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Premium Ship Review: Belfast & Belfast '43


LittleWhiteMouse

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It's double-header time!  The following is a review of both Belfast and Belfast '43, the tier VII and VIII British premium cruisers.  These ships were provided to me by Wargaming for review purposes -- I did not have to shell out any dollarydoos to get access to them.  To the best of my knowledge, the statistics discussed in this review are current as of patch 0.9.10.  Please be aware that they may change in the future.

Belfast is a total meme.  I am delighted to see that Belfast '43 is being added to the game.  Belfast is an important museum ship and it's so unfortunate that her premium had to be retired.  She is the poster-child for unbalanced premiums so it's nice to see that Wargaming is correcting the lack of Belfast with what is ostensibly a more balanced version.  Now I could just review the new one but I know I'd be hounded by the need to constantly compare the two.  And if I half-butted the comparison, there would be tons of questions and comments asking that I follow up.  So to correct this, I'm going to review both ships at the same time.  So consider this an update to the old tier VII Belfast while simultaneously evaluating the newer, tier VIII version. 

God, Belfast is such a meme.  Azur Lane went so far as to predict this too with Belfast and mini-me clone version of her.  No, I don't get it either.

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Comparing Belfast to Belfast is going to get confusing in a hurry.  In order to try and keep things clear, I will be not only referring to them by their tier but I will also colour code them.  The discontinued tier VII premium cruiser will be referred to by Belfast (T7) while the newer, tier VIII version will be referred to by Belfast '43 (T8).

Quick Summary:  Two British light cruisers with the best combination of vision-control consumables in the game. Belfast '43 (T8) has slow-firing but harder hitting guns.  Belfast (T7) is a meme-ship whose over-the-top performance has transcended not only World of Warships but in Azur Lane too.

Shared PROS

  • British cruiser with access to both AP and HE rounds.
  • Improved acceleration.
  • Good concealment with a surface detection as low as 8.91km.
  • Access to a Smoke Generator AND Surveillance Radar AND Hydroacoustic Search all at the same time. (!)

Shared CONS

  • Very light cruiser armour profile with very thin hull plates that are easily overmatched.
  • Enormous 6mm "hole" in citadel roof that's easily overmatched by any AP shell of any size.
  • Does not have the same style of AP rounds as the rest of the British light cruiser line.
  • Poor fire chance per shell for a 152mm round of only 9%.
  • Horrible gun firing angles, necessitating giving a full broadside to bring all of her guns to bear.
  • Bad gun traverse speeds of only 7º/s.
  • Only a modest top speed of 32.5 knots.
  • Not a good training ship for British light cruiser commanders.

These two ships are defined by three things:  (1) They're hard to engage but squishy if you can hit them.  (2) They have an excellent combination of Vision Control consumables.  (3) They have HE shells.  Their game play is largely defined by taking station near an island, deploying smoke and HE-spamming the snot out of anything that comes within range.  As if this wasn't bad enough, their combination of detection consumables makes them an absolute nightmare for destroyers who cannot dare to operate in their vicinity.  Belfast's Hydroacoustic Search and ridiculous rate of acceleration keeps her safe from most torpedo strikes, nullifying one of the greatest risks to sitting in smoke while her Surveillance Radar ensures that any destroyers operating in the area quickly regret their life decisions.

Ostensibly this is balanced by their poor fragility and gun handling, but the high concealment and agility of these ships coupled with their Smoke Generators makes even drawing a bead on them in the first place quite difficult.  This combines with ballistics that are favourable for making use of island cover that further off-sets any deficits to survivability.

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All of the above strengths and weaknesses apply to Belfast '43 (T8) with the addition of the following:

Belfast '43 (T8) Specific PROS

  • High HE alpha strike for a 152mm armed ship from improved HE shell damage.
  • Can single-fire her torpedoes.
  • Small turning circle radius of 680m.
  • Very short reset timer between final cloud dissipation and reactivation of her Smoke Generator.
  • Starts with an extra charge of her Smoke Generator for a maximum of 5 charges with Superintendent.
  • Can stealth-radar (albeit with only a 90m window at most but still).

Belfast '43 (T8) Specific CONS

  • Small hit point pool of 38,400hp.
  • Long reload of 10.5s on her main battery leading to poor DPM and fire setting.
  • Torpedoes are short ranged at 8km.
  • Horrible anti-aircraft firepower for a tier VIII cruiser.
  • Few charges of her Hydroacoustic Search and Surveillance Radar.
  • Short duration on her smoke clouds.

Skill Floor:  Simple / Casual / CHALLENGING / Difficult
Skill Ceiling:  Low / Moderate / HIGH / Extreme

Belfast '43 (T8) appears to have a balanced armament between AP & HE shells and her torpedoes.  However, she pays for her triumvirate of consumables with nerfed weapon systems.  Her main battery guns have a horrid reload time.  Similarly, her torpedoes are much too short ranged to be used easily.  Her AP shells suck, so that just leaves you with HE.   Finally, as good as her consumable-combination is, they are limited by having either fewer charges (radar & hydro) or shorter duration (smoke), making it a challenge to manage them properly over the course of a full match.

 

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All of the shared merits and flaws listed at the top of this section apply to Belfast (T7) with the addition of the following:

Belfast (T7) Specific PROS

  • Fast, 7.5s reload leading to good DPM.
  • Access to British light-cruiser energy retention, bleeding almost no speed in a turn.
  • One of the few tier VII cruisers with Surveillance Radar.
  • Has access to the 5th upgrade slot -- a rarity for tier VII ships.

Belfast (T7) Specific CONS

  • Only has 25mm of HE penetration.
  • No torpedo armament.
  • Long rudder shift time for a tier VII cruiser at 9.6s.

Skill Floor:  SIMPLE / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling:  Low / Moderate / HIGH / Extreme

Belfast (T7) is a different beast to Belfast '43 (T8) despite their similarities. This is largely owing to the differences in matchmaking -- Belfast (T7) gets to pick on tier V ships when matchmaking is being kind.  Moreover, she's a rockstar at her tier giving up little while enjoying all of the same (but better) consumable benefits of the tier VIII newcomer.  What's more, she fires three seconds faster per salvo and that makes a world of difference whether its stacking fires on an enemy battleship or lewding on a lolibote that you've flashed with her radar.  Finally there's the extra agility Belfast (T7) enjoys.  Her improved energy preservation means that Belfast (T7) is overall faster on average despite the two ships have the same top speed.  This gives her a better rate of turn than her tier VIII-self despite having a larger effective turning radius.

