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Year of the Carrier my butt12/31/2017 5:01:14 PM
Published By: LittleWhiteMouse
I could wax poetic on 'What a year it's been!' or 'World of Warships sure has changed!' but I think I'm glad to see the end of this year.  Overall, 2017 was a good year for World of Warships though it wasn't without a number of missteps.  The 'year of the carrier' was anything but and  I think calling this the 'year of the battleship' would be a better appellation in hindsight.  It was certainly a more interesting year for dreadnought-players than for any other class type.  The meta shifted not once but three times over the course of 2017 with the skill changes brought with patch 0.6.0, the HE-slinging Royal Navy battleships being introduced with 0.6.10 forcing players to re-evaluate these same skills and finally the smoke changes with patch 0.6.12.  Battleships became more and more interesting as the year progressed.  For aircraft carriers....?  Well, I think Graf Zeppelin best summarized the low point for carriers this year.
For my own part, 2017 was mostly spent working on premium ship reviews.  This was the lens through which all of my other work derived. World of Warships released  twenty-six new premiums to the NA region (twenty-seven globally) in 2017.  At the end of 2016, Lert, NoZoupForYou and I looked back at all of the premium ships released over the year and picked the most memorable releases.  These weren't necessarily the best ships -- just the ones that stood out from the rest for good or for ill.  Lert's joining me again for this year.  With as much time as I've spent looking at these darned things, you can bet there's a lot of stories.  We picked out seven favourites from the following list:
Fun - Simple, Unadulterated Fun
Let's start off with something amusing.  These are premium ships that Lert and I each enjoyed tremendously.

Okhotnik (tier 5 Soviet Destroyer) is comedy gold. Mouse called it a fish story, and the product of a bunch of schoolchildren trying to one-up each other while designing a destroyer. Its ludicrous length is only emphasized by the horizontal stripe camouflage, and the whole ship comes across as the brainchild of a drunk naval designer who'd just discovered ctrl-c, ctrl-v.

While difficult to drive well owing to mediocre speed and sluggish handling, a well driven Okhotnik is still a force to be reckoned with because of an absolutely silly amount of firepower. There's not a destroyer in its matchmaking spread that wants to be the focus of your guns, if you catch someone in your torpedo range you can just flood the ocean with explody fishies. Battles in Okhotnik are rarely forgettable. 
Strangely, one of the most boring ships released this year that ended up being the premium that I reach for when I want to relax. De Grasse (tier 6 French Cruiser) has nothing especially good going for her, but for whatever reason, she ticks all of the right boxes for me.  She's fast enough.  Her guns hit hard enough.  Overall, though, she's very plain.  I don't think I can rightly explain it.  You'd think with the awful matchmaking tier 6 experiences that she would drive me away, but there you have it.
The People's Voice, Part One
What happens when Wargaming listens to the masses?

When Alabama (tier 8, American Battleship) was announced there was a whole lot of hubbub on the forum, to put it mildly. People were up in arms, pitchforks were raised, tar and feathers set aside for whoever decided it to be a reward ship for a very select few. Well, the people were heard - the loud ones on the forum as well as the ones quietly arguing for the free sale of Alabama behind the scenes. Then there was the whole issue with the citadel.

When the ship itself arrived it proved a good ship, a fun ship even. People will cite the lower sigma as why it's worse than North Carolina, but myself I far prefer the Alabama for its agility. Its like someone took a US standard type battleship, gave it additional W, but forgot to inform it that it wasn't allowed to turn anymore. This is one time where the people's voice was heard, and the result was a fun and very good premium ship. 

