesn’t feel like a good trade in this case.  But that’s just me.

This chart ranks the tier X cruisers (including Stalingrad while she’s a Work in Progress) by their potential hit point value.  The value in red (left) is their base hit points.  The blue bar is the absolute maximum amount of healing they can receive from their Repair Party consumable if it was optimized with 4 charges and using the Superintendent commander skill.  It’s exceedingly unlikely that this amount healed will ever be actualized in game.  Cruisers take citadel hits far too regularly which can often delete them outright without giving any opportunity to recover.  However, if you can protect your citadel, Salem can be THE toughest cruiser in the game by sheer damage potential.
Evaluation:  
What it would have needed to be : A further tweak of her Repair Party, allowing her to queue up to 50% of citadel damage in the same manner as a Minotaur would have been welcome.  This would let her maximize the output of her consumable.
 Agility
Top Speed: 33.0kts
Turning Radius: 770m
Rudder Shift Time: 8.6s
Maximum Rate of Turn: 5.3º/s
All kinds of “meh” here.
Salem isn’t fast.  She doesn’t have an amazing turning radius.  Her rudder shift time isn’t special.  She doesn’t power through her turn especially quickly either.  And that’s just for a tier X cruiser.  If you stack her up against some of the more nimble boats in her matchmaking spread, Salem’s a dumpy thunder-butt.   The only thing of particular note with Salem is that she preserves more speed in a turn than Des Moines does.  This 0.2 knot advantage translates to a faster maximum rate of turn — not by much, but enough to be notable.
Otherwise?  Salem wins no prizes.   It’s good enough, I guess.  I would have preferred to see a bit more pep in her engine to accelerate the see-saw motion that’s so often crucial to unmasking her guns out from behind islands and slipping back into cover when spotted.
Evaluation:  
What it would have needed to be : It’s not going to happen.  Salem is a stereotypical American (Heavy Cruiser) — fat and difficult to sway.
 Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Battery Calibers: 127mm / 76.2mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 5.0km / 5.0km
AA DPS per Mount Type: 90.6 / 334.8

Salem to CVs:  No Fly Zone.
It’s a closer race than you might think for the  anti-aircraft firepower at tier X.  Salem is definitely one of the contenders but this is title she shares with Des Moines (duh), Worcester and Minotaur.  However, for all of the strengths of her AA armament, it’s not without its flaws.  These nit-picky failings are, in no particular order:
  • Salem’s AA power lacks range.
    This seems silly to say when all of Salem’s AA guns reach out to 5.0km.  While her guns do provide a solid wall of her maximum firepower when they stray into range, a 5.0km reach is no longer the gold-standard of AA defense at tier X.  Ships like Stalingrad can project their large caliber auras out to 5.7km stock.  Minotaur and Worcester can extend their reach out to 6.0km stock.  The Des Moines-class of cruisers is lacking in this regard.

    Keep in mind, though, ships only spot aircraft from a range of 8km…

  • Salem’s AA power lacks DPS.
    Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.  Salem doesn’t have good AA firepower?  Seriously?

    No, not seriously.  It’s only in a direct comparison with her peers that she’s found wanting and all of these contenders are frankly quite broken when it comes to how much punishment they can dish out to an unwary aircraft carrier. She’s fourth place overall (out of nine ships) at tier X for raw AA damage per second (DPS), outclassed by Worcester, Minotaur and Des Moines in first, second and third place respectively.

    This is a nit-pick, not a flaw.