Just from the PROS and CONS list alone, you can clearly see that Belfast (T7) is much stronger (and easier to use) than Belfast '43 (T8).  Bumping Belfast (T7)  up to tier VIII would add on a low hit-point flaw but she would lose the slow-rudder shift as her 9.6s rudder shift time is on the slower-side of average for that tier.  Belfast (T7) is, in fact, more than good enough to be a tier VIII cruiser with nothing changed about her.  This explains why she was retired in the first place.  So the question becomes not if Belfast '43 (T8) is a good enough replacement for Belfast (T7), because she's not, but rather if Belfast '43 (T8) is a good enough cruiser at to be worth picking up for anything but her name and history.

Options

Consumables

At a glance, the first obvious difference between the two ships is that Belfast '43 (T8) can take a Catapult Fighter and Belfast (T7) cannot.  But there's much more to it than that.

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Both ships share the same Damage Control Party.  It has a 5s active period, a 60s reset timer and unlimited charges.

Belfast '43 (T8), being a higher tier, has improved range with her Hydroacoustic Search over Belfast (T7) but with fewer charges.

  • Belfast (T7) has a 3km torpedo detection range, 4km ship detection range, 100s active time, 120s reset timer and three charges to start.
  • Belfast '43 (T8) has 4km torpedo detection range, 5km ship detection range, 100s active time, 120s reset timer and two charges to start.  This deficit of one charge of her consumable is odd as most cruisers begin with three.

Belfast (T7) has the much easier-to-use (and arguably better) Smoke Generator compared to the the new fish.  Belfast '43 (T8)'s smoke is comparable to that of British destroyers, having more charges and a fast reset timer but with the smoke lasting for much less time.

  • Belfast (T7)'s consumable is active for 15s with each 600m radius cloud lasting for 103s.  It has a 160s reset timer and starts with three charges.
  • Belfast '43 (T8)'s consumable is active for 15s with each 600m radius cloud lasting for 40s.  It has a 70s reset timer and starts with four charges.

Like with their hydro, Belfast '43 (T8) has improved range with her Surveillance Radar over Belfast (T7) but again, with fewer charges.

  • Belfast (T7)'s radar is active for 25s and detects ships at 8.5km with a 120s reset timer and three charges to start.
  • Belfast '43 (T8)'s radar is active for 25s and detects ships at 9km with a 120s reset timer and two charges to start.

Only Belfast '43 (T8) can swap her radar for a Catapult Fighter.  I dunno why you'd do that but hey, it's an option.  Belfast (T7)does not have access to it all.  Belfast '43 (T8) deploys three fighters which are active for 60s that patrol a 3km radius around the ship.  It has a 90s reset timer and three charges to start.

I think it's pretty easy to declare Belfast (T7) the winner here when it comes to her consumable options.  Still, it would be foolish to deny that Belfast '43 (T8) has an excellent consumable suite, giving her some of the best tools possible in the game for vision control.

Upgrades

With Belfast (T7) being able to fit five upgrade slots like a tier VIII ship, the ideal upgrades between the two ships are identical.  With both ships having improved acceleration, they cannot take the Propulsion Modification 1 upgrade in slot 4.

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The only apparent option in the second slot comes down to what you can afford.  Surveillance Radar Modification 1 is optimal, adding another 5 seconds to the active period of their Surveillance Radar consumables.  If you cannot afford that but have access to a Hydroacoustic Search Modification 1 upgrade then equip that instead.  Each of these cost 17,000Y35gE6B.png in the Armory so default to the former if you can afford it.  If you can't pick up either one, then take Engine Room Protection.

So the optimal build is:

  • Main Armaments Modification 1 is slot 1.
  • Surveillance Radar Modification 1 in slot 2.
  • Aiming Systems Modification 1 in slot 3.
  • Steering Gears Modification 1 in slot 4.
  • And finally Concealment System Modification 1 in slot 5.

Captain Skills

There are effectively two builds for the Belfast-twins.  They differ on whether or not to take Inertial Fuse for HE Shells (IFHE) to increase their penetration or to build for increased fire chance.  Belfast '43 (T8) benefits more from the penetration provided by IFHE than Belfast (T7) due to how the skill scales with tier.  Thus, the higher-tiered ship is more likely to build for IFHE but either build can work for either ship.

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Well this is a colourful, confusing mess.  But there's a method to my madness.  Start by picking one of the two skills in the yellow squares at tier 1.  Next, hoover up the light blue circles. After that, decide if you want increased HE penetration with IFHE or increased fire chance with Demolition Expert.  You can take both, but it's hella expensive.  The remaining skills circled in red are nice to have.  Use them to pad out your remaining available points.

Camouflage

Between all of the camouflages available between the two ships, they share identical bonuses.

  • 3% reduction to surface detection.
  • 4% increase to enemy dispersion.
  • 10% reduction to service costs.
  • 50% increase to experience earned.

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Belfast '43 (T8)'s Type 10 Camouflage.

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Belfast (T7)'s Type 10 Camouflage.

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Belfast (T7) received an additional camouflage through the Azur Lane crossover.  In general, the Azur Lane camouflage disappoint me.  World of Warships Blitz the crossover-skins had some fun geometry changes to the model too.  Still, this one is at least nice and striking, even if it's just a skin.  The best thing about it is that for my purposes, it's the easiest way to differentiate between the two ships in this review when I use screenshots.

Firepower

Main Battery:  Twelve 152mm/50 guns in 4x3 turrets in an A-B-X-Y superfiring configuration.
Belfast (T7) Secondary Battery:  Eight 102mm/45 guns in 4x2 turrets.
Belfast '43 (T8) Secondary Battery: Twelve 102mm/45 guns in 6x2 turrets.
Belfast '43 (T8) Torpedoes:  Six tubes in 2x3 launchers with one launcher per side mounted in the hull between the funnels.

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Belfast (T7) has the Union Jack on top of her B-turret except with her Azur Lane camo.  Belfast '43 (T8) has AA mounts on top of her B-turret instead.

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Belfast '43 (T8).  Note the differences in reload time, HE penetration, IFHE penetration and HE shell damage.

