today we’ll have a look at the Sturer Emil, or Pz.Sfl.V, as it is called in game – the new tier 7 tank destroyer.
There are two principles of game vehicle balance that relate to the Sturer Emil – in fact, Sturer Emil confirms their existance.
First is: one trick pony tanks are much harder to balance than regular vehicles.
Second is: just because it has a huge gun doesn’t mean it’s a good vehicle.
Where to begin. Sturer Emil is much like Dicker Max. In fact, the both vehicles have pretty much identical gameplay – the main difference is that every aspect Dicker Max has, Sturer Emil has – but brought to the extreme. DM’s mobility is somewhat meh – but SE has even worse. DM has a big gun for its tier – and SE has even bigger. DM has poor gun traverse – and SE has even poorer. DM has limited ammo capacity – and DM has it even worse. And so on.
Sturer Emil also proves another principle: the more hype there is around a vehicle, the less it will live up to it. Some of you might remember the “old days”, when the first version of the second German TD branch (still in a vertical tree, the one with Dicker Max as regular tank) was released. The hype was enormous, some people were practically drooling with anticipation: Sturer Emil with a 128mm gun at tier 7, that must be overpowered as hell! It took more than a year (hell, almost two years if I recall correctly) for this vehicle to appear, but the hype hasn’t disappeared in the meanwhile. If anything, it was multiplied. And now that the tank is here, I guess a lot of people were expecting something different. Why?
Because the Sturer Emil is the ultimate one trick pony. It has a huge gun, but nothing else – and I mean it. Yes, it has the gun depression (I consider that to be a part of the “big gun” advantage), but it’s struggling everywhere else and the result of the hype is one of the most uncomfortable vehicles to play with in the entire game. I tested it (as usual) with full camo crew, a camo net, a rammer and binoculars (people asked last time why I use binocs instead of coated optics – simple: because it “fires up” up at the same point as the camo net – and because if you spot enemies when moving, you’re doing it wrong).
As with the previous vehicles, armor is non-existent, especially for its tier (at this point, the damage from high-power HE shells is starting to become a real problem). Frontal armor is 50mm (including the superstructure) as advertised, side armor however is NOT 30mm thick – the most exposed part, superstructure side, is only 15mm thick. The mantlet is 50mm thick, but most of it covers a hole for the gun (so it doesn’t combine with superstructure armor) – if you aim at the mantlet, aim close to the gun, not on the rims, those are thicker (100mm), because the armor combines there. In praxis however, this has little effect as almost no shells bounce off the mantlet and certainly no shells bounce of the hull. This vehicle has also one more very serious flaw armor-wise: it has a HUGE breech:
A breech (the grey boxy part in the vehicle) is a part of the tank gun collision model, but unlike the gun itself, it has no nominal armor. This means that pretty much ANY shot (especially from sides) will penetrate the hull and hit the huge gun module (breech) – and if there is no successful module saving throw, your gun will get damaged even by shells that flew nowhere near it. This is very annoying and yes, in praxis, Sturer Emil has a huge problem with this (the gun gets damaged very often). It also makes armor angling of any sort practically useless: by exposing the thin flanks, you are risking not only “regular” penetration, but also gun damage. The good news is the vehicle doesn’t burn easily and I never had any issues with ammo rack (but that’s also because if something heavy penetrates you, you won’t live long anyway). Oh yes, one last thing: the XP pinata effect is back. A powerful gun combined with zero armor makes you a juicy target and everyone and their grandmother will be shooting at you the second you get spotted.
Mobility? The tank weights 36 tons and has a 300hp engine. On paper it doesn’t sound so bad, but it is. The mobility of the Sturer Emil is terrible. Its maximum speed is 25 km/h, but you’ll be going 20 at most on flat surfaces. Its climbing ability is terrible (to the point that if you start turning while climbing, the vehicle will stop) because of the bad power to weight ratio, so if you are to climb somewhere, you HAVE to know what you are doing, because once you get there, you won’t have time to change positions. This is the part where I will refer back to the Dicker Max: in my opinion it would make much more sense to put it into the game as tier 6 regular tank (an alternative to the Nashorn), because it would be a perfect preparation for the Sturer Emil: Nashorn and Sturer Emil are two very, VERY different vehicles and it takes time to switch your game style from being able to maneuver to… well, not being able to maneuver :) And it gets even worse: along with mobility comes the ability to ambush.
The problem with poor mobility is not the fact you are just slow, it’s essentially two issues in one:
a) you are so slow that you will never, ever run away: once you get spotted and targetted, you are simply dead, unless there is some very good cover closeby – like the huge stone on Malinovka
b) when the battle starts, it also means that you won’t be able to get in a good position before the enemies appear: this is especially annoying on El Halluf (by the time you reach a sniping spot, there will already be an activity in the valley) and – even worse – Sand River (during defense, you will NOT reach the usual defensive spots in time and by the time you do, there will again by an activity nearby and you will get spotted).
Normally in such a cases (where you know you won’t make it to the sniping spot in time) it’s better to wait a bit (a minute or so) until the situation calms down: either your teammates defeat the first round of rushers (allowing you to set up your shop as you planned before without being spotted), or your teammates lose and the position is compromised anyway.