  • Salem’s AA firepower is concentrated in vulnerable medium-caliber mounts.
    This is nothing new but it is worth keeping in mind.  Like many ships before her, Salem’s AA firepower is largely concentrated in her soft and squishy (and likely to die the moment an HE shell bursts anywhere near them) 76.2mm gun mounts.  It doesn’t take very much damage to absolutely gut her AA firepower and neuter her defense.
  • Salem cannot ambush aircraft.
    Salem’s aerial detection gets no better than 7.8km.  She’s always spotted before aircraft slip into her AA bubble.  Worcester and Minotaur both can keep themselves hidden from aircraft by disabling their AA fire and then only activate it when planes stray well within the reach of their guns, decimating the squadrons before the CV player can react.
Now before anyone gets on my case: none of this to say that Salem’s anti-aircraft firepower is irreparably damaged.  If you start telling me Salem’s AA power sucks, I’m going to laugh at you. Salem just has to work to separate herself from the pack.  She has the potential to be an excellent anti-aircraft vessel.  If you want to make CVs cry (and who doesn’t?), you’re going to have to work at it.  Proper specialization is necessary to win the crown here.  Unlike the two light cruisers one-upping her, Salem is more likely to have better AA firepower in actual matches.
  • Minotaur does not have access to Defensive AA Fire.
    As excellent as Minotaur’s AA defense is, she does not have the potential show-stopping killing power that Salem does with her consumable active.  Minotaur is superior, without argument, to the Des Moines-class sisters when their Defensive AA Fire consumable isn’t active.  However, we would be remiss to ignore this advantage they possess.
  • Worcester’s dependence on IFHE makes taking a full AA build difficult.
    Optimizing an AA build is expensive, requiring sinking points into Basic Fire TrainingAdvanced Fire Training and Manual Fire Control for AA Guns to top the charts.  It takes a 14pt build to unlock that much.  Worcester’s 152mm guns are heavily dependent on the 4pt commander skill Inertial Fuse for HE Shells to maximize their damage output.  Worcester players must choose between a full AA specialized build or taking Concealment Expert — a helpful and potentially life-saving skill.  The end result is that it’s easier for Salem and Des Moines to deeply specialize into AA firepower than it is for this top competitor.
The end result from all of this is that Salem is more likely to have the  anti-aircraft firepower at her tier.  She’s more likely to be the biggest threat to enemy aircraft deployed.  Even with potential heavy hitters like Worcester and Minotaur, the protection she provides for her team is invaluable.  This all depends upon the player, however, and how they choose to specialize their vessel.  The simple fact is that even if Salem’s anti-aircraft firepower isn’t the , it’s still incredibly powerful and is a healthy contributor to CV player frustration at high tiers. She’s an excellent escort vessel and she’s fully capable of broadcasting a no-fly zone around herself.  It’s really unfair when you get down to it.
Let’s hope Wargaming fixes these broke-ass mechanics soon.
Evaluation:  
What it would have needed to be :  Salem needs more range to take the top spot.  Even then, Des Moines with her 20mm Oerlikons, will always have more AA firepower than Salem, so she’s going to have murder her sister too.
Refrigerator
Base Surface Detection Range: 13.86km
Air Detection Range:  9.87km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 10.65km
Detection Range when Firing from Smoke: 8.18km
Main Battery Firing Range: 15.83km
Surface detection range is all over the map for tier X cruisers, from as high as 18.2km for a near-stock Stalingrad down to 8.9km for a fully upgraded Minotaur rigged for concealment.  The average for a fully upgraded cruiser at tier X is 11.4km so Salem doesn’t come out looking too badly with her 10.7km surface detection range.  Would that this also carried through to other areas.
On the whole, Salem isn’t good at Vision Control.  This is largely owing to her poor consumable options.  She doesn’t have access to any form of catapult aircraft.  Her Surveillance Radar is pathetically short ranged with a short duration to boot.  Her Hydroacoustic Search is unremarkable and she doesn’t have the option of stacking it with Surveillance Radar the way Des Moines can.  Her game play necessitates that she hump islands to stay alive, so doing any form of direct spotting without a consumable is usually right out.  Spotting for herself directly will just get her killed.
It’s the shortcomings of her Surveillance Radar that are of particular note.  While Des Moines own surface detection outstrips her radar range by 700m this is scarcely enough time for a destroyer to react.  In Salem’s case, this difference is more than 2,000m, giving destroyers enough time to haul the rudder over and steam in the other direction without ever slipping into radar range.  Short of setting up island ambushes or catching a destroyer or British cruiser sitting in their own smoke, I found Salem’s Surveillance Radar to be of questionable use, preferring instead to opt for her Hydroacoustic Search instead.
Salem’s play-dynamic is more active compared to Des Moines because of the differences in her consumables.  She cannot lend the same level of support simply camping and letting destroyers and British cruisers come to her.
Evaluation:  
What it would have needed to be :  Salem is a long way off here.  Even buffing her radar up to Des Moines levels still wouldn’t move the needle.  She’d need a combination of consumable and surface detection buffs to begin to compete with Minotaur and Worcester.
Which Trials for Salem?
 
There are lots (and lots) of possible skill builds for Salem.  Above is just one of many examples.  There are a few skills that should be considered “must haves”, namely Superintendent to give her an extra charge of her Repair Party and Concealment Expert to make hiding easier.  From there, build as you please.  Note that the above build has a little bit of everything, specializing in nothing.  Advanced Fire Training will combine well with the AA Guns Modification 2 upgrade to give her a 7.2km anti-aircraft aura.  The lack of other AA skills denotes a reliance on Defensive Fire to keep planes away.
Final Evaluation    
  • I honestly feel she’s just an ever-so-slightly crappier version of Des Moines.
  • Don’t get me wrong, her Repair Party has the potential to be super awesome, but I found myself in more games lamenting the lack of her Surveillance Radar range than rejoicing over being able to out-heal fire damage.
  • What really turns me away from this ship is her economy.  Is this the start of a new trend of Reward-Ships?  Nelson, Musashi and Missouri are looking a lot more attractive all of the sudden…
Salem’s economy is shit for premium players.
The cynic in me is screaming that Salem’s sole purpose is to incentivize you to spend doubloons on tier X premium camouflage.  This becomes readily apparent when you do a side by side comparison between Salem and Des Moines’ earning potential with each of them equipped with their permanent camo.
Des Moines will earn you more credits (or cost you less on a loss) and the extra experience she earns also translates into more captain training and more free experience earned to boot.  The only bad thing about Des Moines that you can’t use her to train other commanders without having to pay for re-specializing them to another ship after the fact.  Except that you can.  If you have a 19pt commander for Des Moines, then any of that commander experience becomes free commander experience which can then be dumped onto whatever other captain you wish.