For my own part, I think Enterprise (tier 8, American Aircraft Carrier) best shows what the player's voices can accomplish when raised in unison -- or maybe I just want to downplay the benefits of pitchfork and torch waving.  This was THE most requested ship on the North American server and her absence was duly noted.  Apparently, Wargaming had no intention of including Enterprise in the game had it not been for the many requests made by the player base.  Pigeon_of_War, the Associate Producer of World of Warships North America, went above and beyond to make sure the resulting ship was interesting and enjoyable so as to not disappoint the player base.
The success of Enterprise is incredibly significant for the future development of World of Warships.  It has paved the way for further player requests for vessels that might not otherwise be included in the game, like HMCS Haida.
The Disappointment
Sometimes things don't turn out as planned...
2017 for me started with a disappointment. Oleg (tier 3 Russian Cruiser) was the first, but not the worst, disappointment of the year. Released February 3rd, she was our first non-clone premium of the year and a turd besides. I mean, how hard is it to produce a fun protected cruiser? Oleg somehow managed to not only be frustrating to play, but it sucked hairy-moose balls besides.
Long have there been requests for Italian ships, and when the first Italian ship was announced, people were jubilant. The result however leaves something to be desired. Sure, Duca d'Aosta (tier 6 Italian Cruiser) has got things going for her like railgun AP velocity, long range torpedoes and very good straight line speed and decent agility, but the whole package just doesn't feel right.

Her range is mediocre, her gun handling bad, she's very soft, her torpedoes slow, the AP is as anemic as her HE. She feels like a thoroughbred Italian racing car: good looking and fast, but not very practical. The number of battles played in this ship over any given period point to the same conclusion. The first Italian ship in this game simply isn't very good. We could only hope this didn't set the stage for Italian ships in this game. 
Royal Navy Battleships
2017 saw the long-awaited Royal Navy battleship line arrive in World of Warships.  We saw not one, but THREE premium battleships (all at tier 7!) released this year along with the tech tree.  The meta will never be the same.
If you were to ask me what the strangest release was in 2017, I'd have to point at Hood (tier 7 British Battleship).  There's nothing normal about the ship itself, despite looking normal (so long as you ignore that huge freeboard).  Poorly armed, poorly protected, huge, Wargaming decided to balance her with one of the weirdest gimmicks as yet seen -- her rocket launchers that somehow, and ahistorically, give her tremendous anti-aircraft firepower.  Why?  We dunno, just 'cause!
Even the way Hood was introduced into the game was gimmicky,  She had a staggered release in the online shop where you couldn't buy her without an enormous bundle at first.  This coincided with the ongoing campaign and the first Collection Series we saw in World of Warships. Between all of this attention and a month-long stay in the premium shop, HMS Hood has access to four different premium camouflages too.  There was so much noise made about her inclusion.
Yet, for all of this attention, for all of this fuss, she's a 'meh' presence in World of Warships.  She was subsequently eclipsed by the release of the Royal Navy battleship line and she now lies mostly forgotten. 
Nelson (tier 7 British Battleship). The second free XP ship in the game. Proof that you can have a ship with all-forward firepower and an above-water citadel and still be more than competitive. Some people might argue that the HE shells are too good, that the super-heal is too good, that the ship is too slow and too clumsy. Those people make good points. Nelson isn't for everyone. It's a flawed ship.

But it's a fun, flawed ship - at least, to me it is, and this is my list. She's been topping the T7 BB rankings ever since her introduction, though not by such a margin that she runs the risk of being considered too OP to sell. Though I will maintain that Scharnhorst is a 'better premium', I still find myself reaching for Nelson more than for Scharnhorst. It's the Trogdor effect of that 16" HE.

Yes yes I know the AP is also viable. But that's not what Nelson is known for. 
The People's Voice, Part Two
The downside of having the developers cave to player pressure...
Duke of York's (tier 7 British Battleship)  introduction was also one that caused quite a stir on the forums. At first she was envisioned as a sort of 'super cruiser', a battleship without a heal but other very powerful cruiser-like abilities. However, when this vision was leaked / announced, the fear on the forum was that she'd be woefully uncompetitive in this form. Not an ungrounded fear, it doesn't take a unicum to see the problem with a battleship lacking heals.

But that was all that people focused on. The lack of heals. People ignored the rest, the increased sigma, increased AP shell performance, defensive fire.