Balancing ships is difficult.  "Murder your darlings", an often quoted phrase stolen from Hollywood, has made the rounds in game design.  The premise is simple enough: Identify what you like best about something you've made and then remove it from the design entirely.  Such design elements will tend to lead projects astray and create complications further down the line.  The darling in Belfast (T7)'s design, I am convinced, is her access to HE shells.  At the time of her release back in the autumn of 2016, it was this feature which made her stand out more than any other from the British light cruiser line.  Belfast (T7)'s HE shells did make her unique, but they ultimately broke and doomed the project.  To be clear, HE in of itself isn't unmanageable.  Belfast '43 (T8) is Wargaming's attempt to correct some of the earlier problems of Belfast (T7)'s design while still keeping access to HE shells.  In my mind, it's a lot of extra work to accommodate something that was already out of place, long long ago.  The time and energy could be better spent elsewhere and left us with a premium that was better suited to training British light cruiser tech-tree captains.  As it is, Wargaming tweaked Belfast '43 (T8)'s HE shells to conform to the numbers they wanted to see.  These changes are so odd they will understandably cause you to second guess her performance and potential.

Fool me once, shame on you

Belfast (T7)'s main battery firepower conforms entirely to light-cruiser norms.  Her twelve 152mm guns behave exactly as you would expect.  They fire a shell with modest damage output, with a rather floaty ballistic arc over medium range.  To compensate, they have a high rate of fire.  This seems simple enough. The only real oddity here is their rather poor fire chance per shell.  If you line up the guns from most of the other 152mm armed light cruisers, Belfast (T7) looks pretty normal.  Her 7.5 second reload fits in snugly between the long, 10 second reload of Mogami 155mm, the stately 8 second reloads of Soviet guns from ships like Shchors, Chapayev and Irian and the blistering quick reloads of Cleveland (6.5 seconds), Ochakov (6.1 seconds), Mainz (6 seconds) and München (5 seconds).  However, only Mikhail Kutuzov is an apt comparison for Belfast (T7)'s ability to spit shells down range.

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Gun performance stats from patch 0.5.12.1 back in October of 2016 back when these were among the few 152mm armed contemporaries of Belfast (T7) at the time of her release.  Mikhail Kutuzov, Budyonny and Chapayev all ditto'd Shchors's shell performance but with reduced DPM in Budyonny's case.

Belfast (T7) and Mikhail Kutuzov can cycle their guns for long periods of time without interruption.  Their Smoke Generators are the great facilitator, increasing their chances to not only find uninterrupted periods where they can spam HE to their heart's content but also survive longer within a match to do it over and over again.  While ships like Cleveland or Helena can mathematically spit out more DPM, the survivability of these other ships is far more limited.  It's easier for Belfast (T7) to take full advantage of her DPM potential and do it for more of a given match than it is for comparable cruisers.  Belfast (T7) puts out a lot of damage mostly because she can take advantage of situations other cruisers can't.  While others have to fish for cover or worry about dodging, she can just hold down her left mouse button.  Her angry smoke clouds easily bully other ships, creating 15km zones of control.

The only limit to Belfast (T7)'s potential is HE penetration.

The changes to HE penetration and the Inertial Fuse for HE Shells skill hurt tier VII light cruisers in a bad way.  It's hard not to feel like this was an attack specifically against Belfast (T7) to reign her in.  Without the Inertial Fuse for HE Shells (IFHE) skill, Belfast (T7) cannot directly damage a long list of ship hulls.  Taking IFHE shortens this list considerably.  However, she still cannot directly damage the hulls of tier VIII+ battleships even with this skill.  Furthermore, IFHE neuters her fire-setting chances, hurting her efficiency against these high-tier chunguses (chungi?)Thus, whether you choose to go with or without IFHE is up to you -- both styles are viable and both have their drawbacks.  Presently, it feels like tier VII ships get pulled into higher tiered matchmaking more often (though who knows what the actual math is on that) so I tend to steer away from IFHE on Belfast (T7) for the moment.  This hurts her efficiency against cruisers, but I tend to focus on accosting lolibotes and burning battleships so this works out well for me.

Overall,  Belfast (T7) is as crazy-efficient as any tier VII light cruiser could hope to be.  Her Smoke Generator allows her long periods of time where she can cycle her guns with near impunity.

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Belfast (T7)'s fire arcs are both varied and crappy.  That would matter more if she had to wiggle and dodge, but she doesn't.

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You have to love how naively optimistic Belfast (T7)'s design is.  "Sure!  Give it better-than-average damage output for a tier VII light cruiser.  Never mind all of the stealth and smoke advantages she has!  It will all work out!"  There have been so many lessons learned over the years...

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I apologize for these crappy graphs.  I borrowed them from my München review and didn't bother to spruce them up.  The IFHE+ and Max categories are assuming that the ships are using the Demolition Expert skill, both fire-improving signals and, in Flint & Atlanta's case, using the Basic Fire Training skill as well.  The base 9% fire chance per shell pumps the brakes on Belfast (T7)'s ferocity somewhat.  She merely ends up being a better-than-average fire setter overall for a tier VII cruiser rather than a high-roller like the other lights... at least until you remember that she can park and hold down her left mouse button with little worry of reprisals.

Fool me twice, shame on me

Alright, so Belfast (T7) proved we can't have nice things.  Wargaming tried their best to make sure that Belfast '43 (T8) didn't repeat this travesty.  Their solution?  Nerf her rate of fire into the ground.

Belfast '43 (T8) has a terrible rate of fire for a tier VIII light cruiser.  It's a half-second worse than the fifteen-gun Mogami 155mm's 10 second reload.  That's right; Belfast '43 (T8) has a 10.5 second reload.   As you can imagine, this puts her DPM numbers into the toilet.  When slinging her AP shells, she has worse potential DPM than most of the heavy cruisers at her tier which is downright terrible. Normally, when your DPM is that bad, they give the ship some form of compensation for this.  For example, Atago & Mogami 203mm have greatly improved dispersion and kick-butt torpedoes.  Then there's Amalfi who has a long list of advantages including high speed, agility, SAP shells and her Exhaust Smoke Generator.  Finally there's Albemarle and Cheshire which have ... uh ...

Wait. 
Wait.  Hold on, I can do this. 

