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[Ship Review] Graf Zeppelin - A non-CV main's perspective

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Disclaimer: This is a perspective of a player that does not play CV's regularly and does not consider himself to be an expert in CV play. It is intended as a guide for similar players who might consider purchasing Graf Zeppelin when she's available

 

Greetings Captains! Kelorn here from the Warships Podcast. This week, after watching /u/farazelleth and femmenenly's videos, I decided that that Graf Zeppelin looked like fun and I had a bit of an itch to play an RTS style game. I've always enjoyed playing RTS games over the years, in particular Dune 2, Red Alert, Starcraft, and Homeworld, to name a few. While I've enjoyed them, I've never been very good at them, so I always got creamed by my brother and friends growing up (I kicked their butts in Counter-Strike at our LAN parties, so it was all ok). With that in mind, I got my Captain trained, fit out the GZ Test I, and headed into random battles.

 

The Good 

Despite my lack of skill, I decided that I wanted to play the 121 setup with normal torpedoes and AP bombs, but I want to take a moment to discuss one of the most important positive aspects of the revised Graf Zeppelin.

 

Diversity.

 

Let's list, shall we, all the different ways you can take the revised Graf Zeppelin into battle:

  • 121 Setup with Deepwater Torps and HE Bombs
  • 121 Setup with Deepwater Torps and AP Bombs
  • 121 Setup with normal Torps and HE Bombs
  • 121 Setup with normal Torps and AP Bombs
  • 203 Setup with AP bombs
  • 203 Setup with HE bombs

 

In an era of simplified Carrier mechanics, with USN CV's going from multiple possible setups to just 1 (or 2 if you count the AP bomb option at higher tier), Graf Zeppelin is really 6 different carriers for the price of one. Now, some of these options aren't particularly good or compelling, but the fact remains that you can play the Graf Zeppelin the way that YOU want to play her, not the way you're forced to play her by limited options.

 

Personally, I think the best setup for a random battle is 121 with normal torps and AP bombs. It gives you the ability to hit all ships, including destroyers, with torpedoes, yet gives you a nice heavy punch against heavily armored BB's and cruiser with your AP bombs. The fighters are a struggle, but we'll get into that later.

 

More to the good, the torpedo drop pattern is the same equal armed cross pattern that we've always had on Graf Zeppelin. The very first test version of the ship had 3 torpedo squadrons and was manifestly overpowered, deleting virtually any ship at will, including destroyers, as the drop pattern makes evasion of ALL torpedoes quite difficult. Using two of these 5 plane squadrons is still the most powerful torpedo strike short of Midway, enormously easier to use than Enterprise's wonky "W" pattern. Even better, the torp squadrons reload quickly and launch quickly, giving you minimal downtime between strikes.

 

The AP Bombs are a mixed bag, but still more good than bad. Due to their historical rocket powered bombs, the AP bombs penetrate more armor than even their USN 1,000lb counterparts. Virtually no battleship in your matchmaking spread is safe from these things. (With a few notable exceptions). German, French, and Italian battleships appear to be particularly susceptible to them. The downside is that once the battleships are dead, the AP bombs are largely useless. There's no point in even dropping them on a DD and most of the cruisers that would take damage from them (Des Moines, Henri, Moskva, etc) have enough AA that you're unlikely to get through their defenses (unless there's been some sort of raging inferno on their decks).

 

The Bad 

The obvious stand out here are the fighter planes. With proper captain skills, you can elevate the single fighter squadron (or double in 203 setups) to the "more bad than good" side of a mixed bag. Against an enemy Lexington, you're fine, as even just clicking on the enemy fighters will give you a neutral sky to send in your strike packages. With some decent Strafing, you can easily shut down an enemy Lexington. Even a balanced loadout Shokaku will be manageable, though you'll have to do some of that fancy strafing to have even a neutral sky to fight in.

 

The problem comes when you face a 312 Shokaku (rare) or Enterprise. Enterprise, in particular, was the bane of my existence while playing the 121 Graf Zeppelin. It was far more common than 312 Shokaku (which I actually never saw) and its 12 fighters in the air (with captain skills) are a massive problem for your one squad of 9 (with captain skills). Even worse, the fighter reserves on Enterprise are HUGE, whereas you don't even get a full backup squadron for yours. Unless you are God's gift to strafing and can neutralize wave after wave of enemy fighter planes, a player of equal skill in an Enterprise will be able to box you into a corner. This is frustrating, but is part of the Matchmaker RNG that comes with playing a Carrier.

 

Also on the Bad side is pretty much the entire 203 setup. It is undoubtedly newbie friendly, offering more fighters with more fighter reserves, as well as "click and forget" dive bombers that (with AP bombs) will do MASSIVE damage to battleships. The problem is that your ability to aid your team in the 203 setup is far more limited. You can't take out that pesky Destroyer sitting in a cap. Your ability to hurt cruisers is limited. And finally, your fighters aren't good enough to guarantee total air superiority over an equally skilled enemy CV player. While I think the 203 setup is WORKABLE, I believe that the overall winrate (a function more of teamplay) will be lower than players using 121.

