Back last summer I was all excited – I had just bought the Stug III. I had heard all sorts of great things about it, and enjoyed every German TD thus far. However, the Stug III and I never really got along, and it was the first tank I was really disappointed with. A year later I am, of course, a better player, but I still think I would encounter the same basic difficulty because I experienced exactly the same struggles in the SU-85 as I did in the Stug. I am too aggressive, and just like the Stug-III the SU-85 has enough speed and agility to mean one can get into serious trouble.
Over-aggressiveness is, I think, possibly my greatest weakness as a player. At least one reason why I think I am improving as a player over the last year is that I was sometimes able to manage it successfully with the SU-85 – but far from all. On one notable example in a Karelia Assault when I was on the attacking side I made first contact with the enemy on the southern-flank, with most of the flank still climbing onto the plateau. The SU-85, though fast and agile for a TD, cannot be an analogue for a medium tank.
After accounting for the fact that the SU-85 is a tank which most exacerbates my own foibles I can nevertheless say I generally enjoyed it. Although the speed and agility of the SU-85 give it a great flexibility (when used properly) its prime attribute is its top-tier gun which can annoy just about everything it will encounter with a quite reasonable rate of fire. However, the guns leading up to it are somewhat more challenging. This is not to say that they are poor – because they are not. The stock gun has a penetration of over 100 which should mean you can be useful even in a Tier VII battlefield if you get into a good position. The intermediate gun is more or less half-way between the stock and top weapons in terms of damage and penetration.
While it can bounce some shots from lower-tier enemies, in general one should assume to be damaged in the SU-85 – if not destroyed. Its armour is its ability to camouflage and its ability to move. The first of these I have not managed to exploit as much as I might, given it is only in the last few matches when my crew has been at 100% and I have not trained the camouflage skill. The last, as noted above, is only sometimes a strength. If you are like me it becomes incredibly easy to find oneself without support.
Despite saying it has felt like I have struggled, my stats would seem to suggest otherwise. As of writing I have played fifty matches with thirty victories and sixty-two enemies destroyed. I have acquired three Sniper medals and one Steel Wall – that occurred in a Tier V match iirc – and one Cool-Headed award. My general impression of struggling therefore might reflect feeling a little in conflict with myself.
I have no intention of keeping the SU-85. The crew is now at 100%. I may play it a little more here and there to work up some extra experience to use on the crew re-train whenever I acquire the SU-100.
Overall though I think this can be a very effective tank – if one uses the speed wisely.