WG listened. And Duke of York was turned from an uncompetitive but interesting and unique ship into an uncompetitive, weak mess of a clone. At least in its super-cruiser form Dookie succeeded as a premium ship by virtue of being interesting and novel. Now though?

The people were heard. And now wish they'd remained quiet.
Be careful what you wish for.  Duke of York hasn't been a total calamity, but with 2018 promising the be the year of at least a few sister-ship releases (Cossack-Haida, Alabama-Massachusetts), the watered-down release of Duke of York may herald several more player-inspired botches.
The Critical Fumble
When Wargaming dropped the ball, then set fire to the ball, then rubbed the on-fire ball on the faces of poor orphans, and then fired iChase.

Graf Zeppelin (tier 8 German Aircraft Carrier). Oy vey. What to say that hasn't been said already. Her introduction was arguably the worst disaster this year. She was unfinished and uncompetitive. WGs handling of the introduction fail was even worse, arguing that 'nothing was wrong' for several days, before finally coming clean and admitting they botched it.

Mind you, in the end they did make big steps towards making it right again, but undeniable damage was done. Nobody who was on the forum at the time will forget Zeppelin-gate. It was just a mess. Note that I'm talking about the way it was introduced and the state it was in at the time, not the current versions. Though, you'd have thought the balancing would be done by now.

Let's hope they won't repeat this disaster ever again.
I don't think any examination of 2017 in World of Warships could exclude Graf Zeppelin.  This was the most stressful time I've had in the past year.  It also emphasized, to me, the importance of providing honest and timely criticism of products and how vulnerable consumers can be to shady business practices.  It's amusing to me that there's a very small, but very adamant counter-culture movement that's currently pushing-back against the negative press Graf Zeppelin prompted, trying to say that the ship was fine at release and that those who reviewed her negatively owe the player base an apology. 
I wish I was making that up.
Premium Ship of the Year
Coming soon to the retired-ship list!
Well, this has been up and down, hasn't it? Success stories, failures, everything in between. Although in my opinion 2016 was a better year for premium ships than 2017 was, this year did see the release of a few utter gems. Including my pick for best premium ship of the year:

Giulio Cesare (tier 5 Italian Battleship).

Small for a battleship, agile, fast enough, punchy guns, beautiful and just so damn comfortable to drive. It even up-tiers well. I've argued publicly that I think the Cesare is borderline overpowered, and I still stand by that. With Giulio Cesare, WG proved that they do know how to make an Italian ship that's actually good, and Cesare has quickly become a fan favorite.

But the best thing about this ship? It proves that you can be very strong and competitive without the need for gimmicks.
I have to echo Lert here.  Giulio Cesare is hands down the best premium ship you could buy for yourself this year.  I can go a step further than Lert and confidently say she is overperforming -- to the point of concern.  That's a bit of a black mark on her record; it would have been nice if she was simply "good" like last year's winner, Scharnhorst.  However, I can comfortably set my misgivings aside and thoroughly recommend this ship to anyone that was looking for the real winner of 2017.


Overall I think 2017 hasn't been as good a year for premium ships as 2016 was. More and bigger misssteps from WG, more disappointing ships, more questionable decisions. Still, we got through it and I can only hope that 2018 will be a better year.

Thank you, Mouse, for allowing me a voice, and thank you reader for tolerating said voice.

That's our list.  T-61 was supposed to come out in 2017, but it's apparently been delayed.   She would have been a great contender for one of these entries, but I'm giving stuff away. This means that the last ship and review released in 2017 was Admiral Makarov.  T-61 will be the last ship conforming to my old review format -- you'll see it published whenever-Wargaming greenlights its release.  Going forward, I'll be trying something new with my ship reviews.  I hope you'll all be patient with the upcoming changes.

On behalf of Lert and all of the ShipComrade staff, I want to thank you all for reading. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Years. We'll see you in 2018!

Mouse & Lert fan artwork by Chobittsu