So, you can’t take damage and you can’t run. Can you at least hide? Well, not really. You see, apart from being slow, Sturer Emil is also very big – and what is worse, long. The height is not that much of a problem (we dealt with it in the Sfl.IVc part), but the length IS. The vehicle itself does NOT have an excellent camo (based on size alone) and three things make it even worse:
a) poor gun traverse means you have to move your hull a lot, that’s instant 40 percent camo loss
b) the gun has a muzzle brake, this means each shot will demask you more than the usual value
c) the vehicle is very long and exposes your spotcheck points
The last part is probably the most important, so let me explain. Each vehicle has several (five) spot check points: if you “show” any of these points to the enemy, you will get spotted. If any of these spot check points is not in cover by the bush, the bush will give you no camo bonus at all (not even a partial one). These spots are located on the top of the vehicle and in the middle of each side. What this means for Sturer Emil is this:
The red triangle represents gun traverse angle and the red circle represents the spotcheck point on the side of the vehicle. As you can see, it’s very easy to lose the bush camo bonus by exposing the side check point, because the vehicle is very long. This is a problem for the following vehicles too, but the Rheinmetall Waffenträger deals with it by having a turret, so Sturer Emil is the only vehicle where this poses a serious problem.
So, what you need to do in order to successfully stay hidden?
- don’t move your hull unless you absolutely HAVE to
- pick a spot where you will have enemies appear before your gun: spots with lots of hull turning are bad spots
- do not fire blindly, fire only shots with probability of success
And also, you have to get lucky.
Yes, now we are getting to the good part of the vehicle: the gun. 128mm on tier 7 – what else is there to say? The top gun is – as you’d expect – brutal.
128mm Kanone 40: PEN 231 DAM 490 ROF 4,35 ACC 0,36 AIM 2,5 (2131 DPM)
However, the vehicle also has a stock gun (the same gun as Dicker Max has) – 105mm K18 (169 pen, 300 dam, 7,5 ROF) – on paper, the stock gun has even higher DPM, but make no mistake: it is terrible. At this point, I have to say that the K18 is the only stock gun I ever skipped for free XP. Low penetration combined with firing too often will make you get spotted all the time. The gun has the same poor traverse as the top gun (non-linear: 5 degrees to the left, 7 to the right) so apart from shooting the gun you’ll have to turn the vehicle a lot. It just does not work. I didn’t bother to try it with gold ammo, but without it it’s horrible. The entire stock Sturer Emil is a horrible experience, you need to get it maxed out as soon as possible. In my case, in order to mentally prepare, I gathered the free XP on Dicker Max (good training for the Sturer Emil).
So, you get the top gun (very expensive – 58500XP) and it gets better, but not much. Yes, the gun has raw firepower, but the fact it comes with such a limited traverse makes it tedious to play. Pretty much the only way I managed to play this vehicle is to pre-aim at spots where enemies regularily appear (Malinovka over the field or the lake path, Sand River attack – wither defending over a ridge, or pre-aiming at that spot where the upper base usually is etc.) and let them have it. One good thing about this gun is its crazy depression (-15!), but the elevation is not so good (+10) again due to the huge breech, so you’ll be relying on staying behind hills. It actually works, but again, if you don’t have room to cover and stay hidden, you’re a big fat target. The gun demasking effect is – as I mentioned – significant. The gun is reasonably accurate (0,36), but not nearly as the 88mm “sniper machine gun of death” L/71 on the Nashorn, sometimes the shots fly all over the place, which is something you cannot afford, because this vehicle has one more peculiarity: it carries only 15 shells. The stock gun is fine in this respect, but the top one ammo is extremely limited – you WILL be running out of ammo and you HAVE to make every shot count, if you want good results. Oh yes and one last thing: this gun has no gold ammo – the reason for it is balance: developers stated before that with gold ammo, it would be overpowered. I suggest you carry 14 AP shells and one HE shell “just in case” – HE shell comes useful against lightly armored tier 6+ enemies: it can for example easily oneshot a Nashorn, or a Hellcat – or anything with 50 armor or less.
Also, be read for the fact the shells are not cheap anymore, shooting the top gun will cost you: regular AP shell costs 920 credits (making it 13800 per 15 shells, if you shoot them all) – to compare: one 88mm L/71 shell from Nashorn costs 252 credits. That means that in order to cause 100 damage by Sturer Emil you have to pay 187 credits, but on Nashorn only 105 credits. And last but not least, a cherry on the top: while you HAVE to research the 128mm gun, it doesn’t transfer to any other vehicle. Fortunately, you’ll get better stuff at tier 8.
The Sturer Emil is a victim of the hype: many people expected a lot from the 128mm gun on tier 7, but the end result is mediocre due to poor mobility, armor and camouflage – and the gun doesn’t save it because of poor traverse. You have to be very careful with this vehicle and if you don’t feel like being careful and want something more powerful (it gets better on tier 8), I suggest skipping it altogether. I somehow made it work with premium account (52 percent winrate or so), but compared to the excellent tier 4-6 vehicles, it’s definitely a downgrade. It’s not fun to play, it relies on the team heavily and is a pure sniper. It will teach you patience though: if you manage to stay hidden and to not get spotted, the moaning about “unfair TD’s” from other wanna be “hero” players who rush to their death like noobs will be your reward – and it can get pretty entertaining, with whines such as “OMG noob TD”, “FU cheater” and “FFS FUCKING TD IS NEW ARTY” :)