Angry Youtuber Update: Asashio

The following is a discussion regarding Asashio, a ship kindly provided to me by Wargaming. This ship is still undergoing testing and may change significantly before release. 
 To say that Asashio has attracted a lot of attention would be an understatement.  Social media is abuzz with, on the whole, largely negative press regarding this upcoming release.  Normally, I wouldn’t take notice of a large undercurrent of negativity found on Reddit, Discord, Youtube, Facebook and the official Forums.  However, this is above the norm.  Oh, it’s not a poop-storm in the same manner as Alabama-gate last year, but it’s rare that I see a ship so universally panned by critics.  The contrarian in me wants to immediately rush to Asashio’s defense.  That way I could be Hipster-Mouse and claim that I liked Asashio before it was cool to do so.
Poseurs.  Get on my level.
 The ship is now in its third iteration of live play testing, with design apparently zeroing in on publishing the ship as-is with her controversial torpedo armament.  Though I am usually loathe to invest much into a ship still in play testing, I thought it prudent to comment a little on Asashio’s current state of development.
Asashio 1.0
Asashio began life as a near-clone of Kagero, the tier VIII Japanese tech-tree destroyer when upgraded. She had the following announced statistics:
There were differences when compared to Kagero. The more notable were the following:
  • Main Battery Range: +1.5km
  • Main Battery Reload Time: +2.0s
  • Air Detection: +300m
  • AA Power: -26dps
PROS: Better torpedo armament than a stock Kagero.

CONS: Worse than a fully upgraded version of Kagero, especially in regards to her guns.

Asashio wasn’t always controversial.  Her initial release onto the live servers as something veterans of World of Tanks would find familiar for a premium vehicle.  While better than the stock version of a tier VIII destroyer, she was worse than her fully upgraded one.  She had no gimmicks to speak of.  I had largely dismissed her as acceptable but uninteresting — she would serve as a commander trainer, but HSF Harekaze would remain the much better purchase between the two tier VIII premium Japanese destroyers unless you specifically wanted harder hitting torpedoes. With the High School Fleet crossover due to end in September of 2018 by my current estimates, this seemed acceptable to me.  Asashio would be a work-horse premium, perfectly acceptable for commander training.
But, the community did what they usually did when faced with a perfectly acceptable new ship bereft of game-breaking gimmicks:  they bitched.  So, Wargaming made changes.
Asashio 2.0
Wargaming took the initial build and changed the following:
  • Asashio no longer had to choose between taking a Smoke Generator or Torpedo Reload Booster. The latter was moved to a fourth consumable slot, allowing her to use both (!).
  • Her Torpedoes were changed to a Deep Water variant that could only attack Battleships and Aircraft Carriers.
  • Torpedo Range doubled from 10km to 20km.
  • Torpedo Detection Range was reduced by 1km from 1.7km to 0.7km.
PROS: Monstrously powerful against battleships with her ridiculous range.

CONS: Engaging cruisers and destroyers was largely limited to abusing spotting mechanics for your allies or firing with your anemic guns.

Source: World of Warships Facebook Devblog from February 2nd, 2018.

This is where the controversy began — namely focused around Asashio’s very powerful and very specific torpedo armament.  My experiences play testing Asashio demonstrated that this build was very strong against battleships but very weak at dealing with destroyers and cruisers (though not entirely incapable).  While aircraft carriers could be engaged, it’s rare for high tier destroyers to spot an enemy CV, never mind attack them.  I only managed to sink two in over thirty games played. Thus, this became a ship with a singular purpose:  to destroy battleships.
 She excelled at this, as well you can imagine, provided you could slip through the screens of picket ships and aircraft.    While it was possible to land “Hail Mary” hits from the extremes of her range, this was largely only possible during the opening minutes of a match while players were still moving their ships into position.  Like most IJN destroyers, guaranteeing hits required Asashio to get much closer — usually within 10km of an intended target to minimize the impact of attempts to dodge.  Whenever possible, I tried to shrink this range down even further to as close to 6km as I dared.  Coupled with Torpedo Acceleration, this would ensure the doom of a target battleship.
 My Angry Youtuber Review of version 2.0 of Asashio from patch 0.7.1.
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.
The community now faced a devil of their own making (be careful what you wish for).  There was really no counterplay for enemy battleships targeted by Asashio. This version of Asashio, though overspecialized, was incredibly powerful.  The only thing that kept her from being disgustingly overpowered, in my opinion, was the inherent difficulties of trying to sway a match beyond making battleships die.
Asashio 3.0

Asashio received further updates nearly three weeks later.  This is the current test version of the ship which may be encountered on live servers as of this publication date.  She received the following changes:

  • Main battery reload time decreased from 9 to 7.05 seconds;
  • Turret rotation speed increased from 6 to 6.9 deg./sec;
  • Torpedo detectability increased from 0.7 to 0.9 km.
  • Camouflage turned blue.

PROS:  Increased functionality of her main battery armament, bringing her up to par with a fully upgraded Kagero.
CONS:  Improvements to guns is only marginal and does not make her capable of challenging true gunships.

Source:  World of Warships Facebook Devblog.  February 20th, 2018.