Finally there's Atago & Mogami 203mm which have greatly improved dispersion and kick-butt torpedoes!  So as you can see, Belfast '43 (T8) is going to be leaning pretty heavily into her other advantages.

Thankfully, this deficit is somewhat mitigated when it comes to her HE shells.  Wargaming artificially boosted the shell damage of Belfast '43 (T8)'s HE rounds, up from Belfast (T7)'s 2,100 max damage to 2,450; a 16.7% increase.  Belfast '43 (T8)'s individual salvos thus hit harder.  It's not a lot harder, mind you (especially once you account for the 0.33x penetration damage modifier), but it is harder.  When you then rank Belfast '43 (T8)'s HE performance up in a DPM chart, she sits above all of the heavy cruisers but behind all of the lights.  On paper, this feels right -- especially given what we've learned about Smoke Generators on cruisers.  Iwaki Alpha, Mikhail Kutuzov and Belfast (T7) ruined the gimmick for everyone else. 

Still, it's hard not to feel like this penalized reload is just plain punitive.  It's painful and prevents her from playing to the same extremes as Belfast (T7)Belfast '43 (T8) is nowhere near as good of a destroyer hunter, for example.  The opportunities to pack some loving onto lolibotes is fleeting and her long reload often limits such molestations to a single broadside slap rather than a repeated, fast-cycled spanking.  Though her alpha strike on her HE shells is improved, Belfast '43 (T8)'s HE shell performance isn't improved so much that your singular volleys will guarantee a mauling.  At best, you're looking at 9,702 damage per broadside to a destroyer compared to Belfast (T7)'s 8,316.  Yes, it's more damage, but it's not "call you daddy" kind of damage.

These problems are further compounded when it comes to Belfast '43 (T8)'s fire setting.  While her HE shell damage is improved, her fire chance remains the same ol' unfortunate 9%.  With that shackled to her 10.5 second reload, her chance to set fires drops from "worst of the light cruisers" to Cheshire levels of bad.  Mother truckin' CHESHIRE LEVELS OF BAD, ladies and gentlemen.  ARGLBARGL!!! If you take Inertial Fuse for HE Shells on Belfast '43 (T8) you can largely forget about farming fire damage even if you pad everything back up with Demolition Expert and signals.  You'll be lucky if you get one fire to stick on permanently against high-tier targets, to say nothing of two.  Your opponent has to already have their Damage Control Party severely taxed before you'll stick blazes onto their hulls.  This is not a ship I would recommend building for just fires -- it's too much of a gamble with her poor fire setting characteristics.  Despite this, it would be a mistake to skip taking IFHE on Belfast '43 (T8). Unlike Belfast (T7) she has the higher base penetration number (30mm) to allow her to abuse any target she comes across, so the direct damage is worth it.

You might be thinking, "oh, but her torpedoes surely balance things!"  NO.  NO!  Go gargle some liquid nitrogen and shut your hoarfrost mouth!  Forget her torpedoes.  At 8km and with only a pair of triple launchers, Belfast '43 (T8)'s torpedoes will not carry the day unless your opponents are idiots.  If something big enough drives within range of your fish, you're either playing co-op or things have gone to poop.  They are weapons of desperation, no more and no less.  Arguably, the only good they do is to allow Belfast '43 (T8) to keep up in close-range firefights against other cruisers, compensating for her horrible reload.  That's at least until you remember that most other cruisers will be spitting out fish too.  It's a damn good thing Belfast '43 (T8) has those improved HE shells because her AP shells and torpedoes are liabilities.

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Belfast '43 (T8)'s fire arcs are closer to uniform but still crappy.  Her torpedo arcs have an 88º fire angle starting from 50º off her bow.  This is also crappy.

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Belfast '43 (T8)'s DPM has a lot to be desired.  With her 3,100 damage AP shells and 10.5s reload, she has some of the worst AP damage output of any of the tier VIII cruisers.

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The boosted damage on Belfast '43 (T8)'s HE shells allows her to keep ahead of the heavy cruisers, but she still ends up with one of the worst HE damage outputs of any of the tier VIII light cruisers.  Think Ochakov-bad.  Use islands and her smoke to give her more time to cycle her guns.

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Bruh.

Role Models

Despite their differences, Belfast (T7) and Belfast '43 (T8) have the same role.  Their primary job is to make destroyer lives miserable.  Their secondary role is to harass anything else that comes into range with HE spam, either from angry smoke or from the cover of islands.  Belfast (T7)'s longer lasting smoke and higher rate of fire makes her better at this, but Belfast '43 (T8) holds her own mostly owing to her higher HE penetration.   Belfast (T7) is better at putting the hurt on bigger ships with fire stacks while Belfast '43 (T8) is more focused on doing it with direct, penetrating hits.  The ballistics of their guns facilitates camping islands.  It's not quite American in terms of their arcs, but they are pretty damn floaty.  This is good news given how much broadside these ships need to show in order to bring their weapons to bare.  Both have terrible fire arcs but that largely doesn't matter unless they're out in open water (which they shouldn't be).

Overall, I'm pretty disappointed with both of their armaments.  In Belfast '43 (T8)'s case it's because her torpedoes are too short ranged and that long reload isn't fun to play with.  It's not terrible, but it's not fun.  In Belfast (T7)'s case, it's because she's overpowered.  She could have just had the same semi-AP shells of the rest of the British light cruiser line and this whole mess could have been avoided or at least mitigated. Boo-urns, I say. 

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Belfast (T7) need not apply.  Belfast '43 (T8) only.

VERDICT:  Belfast (T7) overperforms, but no surprises there.  The IFHE changes have at least turned her from a "brainless, spam HE at everything and hoover up stupidly-big damage" to a "brainless, spam HE at everything and hoover up only modestly-big damage."  Belfast '43 (T8) is supposed to have a more balanced armament between torpedoes and her AP rounds, but she's utterly reliant upon her HE shells in order to compete so that kind of undoes anything interesting about her weapons.

Defence

Belfast (T7) Hit Points: 35,700
Belfast (T7) Bow & stern/superstructure/upper-hull/deck:  13mm/10mm/19mm/19mm to 51mm
Belfast '43 (T8) Hit Points:  38,400
Belfast '43 (T8) Bow & stern/superstructure/upper-hull/deck:  16mm/13mm/19mm/19mm to 51mm
Maximum Citadel Protection: 114mm belt.
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 4%

 

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Please note the difference in scale at the bottom of these two charts.  I know someone will complain if I don't point that out.  I needed more room for Albermarle's "anti-fail" mitigating drydock.