Salem just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and the incentives to acquire her feel contrived unless you’re a free-to-play player. Then, and only then does Salem begin to look appealing. Like tech tree ships, she’s still a tier X that will surprise butt-sex your in-game wallet. Salem will just do it a little more gently.  For a player without money to spend, this has its appeal.  It’s a chance for Des Moines game play at a discount.  It’s a chance for another free ship.  Just beware that owning (or even contemplating owning) Salem may grease the wheels to make you want to throw money at those 5,000 doubloon tier X camouflage patterns.

Those who like Des Moines may also enjoy the variety Salem offers, subtle though it is.  At her core, she’s a tougher and more selfish versions of Des Moines, sacrificing utility of her longer ranged radar for mutant healing powers and the ability to take Hydroacoustic Search and Defensive Fire at the same time.  Salem really becomes more interesting in a division composition but I’m still not convinced that Des Moines isn’t a better choice overall.

I’m happy to see another sister-ship make it into the game.  I hope to see far more of these in the future, especially when they don’t mess overmuch with an already successful design. Just watch your credit count.
Would I Recommend?
It’s worth stating again:  You may not be able to afford to play USS Salem regularly.  She’s a reward ship.  She does not have the economic bonuses normally associated with premiums.  If you do not have a premium account and you want to use premium consumables on this ship, it’s very likely that playing Salem will cost you credits, not earn them, especially if you cannot win consistently.
  • PVE Battles
    How well does the ship maintain profitability in Co-Op modes and how does she fare against bots?

No.  Salem doesn’t offer anything for Co-Op that Des Moines doesn’t already.  Bots don’t care if you hump islands, they’ll come at you too aggressively for that strategy to work so you end up having to open water brawl which isn’t Salem’s strong point.  The shorter game play time of Co-Op matches mitigates the advantage of her Repair Party too.

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

No, with a but.  Salem’s economic bonuses are crap, frankly.  Even as a commander trainer, she’s kinda lackluster.  That would be about the only reason I could see to validate acquiring her — for someone that absolutely loves Des Moines game play and wishes they had a premium version of her they could use to train other commanders.  But even then, her 50% XP bonus is pretty lackluster.

At least you have a better chance of farming Dreadnought medals in her.

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

No.  While on paper her mega-Repair Party looks amazing it was rare that I got to take full advantage of it in game.  You pay for this with crappy radar.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s still a Des Moines and she can still kick butt, but you’d be better with going with the lead of her class in this category.

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

Yes.  I’ll admit a bit of bias here — I had a lot of fun with the Salem Witch and this brings back a lot of fond memories for me.  I’ve prodded Wargaming to make her October 2015 camo available.  Here’s hoping.

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

Yes.  Des Moines game play is a lot of fun and Salem ticks this box as well.

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

GARBAGE – The boat is unbalanced, not fun to play and weak. The ship desperately needs some buffs or some quality of life changes.
Mehbote – An average ship. Has strengths and weaknesses. Doesn’t need buffs to be viable however she’s not going to be considered optimal.
Gudbote – A powerful ship, often one of the best ships at a given role within its tier. Usually considered optimal for a given task.
OVERPOWERED – The boat is unbalanced and powerful. Typically she’s either horrible to play against or she redefines the meta entirely.

In Closing
What a week.  While I’m happy this review is kinda-sorta getting out on time, I was nowhere near as productive this week as I wanted to be.  Ugh. Let me know what you think of Salem.  In particular, I’m curious to hear what you think of this modified economy and what this means for the future of Reward Ships in the game.

My next review will be USS Massachusetts, the tier VIII American battleship.  I should have it ready before June 25th.  Thank you very much for reading.  If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Appendix

A list of sites, programs and people I rely upon to create my reviews.
Research:

Artwork:

For Graphics:

Programs Used:

  • World of Warships (duh)
  • Notepad (seriously)
  • MS Paint (also, seriously)
  • iPhone Stopwatch App (yep)
  • Puzzle Piece (e the second)

Hardware: Mouse toils away on an old i7-2600K 3.40GHz computer with 16GB RAM and an Nvidia 560Ti GPU running a 64bit OS.

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