Naval is often the butt ends of jokes when it comes to the War Thunder player base, so I thought it might be interesting to open a thread up for discussion on what can be done about it to make it less alienated. So to get that started, I might as well express my view on the game mode and what it did right and wrong, as well as how to fix those issues if I can. I welcome the rest of the community to pitch in ideas and list their own issues they wish to be addressed!
Coming in as a casual player of World of Warships, I was quite excited when Gaijin initially released a naval expansion to the game. I was tired of the key aspect of WoWs’ game mechanic which includes: heavy RNG-based volley spread, smoke that acts as an invisibility cloak as soon as you are within its field of influence, and of course: the aircraft carrier that just went from RTS into a player-controlled action around the time being the bane of everybody’s existence (I know, I know, CAS innit). So the idea that I can actually hit what I’m aiming at, actually can see someone going into smoke cover and spot their little imperfections as they improperly conceal themselves, and carriers not ruining every match was rather appealing.
But coming as a Battleship main, realizing that WT would dip its toes in through a fast-paced, panicky knife fight of coastal waters was definitely something I had to adjust to. As the vehicles continually trickle in and the path toward bigger, more recognizable ships came into view, I prepared for that eventuality by playing with the various Gunboats and learning the ways behind the scroll wheel range correction (although trying to aim your dinky metal tub in rough waves was certainly seasick inducing). But eventually, like all attempts to Grind your way up to Better Vehicle, burnout reached me, as did the bottom of my SL reserve from constantly dying to the German flak barges, and I chose to leave Naval well alone for now.
That is, until the announcement of the Coastal-Bluewater split. Suddenly I don’t have to endure the point-blank clash anymore and instead can jump straight into the destroyers! And unlike before, I can actually get momentum going. Sure, the line up aren’t as potent as I’d have liked, with IJN destroyers and early cruisers lacking the AP round to deal any notable damage to anything with even the slightest bit of armor (notably American ships of the same BR), but after obtaining the IJN Akizuki, the sheer amount of HE it can throw with its excellent guns was able to get me into quite a consistent kill count (not win streak, unfortunately since that depends on the team…) which then more or less singlehandedly lead me to IJN Furutaka and Aoba whose much needed AP rounds allow me to make the progression faster (and obtain me the IJN Haruna on the S.U.M.M.E.R Event).
And now here I am, with IJN Suzuya and Tone, grinding for Mogami so I can complete my 6.0 lineup. That is all to say, I think I have a fairly comprehensive overview of the game mode thus far (at least as a Japan main). I’m no expert in the gameplay (I do tend to end up on the upper half of the leaderboard, but that’s not an accurate assessment of skill considering that most of the team are bots) but also not someone new to it that had their expectations bummed out. And I conclude that WT Naval can be fun, especially if you don’t take it too seriously, but it has a number of serious flaws.
- Slow-Paced Game: Perhaps a controversial opinion, but I enjoy the slower pace of the bluewater game mode. Tanks and planes (in RB) experience a rather rapid game style after the initial time spent moving into the desired positions. With ships, you have the time to more or less react accordingly even after you have been spotted, so you aren’t subject to sudden death from nowhere (or a suspicious bush in Ground). In the event you aren’t being shelled upon, the slower pace also allows for more planned-out strategic movements that aren’t snap decisions. And if you want a faster pace like the other two game modes, you got coastal.
- Good SL Payout: Probably in an attempt to attract more players to the game mode, the SL rewards are quite good! It’s nice to see that you have a net positive of some 25k SL for sinking a few Moffetts.
- Good AA Defense: Another controversial take is the bot’s accuracy with the AA guns (if your ship bothered to have a notable AA suite that is…) This makes the CAS to be a bit of a smaller problem overall if they can’t evade the spray.
- Compression Hell: Perhaps the most noticeable and painful part of Naval so far is the suffocating compression that it experiences. Late coastal encounters early destroyers and are smacked out of the water (although there are virtues of it accompanying a lineup to cap the coastal caps to seize tickets, and there is some fun to be had in trying to sneak up on a big ship to depth charge or torpedo them), late destroyers are helpless against early cruisers, and late cruisers are just sitting ducks for (currently all-aggregated at 7.0) battleships.