There's not a whole lot to say here.  Belfast '43 (T8) doesn't have a lot of hit points for a tier VIII cruiser.  It's not a catastrophic deficit by any means -- she just doesn't have a lot.  Belfast (T7) has fewer still, but she sits a tier lower so the gap isn't as pronounced.  Neither ship has access to heals via a Repair Party (could you imagine if they did?) so that really puts them behind the health-pool front-runners. 

Given their poor fire angles of their guns, they tend to show a lot of broadside.  Their 114mm of belt armour is good enough, with only Belfast '43 (T8) being vulnerable to citadel hits from HE rounds, but that's only from HMS Thunderer (love you, boo! ♥).  Still, unlike some of the more recent British cruisers, their citadel does not match the 'hump' of their belt armour, laying flush just over the waterline.  At least they have that going for them.

These ships have two pronounced flaws to their protection scheme, with one exacerbated by the poor fire angles of their guns.  First, Belfast (T7) and Belfast '43 (T8) have only 13mm and 16mm worth of extremity armour respectively.  This is easily overmatched by every battleship calibre gun they will face.  Belfast (T7) is particularly vulnerable as her 13mm extremities can be overmatched by even 203mm AP shells making every heavy cruiser a very pronounced threat.  Belfast '43 (T8) has it better against other cruisers, with only the 234mm and 240mm guns of Cheshire, Drake, Goliath and Henri IV capable of doing the same.

The second flaw has to do with their citadel armour layout.  On both ships, there is an enormous, 6mm "hole" over top of the machine spaces.  If an AP shell of any caliber punches through the belt, it can easily overmatch this roof-armour and enter the citadel without contest.  Thus, even shots aimed too high will still land citadel hits provided they drop through this large opening -- the 6mm plate only prevents AP shells smaller than 85mm from overmatching.  It's not going to happen all of the time, but this second bite of the apple will generate a few more citadel hits that would otherwise ricochet if the armour was thicker. Because these ships have to present so much broadside to fire their guns, this vulnerability over their machine spaces can be exploited more often. 

These are squishy ships.  HE of nearly any calibre hurts.  AP will wreck them in short order.  Their fragility is meant to be a key flaw in World of Warships.  However, given their stealth, ballistics and smoke, this isn't as much of a pronounced weakness as it might otherwise be.  If you're dumb enough to sit out in open water and try and trade with another cruiser (or battleship for that matter) you get the spanking you deserve.

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Belfast '43 (T8)'s armour layout is almost identical to her tier VII counterpart.  There are subtle differences here and there, like around the steering gears (not pictured) but other than the differences in super-structure and extremities, they're functionally the same.  You can clearly see that 6mm hole in her citadel roof that matches the raised 114mm belt section.  Her turrets aren't likely to resist damage with 102mm front plates, 51mm side plates, roof and (mostly) 38mm barbettes.

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Belfast (T7) is very soft-skinned.  Even destroyer-calibre HE shells are more than capable of direct-damaging her even without IFHE.

VERDICT:  Soft and squishy, just like her Azur Lane design.

Agility

Top Speed: 32.5kts
Belfast (T7) Turning Radius: 730m/740m
Belfast (T7) Rudder Shift Time: 9.6s
Belfast (T7) 4/4 Engine Speed Rate of Turn: 6.7º/s at 31.8kts (!)

Belfast '43 (T8) Turning Radius: 680m
Belfast '43 (T8) Rudder Shift Time: 9.9s
Belfast '43 (T8) 4/4 Engine Speed Rate of Turn: 5.9º/s at 26kts

qvBYX7h.jpg
I have Edinburgh (and Belfast (T7) who clones her agility performance) listed here at a 740m radius.  Her calculated radius is technically 736m or so.  Normally Wargaming tends to round up when generating in-port stats but not always.  So 730m or 740m is technically correct.  I could go back and fix this graphic to have her overlap with Bayard and Baltimore but screw it. The best thing about Belfast '43 (T8)'s handling is her small turning circle radius relative to the other tier VIII cruisers. 

British light cruisers are weird.

This should come as no surprise.  The physics-defying, flying-saucer behaviour of British light cruisers is pretty infamous at this point.  They bleed almost no speed in a turn and can, in fact, accelerate flat out with their rudder hard over in ways that appear to defy all logic and reason.  Belfast (T7) conforms to these insane-norms, largely cloning Edinburgh's performance.  Where most cruisers can only preserve up to 80% of their speed with their rudder hard over, Belfast (T7) preserves almost 98%.  This gives her an excellent rate of turn, making her far more agile than her other manoeuvrability characteristics would imply.  Furthermore, this ship has ridiculous acceleration.  It's better than having the Propulsion System Modification 1 upgrade installed on a comparable ship which is probably why Belfast (T7) can't take it.  Combined with her Hydroacoustic Search consumable, it's exceedingly difficult to catch Belfast (T7) with a spread of torpedoes while she's parked in smoke short of deploying a wide net in the form of a "wall of skill" from multiple salvos coordinated from several ships.  The only drawback Belfast (T7) has, really, is her relatively sluggish rudder shift time.  But seeing as she doesn't have to choose between taking Propulsion System Modification 1 and Steering Gears Modification 1, she can always choose to improve her rudder, so it's not real drawback there either.  She gets the best of both worlds.

The only place where Belfast (T7) lacks is her top speed.  This makes dictating engagement distances a constant worry, especially given her lack of torpedoes to shoo-away bigger ships that she can't burn down quickly enough.  It's not a crippling flaw by any means, but it's worth keeping in mind.

Now, if you were hoping (or expecting) Belfast '43 (T8) to conform to the same behaviours as her predecessor, you're mistaken.  The only element she inherits is the improved acceleration (and the inability to mount Propulsion System Modification 1).  Belfast '43 (T8) behaves like a normal cruiser in all other respects to her agility.  She may appear to have a smaller turning radius, but this is a booby-prize --  Belfast (T7)'s larger turning radius is an artifact of her preserved speed in a turn.  When she was released, Belfast (T7) was advertised as having the same 680m turning radius as Belfast '43 (T8).  However that derived value assumes that a cruiser only turns at 80% of her 4/4 speed, so it had to be corrected to its current value (which is, frankly, still off by 10m -- it's closer to 740m according to my tests, but whatever).  So Belfast '43 (T8) has the tighter turning radius, however this only applies at 4/4 engine power.

