The 8.6 update is here. I suspect how this update will be viewed long-term will depend on how one views the role of SPGs in the game. If you are generally positive towards SPGs this will be the accuracy/arty-tier stretch/105mm HEAT nerf update. If you have a generally unfavourable opinion of SPGs I think this will be remembered as when Wargaming promised to nerf arty, and it didn’t happen.
Given that I discussed in some detail the changes in 8.6 in a previous post, I am only going to sketch through the changes here.
Firstly there is the changes to artillery, stretching current lines to Tier X, and alongside it adapting SPGs to the regular matchmaker. According to For the Record this has had an unanticipated side-effect of matches where the top-tier tanks of one team are all arties and are other tanks for the other team. Depending on the exact team setup this can make a battle very lopsided to one side or the other. Conclusion – changes to the match-maker are complex, though personally I think this one should have been anticipated. However any fix is likely to have further unforeseen consequences – remember the matches with hordes of light tanks following the arty hard cap.
Secondly guns are more accurate now, with shell dispersion changes meaning fewer shells now fall on the outside edge of the aiming circle. To prevent SPGs from being too powerful their accuracy was nerfed, but with the intention their overall accuracy should stay about the same. While this makes hitting weakspots easier, shell normalisation was also decreased, which makes angling armour more effective. Also higher tier premium shells had a penetration nerf, resulting in another effective armour buff. The nert bat also swung very heavily against the HEAT shells used by various 105mm howitzers. HEAT mechanics have been changed, nerfing its effectiveness somewhat. Premium shells have also been generally made more expensive, probably in an effort to slightly discourage their use in random battles. Another armour boost is that tracks now count as spaced armour, in effect boosting the armour of heavy tanks. Finally the mechanic for calculating damage and penetration have been amended to reduce the number of extreme results (both low and high) by around 5%, with an corresponding increase in results around the average.
Spall-liners have been changed, and a new spall-liner has been added (the Super Heavy Spall-Liner for tanks over 70 tonnes). Instead of just providing a 15% damage reduction for HE and ramming all spall-liners have been buffed and are more effective the heavier the liner. Light spall-liners get a 20% effect, Medium liners a 25%, Heavy liners a 30% effect, and Super Heavy spall-liners a massive 50% effect. While these will not be effective against a direct hit they will likely have a dramatic impact against splash damage.
A new bonus is given for successfully tracking an enemy, if a member of your team subsequently damages said enemy. This should hopefully encourage teamplay.
A number of tanks have had their repair costs changed, and a very large number of tanks have had their profitability changed. Generally the repair costs have either increased for SPGs, or deceased for a number of high-tier non-SPGs. As to profitability, most non-SPGs Tier VI and up have had their earnings boosted, the boost being largest for the top tiers. Also however the lower-tier premiums have also generally benefited from an earnings boost, no doubt it an attempt to make them more desirable to purchase.
The camouflage mechanism has been reworked slightly so that camo net and camo paint now add a fixed bonus, and not a relative bonus, with the precise bonus dependent on vehicle type. The camouflage granted by bushes has been reduced to balance TDs becoming too powerful. The camo skill remains unchanged so that is apparently still relative. Note however that some elements of the camo change did not make it into this update, but given the above were in the official update notes I am going to assume these were until demonstrated otherwise.
A new map is added – Sacred Valley, which is apparently set in Korea. Encounter mode was added to Mines, Lakeville, and Redshire. Widepark had its battle tiers restricted to Tiers IV, V, and VI. Widepark, Murovanka, and Airfield had a graphical upgrade. Balance changes have also apparently been made to Fjords and Westfield. We are also getting a new Tier V premium tank, the A33 Excelsior (British Tier V Heavy).
This is not an exhaustive list, but it does give some idea of the scale of the changes. I have yet to login (will do directly after posting this) but I am looking forward to having the option to fit a spall-liner to some heavy tanks, looking forward to the increased profitability of a number of my tanks, intrigued by the new map, both excited and nervous about the accuracy changes, and curious about the arty changes. Further opinions though will depend on actually have time to play the game.
The last note however is that premium consumables are going to be available at a 50% discount for the duration of the 8.6 update – ie until 8.7. It seems that 8.7 is going to follow fairly swiftly, probably next month sometime and will introduce us to British SPGs, so take advantage while it lasts.