- Decompression Limited due to Plane’s BR: Part of the existing BR restrictions is quite possibly how it lines up with aircraft. Due to Gaijin’s insistence that they have no intention of having vehicles BR differ by game modes, decompressing Naval for some breathing room would mean having the eventual high-end/endgame battleships mingling with the Cold War jets it has absolutely no hope of competing against.
- Vulnerable Spawn/Map Design: An issue experienced by all is the fact that bluewater spawn in most maps places teams in direct line of sight with each other. This makes the opening minutes of the match an utter hailstorm of shells meant for you or someone near you as you navigate out of the chaotic spawn cluster.
- Incompatibility with Modern Ship Doctrine: There has been talk about the possibility of adding ever more modern ships to the game to fill out the tech tree. Japan, for example, already got itself some JSDF frigates and destroyers. The problem arises, however when you consider that modern warship doctrine is different from their WW2 counterparts. The all-or-nothing armor scheme that makes them vulnerable to gun warfare…which leads then to the eventual possibility of Anti-Ship missiles that would utterly capsize the power dynamic. Yes, the idea of Missile Thunder for Naval is pure nightmare, but if Gaijin would do that anyway, a solution to this could be like what super_cacti proposed in this thread and put modern ships in their own tech tree and matchmaker.
- Incompatibility with Submarines: In a related note and probably controversial to the hype train around the topic, the current Naval game mode does not support submarine warfare. The nature of submarines and defenses against them leads to a paradoxical situation where they are deadly towards large bluewater ships while smaller ships with depth charges (such as the adequately defined sub-chasers) are effective against them in turn. In real life, this is resolved by a combined fleet, but this won’t work in WT due to the smaller ships simply being easy targets for the larger ships and…well, teamwork not really existing in the first place. The solution to this is, sorry to say, just not add subs in the first place.
- UI Needs Improvement: The User Interface of the game has always kind of been a hit or miss in-game, with Aircraft information UI still minimalistic to the degree that it feels like a development debug mode. In Naval, the general UI is largely adequate when it comes to damage indicator (although the ship not turning in relative direction of view like on Ground leads to confusion on your general heading in relation to your view unless you keep an eye out on the controlled gun’s direction), but then you have the anti-air radar taking up large amount of screen real-estate on the top left corner, utterly overlapping with the chat on my window (I don’t know if this applies to other people with larger screen resolutions). And when you go into sniper view, some elements would just overlap each other, such as your current aiming range and the targeted vessel’s range calculations. This forces you to point your aim lower or higher than the target and manually scroll your ranging to what is appropriate. While not the biggest issue, it does make it not too terribly intuitive.
- HE Damage Model: Over the years, the effect of HE shells has been all over the place. When I was undergoing my Japanese destroyer grind, I often find it woefully inadequate when the enemy has armor, namely American destroyers. And with the recent (as of Update La Royale), the crews of ships are repositioned to be within the safety of the armor belt. While this is a good change overall, I suspect it will cause HE to be even more ineffective in taking out foes.
- Light Bombers Need Wingmen: As a counterpoint to my praise of the AA performance in the Pros section, a single torpedo or bombs isn’t going to do anything to a larger warship. Real life gets around this by sending the torpedo and dive bombers out in squadrons after the targetted vessel. Obviously, scaling to that degree in WT will result in CAS Hell: The Naval Edition, so instead I think a good compromise is after a certain BR (say, 5.0 since before that, one torps will do significant damage), (single) torpedo and dive bombers will spawn with a pair of AI wingmen. This will add an adequate dispersal of AA fire so you won’t get singled out, and is capable of causing incredible damage if all three torpedoes/bombs hit the target.
- The Bots: And of course, Naval’s biggest problem, the bot accounts. A result of the high reward from the SL boost mentioned earlier + premium bonus + negligible repair cost. I don’t know a single thing about how these bots script work so I can’t have much say in it, especially after an update was rolled out where main guns would no longer fire if you switch to secondaries/AA (from what I hear), but I think raising their repair cost would curb the tactic a bit. Yes, raising the repair cost for Premiums is counter to everything that Premium is supposed to provide, but if you can gain such a substantial passive income from getting one kill from Helena, Moffett, Des Moines, etc. and then dying, the trend just won’t stop. On the other hand, those three Premiums (and others) are no joke if someone actually tries to play with them, so players that actually use them will reap the benefit of the Premium Bonus they gained from using those powerful ships.