Things get ... well, they get weird at other engine settings.  Belfast (T7) is the more agile ship with a tighter turning radius AND better rate of turn at all other engine settings.  Here's a quick look at the other tier VIII cruisers with a top speed of 32.5 knots and how they compare to these two ships:

fG8SHCS.png
Problems circled in red.  Belfast '43 (T8) bleeds too much speed at all but the 4/4 engine settings in a sustained turn.  Though this is true for almost every engine setting, it's especially pronounced at 1/2 and 3/4 power.  Belfast (T7) (and Edinburgh) behaves better than its 730m (or is it 740m?) in-port turning radius would suggest at all engine settings, but this really stands out at 4/4 power where it bleeds almost no speed at all. Cleveland and AL Montpelier bleed too much speed at 4/4 engine power.

The effects of these other engine settings are not likely to apply often in the average game of World of Warships.  All you need to know is that Belfast '43 (T8) has worse performance than she should while Belfast (T7) has better-than-average performance at all engine settings.  In short, other than in acceleration, Belfast '43 (T8) has worse agility than she should.  Without the energy preservation that Belfast (T7) enjoys at 4/4 engine power, Belfast '43 (8) is otherwise unremarkable short of her small turning circle radius for a tier VIII cruiser.

NAzmMqM.jpg
Belfast (T7) is the much better ship, agility wise with a laundry list of strange benefits.


VERDICT:  The improved acceleration is wonderful to have, especially for camping the relatively small smoke banks that these ship generate with the short action time of their Smoke Generators. Belfast (T7) has the standard, British light cruiser physics-defying engines while Belfast '43 (8) is pretty normal.  

Anti-Aircraft Defence

Belfast (T7) Flak Bursts: 3+1 explosions for 1,330 damage per blast at 3.5km to 5.8km.
Belfast (T7) Long Ranged (up to 5.8km):   91dps at 90% accuracy (82dps)
Belfast (T7) Medium Ranged (up to 3.5km):  255.5dps at 90% accuracy (230dps)

Belfast '43 (T8) Flak Bursts: 3+1 explosions for 1,260 damage per blast at 3.5km to 5.8km.
Belfast '43 (T8) Long Ranged (up to 5.8km): 80.5dps at 90% accuracy (72dps)
Belfast '43 (T8) Medium Ranged (up to 2.5km): 80.5dps at 90% accuracy (72dps)
Belfast '43 (T8) Short Ranged (up to 2.0km): 143.5dps at 85% accuracy (122dps)

Some of this makes sense to me and then some of it doesn't.

The part that makes sense to me is where Belfast (T7) has better AA power than her '43 counterpart.  She is, after-all, a more modernized version of her earlier self, so I can stomach her having improved AA power if only from that aspect.  What doesn't make sense to me is the incongruity between the number of dual-purpose 102mm guns and the amount of sustained AA DPS and flak bursts between the two ships.  Logically Belfast '43 (T8), with her twelve 102mm guns, should produce more long-range AA DPS and flak explosions with her larger battery of large-calibre weapons.  Instead, Belfast (T7) not only has more DPS but she generates the same number of explosions AND those explosions individually hit harder too.  I suppose I'm forced to chalk it up to some nebulous hand-waving towards Belfast (T7) having improved AA detection systems or some such nonsense.  The only consolation is that at least Belfast '43 (T8)'s long-range AA woes are at least consistent with those found on her tier VIII sister-ship, Edinburgh.

Suffice to say, Belfast '43 (T8) doesn't have good AA firepower.  She lacks access Defensive AA Fire (thought that's honestly a bit of a booby-prize in the current meta when forced to choose between it and Hydroacoustic Search) and she doesn't have the raw numbers to ensure her own safety.  Then again, that's not something that Belfast (T7) can easily boast either, so it's not like Belfast '43 (T8)'s predecessor has an enormous leg up or anything.  The only real bummer is that Belfast '43 (T8) has to deal with tier X carriers on occasion which will never (ever) go well.  Overall, Belfast '43 (T8) is a decided downgrade from what Belfast (T7) can do.  She's even a downgrade from Edinburgh and most other tier VIII cruisers, only having better AA power than the Japanese heavies.  Word will eventually get out that Belfast '43 (T8) is an easy mark for carriers.  While you could take her Catapult Fighter to provide some protection, it's not worth losing her Surveillance Radar for what little deterrent a fighter actually provides.

2a7naHy.png
The values here have been adjusted by the weapon accuracy (90% for large and medium calibre guns, 85% for small) and then sorted by the formula DPS x [ range -1km ].  This provides an approximate ranking system for effectiveness of AA, valuing longer-ranged mounts than shorter ones.  If you're looking for Belfast '43 (T8) she's third from the bottom -- just beneath Anchorage and above the two Japanese cruisers.  Yeah, her AA is that bad.  Most of these ships have the option of increasing their sustained AA DPS by 50% through the use of the Defensive AA Fire consumable, but not all of them will have it due to having to choose between it and Hydroacoustic Search.  The exceptions are Cleveland, Montpelier, Ochakov and Wukong which will always have it and Edinburgh, Belfast '43, Anchorage, Irian and Amalfi which cannot take it at all.  For those curious, Belfast (T7) would sit just beneath Wichita on this chart, so slightly better than Edinburgh.

VERDICT:  Belfast (T7) has decent (but not great) AA firepower.  Belfast '43 (T8) has poor AA defence for her tier.  Their Smoke Generators are arguably your best protection against planes, but you should be understandably reluctant to use that unless your life depends upon it.

Refrigerator

Base/Minimum Surface Detection: 11.34km / 8.91km
Base/Minimum Air Detection Range: 7.16km/5.8km
Detection Range When Firing in Smoke: 5.28km
Maximum Firing Range:  15.42km

vtK4mj8.jpg
I dunno what this is or where it's from, but it's pretty apt at describing Belfast's monstrous refrigerator (Vision Control).

This is the reason that Belfast (T7) is overpowered.  There's a lot to cover here, so let's get stuck in.

Angry Smoke Clouds

Smoke Generators on cruisers, particularly HE spamming cruisers, is highly contentious.  The only thing worse than being on the receiving end of an endless torrent of HE spam is aircraft carriers. 