 

The LUL 

The Graf Zeppelin secondaries are insane.

 

There's really no other way to put it. In one match, it was down to 3v3 with points near equal, the enemy having two caps to our one, and the enemy CV destroyed. I bombed and torped one of the two remaining enemy Colorado's, leaving him with around 1000hp. I was already moving toward the cap he was in, as we needed it to win and both of my teammates were out of position (or unwilling) to cap it. Before my bombers were ready again, my GZ rounded the islands in C cap on Hotspot and two shots instantly went out from my secondaries, finishing the enemy Colorado. Even without manual control for secondary batteries (which is virtually impossible to take in your build), the accuracy and damage of the secondaries will make Bismarck proud.

 

Combine these secondaries with the Hydroacoustic consumable and Graf Zeppelin (which is fairly fast and maneuverable for a CV) becomes a difficult target for an enemy destroyer to charge and kill. This isn't something that will be used on an every game basis, but it's an interesting ace in the hole for a carrier that was already the most diverse ship in its class.

 

Skills/Upgrades 

I played Graf Zeppelin with a 14 point captain, but here is my recommendation for how to spend your points for a 19 point one: http://shipcomrade.com/captcalc/0001010000010000000010000001100119

Dogfighting Expert is essential to Graf Zeppelin, as its downtiered fighters need all the help it can get. Torpedo Armament Expertise is unnecessary, as the Torp bombers already reload very quickly. BFT and AFT have dual benefits of upgrading your secondaries and AA rating, so justify the heavy investment. Overall, there are quite a few options you could play with here, and these are merely the ones that fit my playstyle best.

 

In terms of upgrades, there are only two worth talking about: Air Group Modifications 1 and 2. Mod 1 gives you another slight boost to fighter DPS, but Mod 2 is the big one. 50% increase to fighter ammunition gives you the ability to strafe 4 times before having to reload. Four times sounds like a lot, but it goes quicker than you think. Because of the large fighter squadron in the 121 setup, strafes are extremely powerful and honestly your only hope of competing with another carrier's fighters. If you get caught up in a click fight, you're going to lose in the long run. So realistically you'll go from strafe to strafe, until you're forced to reload.

 

Conclusion 

I was surprised at how much fun I had with Graf Zeppelin. I had several games I managed 5 or more kills and high damage numbers. Usually against Lexingtons (which seem very common currently, presumably because people are grinding for Midways). If you enjoy Carriers or RTS games at all, Graf Zeppelin, when she goes on sale again in her final version, will be a good choice for a premium. Even as I played her, she forced me to get better as a CV player. Using my strafes, predicting the enemy carriers moves, and generally using the tactics I saw in Fara's and Fem's videos. This is NOT a carrier I would recommend if you've never played carriers before. The 203 setup seems to be alluring in that regard, but it feels likes something of a trap. It's too easy to get sucked into tier X games in Graf Zeppelin and the sheer AA power of such games can be soul-crushing and quickly turn your Graf Zeppelin into a secondary firing Battlecarrier with ambitions of Torpedo-hood.

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Beta Tester
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personally I would not recommend buying any premium cv mainly due to the cv game is broken and wg just keep telling us that they are gonna rework cvs but lets be honest here nothing good has happened to make cv play fun again

when it was closed beta cv play in my view was more fun and more respective of what a cv is ment to do ie go after bbs and avoid cruisers but now its keep away from bbs due to massive aa buffs they got and now you see cvs go after dds and cruisers more than anything

as trump would say "make cv great again"

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Beta Tester
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13 minutes ago, beercrazy said:

personally I would not recommend buying any premium cv mainly due to the cv game is broken and wg just keep telling us that they are gonna rework cvs but lets be honest here nothing good has happened to make cv play fun again

when it was closed beta cv play in my view was more fun and more respective of what a cv is ment to do ie go after bbs and avoid cruisers but now its keep away from bbs due to massive aa buffs they got and now you see cvs go after dds and cruisers more than anything

as trump would say "make cv great again"

 

Actually WG made this ship especially for (people like) you. 

It is not meant to be versatile and competitive, but to simply inflict high damage on BBs. 

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1 hour ago, _Helmut_Kohl_ said:

 

Actually WG made this ship especially for (people like) you. 

It is not meant to be versatile and competitive, but to simply inflict high damage on BBs. 

nice that they are actually giving the odd cv a ability to spank the bbs

would be nice if they could make it where cvs where scared to go near cruisers now as well and maybe I would think cv play is heading in right direction

 

 

I don't play cv much as I find em boring now but I understand some people do like the way they play but by god wg don't seem to have a clue at times what to do with em

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