What I found hilarious was how Wargaming doubled down on the design decisions.  I shouldn’t have been surprised given how many people chose to focus feedback around her guns of all things.  Asashio saw a significant buff to her main battery and her torpedoes had their detection tweaked.  The approximate reaction time for Asashio’s torpedoes jumped from 3.9s to 5.0s — long enough to squeeze in your favourite expletive before they struck home.  Her artillery was now on par with Kagero’s own. In her current design build, she could be released as-is and I would not be terribly surprised.
Despite the limitations of Asashio’s torpedo armament, Asashio is very influential.  She has the ability to strike battleships before they finish leaving the deployment area in the opening minutes of a match.  This is especially dangerous to slower battleships found at tiers VI and VII which often struggle to reach (never mind exceed) 25 knots.  I regularly attacked ships before they realized they were even in range.  While it’s unlikely to sink a healthy battleship with these early Hail-Mary shots, landing even a couple of hits had a significant impact.  Damaged ships are less likely to commit fully to engagements and play more passively.
 This first-strike ability is Asashio’s greatest strength and it’s the easiest way for her to sway a battle before it even gets started.  While this type of attack isn’t possible on all maps within a rotation, it does necessitate players to modify their normal behaviours.  Anti-destroyer tactics must be exercised even within the opening minutes of a match.  Those that do not change their habits have only themselves to blame.
After deployment, Asashio’s power wanes and she must look for targets of opportunity.  Invariably, these will be battleships on the front lines. The extremes of her range may allow her to attempt to take pot-shots at battleships camping in the back, but realistically, these shots never amount to much.  With the screen of friendly ships and aircraft, volleys bypassing the front lines are spotted and easy to avoid.  As much as we would all love for Asashio to be the fix for battleships humping the map borders, that just won’t happen.
Gonna need me some binoculars.
The argument here is that Asashio promotes more passive play.  She seems designed to punish aggressive battleships that dare spearhead a charge.  Even those sitting behind a screen of destroyers and cruisers are not entirely safe.
The easiest way to land hits on these targets is for Asashio to be aggressive — up on the front lines herself.  This not only facilitates landing clusters of torpedo hits (instead of singular fish) but it extends out vision for her team.  This is much higher risk, though, and few players seem willing to take said risks.  While veterans and unicum are more likely to press the envelope on what can and cannot be achieved with this new destroyer, there’s understandable concern that Asashio will promote passive play not only from enemy battleships but from Asashio herself.  The fear is that in the hands of the commons, Asashio is designed to sit behind friendly ships and fire her torpedoes at medium to long range, doing nothing otherwise to assist in base capture or vision projection.
 This isn’t the full extent of bad habits and bad plays Asashio can make.  It pays not to under estimate the extent to which allies will go to avoid a scrap.  The reach of her torpedoes encourages all sorts of unfortunate decisions, like “flanking manoeuvres” down the extremes of the map borders.
At worst, Asashio will actively diminish what little dynamic play still exists within the high tier meta.

North is one of the maps where Asashio can deliver significant damage in the opening minutes of a match — particularly if a battleship makes the mistake of moving from a western deployment towards the east.
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but Asashio feels to me like another shot at reducing battleship populations.  This may (or may not) be Wargaming’s intent — one of the thousands of cuts necessary to encourage players to diversify away from BBs.  Specifically, Asashio makes cruisers the most attractive choice to counter her given the last wave of buffs.  Her guns are a credible threat to enemy destroyers now.  I could make a case for Asashio similarly limiting the impactof destroyers with her smaller toolkit.  Destroyers are arguably the second most influential ship type in the game in Random Battles behind aircraft carriers and Asashio doesn’t have the same versatility as many of her peers.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view), Asashio is unlikely to present the numbers necessary to shake up the meta to any significant degree.  Encounters with the ship may be frequent at first but the limited scope of her available targets will reduce her popularity.  To those dreading Asashio’s game play, this is poor consolation, where any encounter will be more markedly remembered than those with her absence.  It will be up to the individual player to evaluate how these one-off meetings affects their overall perception of the game.  Currently a lot more power and influence is attributed to Asashio than she deserves.
 The threat of an Asashio is no different than the threat of any other destroyer capable of firing torpedoes from stealth.  Battleships are loathe to push towards areas where they know torpedo-boats are lurking.  Aggressive battleships are the ones that get picked off by torpedoes first.  There will always be “bad” destroyers that refuse to contest capture points, that make ridiculous end-run flanking manoeuvres or that hide behind their allies.  Asashio does not change any of this, nor does she exaggerate an already prevalent problem.  If Asashio has a fault, it’s that she facilitates said behaviour and may even reward it with improved survival and damage totals than would otherwise be possible in other destroyers.
I have had a lot of fun playing Asashio, though I recognize the fun was entirely one-sided.  She’s a stereotype of Japanese destroyer game play, exaggerated to almost comedic levels.  She’s hilariously inept at dealing with cruiser and destroyer gunships and ridiculously over-tuned when facing battleships.  Asashio feels rewarding when I can make her perform not because of myopic play style but in spite of it.  I challenge myself to push caps, harass destroyers and provide vision to bully dangerous cruisers.  I recognize that I am the exception and that doesn’t blind me to her flaws.
I am torn with this ship.  I cannot argue that she’s not a lot of fun to play.  But then, it’s also fun to play Atlanta or Belfast when you finally catch out an enemy destroyer at close range.  It’s also fun to instant-delete cruisers with battleships.  I recognize that the amusement is entirely one-sided, though.  No one likes feeling powerless in a gaming situation.
The argument of counter play gets raised often, and let’s be fair:  If you’re playing a battleship other than a high-tier German, Duke of York or Missouri, there’s no counter play to Asashio.  You are entirely reliant upon your allies to keep you safe.   However, this isn’t new.  This is the same problem any battleships faces against almost any other destroyer within their matchmaking spread (with some loser exceptions).  Arguments that Asashio’s torpedo reaction time is too short to respond are facetious — unless you’re already on the alert, responding belatedly to torpedo threats will minimize damage at best and just make you look stupid at worse.
I hope Asashio does evolve further with a significant reduction in torpedo range.  I am not going to lose sleep if she gets released as is.  However, you can bet I will be changing my play style if I see her on the enemy roster.  For that reason, and that reason alone, she gets the following rating:
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.

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