 

...

...

Huh? 

Oh, right.  HE spam from smoke is pretty awful too.

The two Belfasts have different strengths when it comes to their Smoke Generators. Belfast (T7) has easier to use, longer-lasting smoke.  Belfast '43 (T8)'s smoke is much (much!) shorter duration but it comes off cool-down very quickly -- from 15 seconds from the dissipation of your last smoke cloud to as little as 8.2 seconds if you double stack Jack of All Trades with the November Foxtrot signal.  Thus for higher-skilled players, Belfast '43 (T8)'s shorter duration smoke is less of a liability as it's more likely to be available when they need it.  For less expert players, the (much) shorter duration of her smoke makes it much more dangerous to use as they're more likely to be caught out when it dissipates.  This said, I do believe that Belfast (T7) has the better smoke.  Though Belfast '43 (T8) has an extra charge, Belfast (T7) has more overall time in concealment.  When you account for the bonus charge provided by Superintendent, Belfast (T7) has as much as 472 seconds worth of smoke cover per match (just shy of 8 minutes or just over with an X-ray Papa Unaone signal).  Belfast '43 (T8) has only 275 seconds (just over 4.5 minutes and just shy of 5 minutes with an X-ray Papa Unaone signal) in a best-case scenario.

But let's put this math into terms that really matter:  the number of salvos each of these versions of Belfast can fire from smoke.  As discussed earlier, Belfast '43 (T8) has really crappy DPM owing to her long reload.  Let's assume our Belfasts are moving at 1/4 speed and open fire the moment they activate smoke, targeting enemies spotted for them by allies.  Here are the best case for the number of salvos fired without being detected with a single charge of smoke:

  • Belfast (T7) - 16 salvos (192 shells)
  • Belfast '43 (T8) - 6 salvos (72 shells)

It's not even a contest.  Belfast '43 (T8) doesn't spam HE from smoke so much as take a few pot shots before scuttling away.  Belfast (T7) meanwhile can sit comfortably and commit Dresden-style war crimes on anything that happens into range.

2Oi4GQi.png

Thus, Belfast '43 (T8) is much more dependent upon using island cover and kiting in open water than her tier VII-self.  This doesn't make Belfast '43 (T8) bad by any stretch -- smoke of any kind is a very powerful consumable.  Being more flexible with the use of open water and island terrain can lead to more longevity, given that firing into smoke has become a lot more common of a player skill since Belfast (T7)'s introduction back in the Fall of 2016.  However, the knowledge on how to pull this off successfully is less likely to be found in a lower-tiered lobby.  Furthermore, Surveillance Radar and long-ranged Hydroacoustic Search is much more prevalent within Belfast '43 (T8)'s matchmaking, while Belfast (T7) may end up being the only ship on either team with radar so she need not contend with it as often.  So, the theory goes with Belfast '43 (T8) being less dependent upon smoke, her performance will somehow make feel more fair, balanced, earned, legitimate, or whatever other buzzwords people want to assign to her reduced smoke-crutch.  The simple truth is that her smoke is worse.  You need to do more work in Belfast '43 (T8) to get the same kind of potential as Belfast (T7)'s easy mode.

Thus, Belfast (T7) has the better smoke.  What's more, she has the better matchmaking which makes said smoke all the more advantageous. Belfast '43 (T8)'s smoke is strong, but Belfast (T7)'s smoke is game-changing.

Showing Ark Royal how it's done

If Belfast (T7) was simply an angry HE-spamming smoke cloud, she would still have garnered a lot of hate.  Mikhail Kutuzov generated similar amounts of ire (and similar amounts of being pulled from the stores).  But what makes these ships such monsters is their trifecta of lolibote hunting Vision Control (refrigerator) traits.  Namely:

  • Low surface detection to close with her targets to get close-to or inside of Surveillance Radar range.
  • Hydroacoustic Search to neutralize torpedoes or charge smoke.
  • Surveillance Radar to scatter the roaches.

For a destroyer, these things are a nightmare.  There is little to no warning before they're detected and once they are spotted, you risk being in Surveillance Radar range.  Belfast '43 (T8) is more dangerous in this regard, having a long-ranged, 9km consumable than Belfast (T7)'s 8.5km radar.  Belfast '43 (T8) is one of the few non-Soviet cruisers capable of stealth-radar, but her window for doing so is exceedingly small (less than 100m).  Still, if she's detected it means that whatever ship is doing so is within her Surveillance Radar range which is a hella dangerous situation for any lolibote to be in.  While there is a small chance that Belfast (T7) shorter range might not reach out to whatever destroyer that's lighting her, it's again a small window -- a mere 400m grace.

The big difference between the two ships is what they can do once they have lit a target with Surveillance Radar.  Again, Belfast '43 (T8)'s crappy DPM rears its ugly head and prevents her from being the god-tier lolibote molester like Belfast (T7).  At best, Belfast '43 (T8) is getting off three salvos against a destroyer lit by Surveillance Radar with one of those being fired blind.  Belfast (T7) gets three guaranteed salvos and maybe a fourth chasing the DD after it disappears.  The only consolation here is that Belfast '43 (T8)'s higher alpha strike per salvo helps reduce the gap somewhat, but it's still around a 4,000 penetration damage advantage to Belfast (T7).  Finally, it needs to be repeated but Belfast (T7) is one of the few ships armed with Surveillance Radar at all at tier VII.  This alone is a huge advantage.

Both ships are excellent destroyer hunters.  Belfast '43 (T8) looks more attractive grace of her improved Surveillance Radar range, but Belfast (T7) wins out overall for the combination of higher DPM without giving up much of anything in the exchange. She's simply more capable given the opponents she faces due to her lower tiering. 

Mister Horse

S8rVo3b.gif

The presence of these ships forces your opponents to play differently.  Belfast (T7)'s presence is more pronounced, precisely because of all of the Vision Control (refrigerator) advantages she brings to the table for a tier VII ship.  She is visible less often owing to her longer-duration smoke.  She's able to do more damage and start more fires from concealment.  Finally, she's just as capable as Belfast '43 (T8) at sniffing out lolibotes.  Belfast (T7) is a priority kill if she's on the enemy team.  Yes, sometimes she's an easy mark -- particularly if she faces an opponent who knows how to blind fire into smoke and RNGeebus says 1eaQqC3.png.  But I certainly don't like that gamble.
These ships both have amazing refrigerators. 

