Submarines have arrived in World of Warships, specifically into COOP and Random battles. So what about them?
First thing noticeable is how different they are from actual World War II submarines. Balao class submarine has surface speed of 27,9 knots, and submerged speed of 27,9 knots (compared to historical 20,25 knots surfaced and 8,75 knots submerged). They also have homing torpedoes with range of 14 kilometers, sonar with range of 14 km and a hydrophone consumable. When submerged, detectability range is 2,2 km. U-2501 is similar, with speed of 26 knots surface and 26 knots submerged, and 11 kilometer torpedoes.
And physical characteristics of torpedoes are no less ridiculous than those of submarines themselves. Torpedoes have speeds from 73 knots (U-69) to 89 knots (Balao). For comparison, US World War II torpedo (Mark 14) had a speed of 46 knots, and could not home. Torpedoes act like literal Sidewinder missiles, capable of curving 90 degrees in less than a hundred meters, and targeting the pinged section of the ship. While ships can neutralize sonar ping with DCP, this does not do much as submarine is capable of repinging immediately – reload of the sonar ping is 8 seconds. And torpedoes immediately home in on the new ping, so using DCP has to be timed to a second if it is to be of any use. What is worse, if player uses two pings on the target, torpedoes will completely ignore the torpedo protection. This means not only increase in base damage, but also means that the torpedoes will often hit the citadel – resulting in massive and completely unhealable damage. And thanks to homing, torpedoing a bow-in destroyer is no more difficult than torpedoing a broadside battleship. Unless the target uses the damage control party, hits – and, in large ships, citadel damage – are almost unavoidable.
Using DCP to counter torpedoes is in itself a massive issue, because damage control party is probably the most important consumable a ship – especially a battleship – has at their disposal. It is used to counter fires and flooding, and is absolutely necessary to allow battleships to push. If DCP has to be used to negate sonar pings, battleships cannot push properly, because one of their biggest strengths has been neutralized by the submarines.
One good thing is that submarines receive splash damage from secondaries, even when they are at the periscope depth. Combined with their general squishiness, it means that a careless or agressive submarine player gets melted quickly. But when it comes to guns, submarines do not have any – or rather, they have a single deck gun. But that gun acts like surface ships secondaries: it is completely automated, which means that WarGaming has ruined the surface gameplay for submarines as well. Secondaries are only fun if ship mounts ten or more of them.
Submarine, at maximum depth, is blind and deaf, but also invisible and invulnerable. This allows it to easily pull off stunts such as sneaking into the enemy cap or similar – or dragging out the game nearly forever as it runs away and dives whenever threatened.
The gameplay is ridiculously repetitive. It all consists of sailing around, pinging, launching Subwinders, and diving when in danger. There is little need for map awareness beyond finding targets and not running into rocks, as a submarine can immediately dive when threatened and, upon reaching sufficient depth, become completely invulnerable – even to dedicated anti-submarine weapons such as depth charges. And unlike submarines which have received sonars taken from Los Angeles class submarines and underwater Sidewinders, destroyers have no homing torpedoes.
And that is another problem. Destroyers are an already overworked class. They have to spot, to cap, to attack enemy capital ships, to protect capital ships from enemy destroyers, and all of that while being under constant threat of air attack by the Spawn of Devil. Now, they have to hunt submarines on top of everything else. Only good thing is that (some?) battleships and cruisers get the airstrike consumable, allowing them to counter submarines to an extent.
On the surface ships’ side, hunting submarines is fun when they are detected. At least first few times – air strike mechanic on battleships is very repetitive. Destroyer depth charges are far more fun. But in this situation, it is submarine that does not have many options for a counterplay. The airstrike either hits or it does not, and there is very little that a submarine can do about it. In the essence, this is the same problem that is plaguing the aircraft carriers and, to an extent, the HE spam: there are no tactics. Everything is highly technical, with very little thought involved, especially once submarine had been detected. A destroyer – which also relies on stealth – can evade, run away, or smoke up when it is detected. Submarine cannot really do any of that.
They also ruin the matchmaking. Maximum number of ships in a Random game is 12, and in Ranked it is 7. With five different types in the game – battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and carriers – that is far too few slots. But maps are too small for any more ships. The only way carriers and submarines could work are if matches could be increased so that the optimal number of ships is maybe 1-2 CVs – 6 BB – 6 CA/CL – 6 DD – 1-2 SS, for a total of 20-22 ships per team in an optimal match. But it is questionable whether servers could handle this, maps would have to be redesigned and increased, and the waiting time would increase massively. It is also not a good idea to begin with, as smaller team sizes promote brawling and dynamic, mobile gameplay, leading to far more interesting and fun games.
Lastly, they completely ruined the only part of the submarine gameplay that was actually fun on the test server. Submarines there were controlled much like actual submarines, or aircraft: they had full 3D maneuverability. As a result, submarine to submarine battles were fun, dynamic and engaging. But with simplified control scheme, this is no longer true. Submarine duels are almost impossible now, and are in any case frustrating and boring.
Conclusion? Submarines are a complete mistake. They screw up an already majorly screwed up game. World of Warships never was a simulation, but it had a lot of realism and pseudo-realism (even if ships do behave more like tanks). But submarines do not – they cannot be realistic if they are to work in fleet battles. So in order to force-feed submarines into the game, WarGaming turned the class into MechaHitler’s wet fantasy.