VERDICT:  God tier, the both of them.  Belfast (T7) wins out, mostly because she's only tier VII. Killing destroyers wins games and these things are purpose-built to make their lives short.

sbNEgyX.jpg

Final Evaluation

Long, long ago in a fondly remembered patch from many iterations before, Wargaming wished to add a new cruiser line to World of Warships.  This was in the before-time, back when the game only had American, Japanese, German and Soviet cruisers -- and even then, only a single line for each nation.  This was before Inertial Fuse for HE Shells existed, when four-stacks of fires were an ever-present danger and a single flooding critical could doom a ship.  It was a time of a cross-drops and inpenetrable smoke that even a battleship could fire from undetected.  It was a time of fresh optimism as the third battleship line ever had just been introduced and German ships were actually good.  And so it was the British light cruisers were added to World of Warships and with them, a whole slew of odd features.  Repair Parties across half the line.  SAP shells before SAP was a thing.  No HE rounds.  Single fire torpedoes.  Improved engine performance.  Weird, short-emission time smoke.  And with this new release, Wargaming needed a premium.

Belfast (T7) was to be that premium. She would resurrect elements of the earlier design iteration of this weird and wonderful British light cruiser line.  She kept the HE that had been nixed from Supertest from the tech tree line.  But to do so she had to sacrifice almost everything else that made the British light cruisers unique.  No SAP.  No torpedoes.  No heals.  They gave her extra detection consumables to compensate and assumed the job balanced and done.  Well, we all learned how that turned out.  Reception was everything from "it's good" to "it's too good" and she'd only get better over time.  Belfast (T7)'s legacy would be to remain on sale for 12 months before being pulled for being too popular (for obvious reasons).  Moreso than almost any other over-performing premium in the game, she became the face of "pay to win" in World of Warships, earning the justifiable moniker "Payfast". 

This was a sorry fate for such an important museum ship.

Belfast (T7) has enjoyed a long reign as an overpowered premium.  She has survived well over the years with only two major hits to her dominance.  The first was matchmaking.  Gone are the days where tier VII ships enjoyed being top-tier in most of their games.  With the sale of tier IX premiums, the higher tiers are so well populated that she gets dragged up far more than down.  The second blow came with the changes to HE penetration and Inertial Fuse for HE Shells.  She was stripped her of the ability to directly damage tier VI and VII battleship hulls without IFHE and tier VIII and IX battleships even with IFHE.  Cruiser armour improved too.  Her HE shells shatter against a wider range of targets she faces than they once did.  Though her efficiency has been hit and hit badly, I don't think she's been brought into line.   Belfast (T7) is still ridiculously capable.  Her presence upon the enemy team forces players to change the way they play until she's neutralized (or recognized to being played poorly).

Which brings me to Belfast '43 (T8).  I'd argue the best thing about her is her consumable combination, but even that's nowhere near as dominant as her predecessor.  Higher tiered matchmaking sees to that.  The prevalence of Surveillance Radar, the crappier quality of her Smoke Generator and horribad reload ensures that Belfast '43 (T8) doesn't ditto Belfast (T7)'s performance.  But this is still a ship to be wary of, especially if you're muckin' about in a destroyer.  Belfast '43 (T8) simply isn't the nightmare to larger ships the way Belfast (T7) used to be.  She's still unpleasant to face.  Angry smoke clouds and HE spamming islands aren't fun to deal with if you're in a battleship.  They're not much fun for anyone to deal with frankly.  She is still a serious threat to any destroyer, but that's not unique to her.  Any Surveillance Radar light cruiser at tier VIII+ is something destroyers need be wary of.  Still, Belfast '43 (T8) doesn't make my cut of ships I'd go out of my way to play.  She's a museum ship, though, with lots of history to her name.  In competitive, her smoke and radar will ensure she's got some legs to her, but she's not going to be a monstrous repeat of Belfast (T7).  I'm not entirely convinced her slow reload will keep her in line.  It just takes her longer to farm the same kind of damage Belfast (T7) used to. Belfast '43 (T8) has potential -- you just need to put in more work.  That'll be a turn-off for some (and understandably so), but a blessing for others that want such performance gated behind a higher skill wall.

Overall, I have to say I'm happy that Belfast '43 (T8) is now available, if only because she's such an important ship historically and as a museum ship.  This iteration lets people taste the same style of game play as Belfast (T7) can do, but with fewer tears of justifiable rage coming from your opponents.  In PVE modes, Belfast '43 (T8) even manages to be the better ship, if only because she has torpedoes and bots are dumb.  Belfast '43 (T8) really only has one major failing, honestly. 

She's a horrible commander trainer for the Royal Navy Light Cruiser line.

Here we are, four years later, and we still don't have a good Royal Navy light cruiser premium for training up commanders.  The Belfast-twins use HE, necessitating the use of Demolition Expert or Inertial Fuse for HE Shells -- skills useless on the tech-tree light cruisers.  That just leaves the heavy-cruiser premiums.  Exeter is powerful, bless her heart, but the penatlies of playing low-tiered ships hurts her earning potential.  London does it a little better.  But again, you may be tempted to take Demolition Expert on these ships.  That just leaves Cheshire, bloody-monkey-sucking CHESHIRE as the de facto "best" British light-cruiser trainer among the cruisers.  CHESHIRE, Wargaming's apology letter for the two years of Royal Navy battleship HE spam, as the only cruiser-premium worth training British light cruiser captains.  What the Hell!? 

Welp, let's hurry up and wait.  Maybe Plymouth will rescue us all.  Somehow I doubt it.  She's not likely to be accessible to everyone even if she does tick all of the other boxes.

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The worst thing about Belfast '43 (T8) is that she has kept Cheshire relevant.  For those unaware, LittleWhiteMouse hates Cheshire and hated reviewing her.  That Belfast '43 (T8) forced Mouse to remember Cheshire's existence is a crime for which she cannot be forgiven.  It pisses her off so much she starts referring to herself in the third person.

In Closing

Heyo! ♪  Double-feature over!  I hope you all enjoyed this detailed look at the two ships.  I hope my colour coordination helped differentiate the two for you.  Thank you very much for reading and thank you so much to my patrons for making these reviews possible.

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