I know this article won’t be of much interest to the majority of my readers, but as someone who’s been on a love/hate relationship with War Thunder pretty much since it launched in Alpha, I can’t not talk about the upcoming removal of the Maus super-heavy tank from the game.
Added back in 2015 as (then) the top of the line in the German tech tree, the Maus has been either oppressor or oppressed for most of its life, as it would originally stomp all opposition (unless targeted by close air support, the behemoth’s biggest nightmare for most of its limited lifetime), but with the introduction of modern MBTs and ATGM carriers, that has now become a thing of the past, thanks to HEAT-FS and APFSDS ammunition rendering its bulky and cumbersome armor a hindrance rather than a survival mechanism.
This leads to the issue at hand today, as less than two weeks ago Gaijin Entertainment revealed that they plan to shake up the German tech tree with the removal of the Panther II, the Flakpanzer 341 (Panther-based anti-aircraft vehicle), Tiger II with 105mm cannon, and Maus. The first three vehicles are “paper tanks”, meaning that they were never built and only blueprints of them exist. While I agree with other players’ assessment that removing the Panther II without introducing a similar vehicle doesn’t scream good balance, I also agree with Gaijin‘s general idea that paper tanks don’t belong in the game and thus should be removed now that there’s no shortage of vehicles in the German lineup. Those paper prototypes were added to War Thunder years ago, back when introducing modern MBTs was out of the picture, so the developers needed to fill gaps in the tech tree. That is not a concern nowadays, so their removal makes perfect sense, even if I think that there will be a hole that should be filled in 6.7 Battle Rating German lineups (it should be noted that all the removed vehicles will still be playable as long as you own them before the 1.91 update hits, or have at least spent a few Research Points trying to unlock them).
But the Maus wasn’t a paper tank, and that’s a big problem for Gaijin. This doesn’t mean they aren’t being honest, as the developers admitted that the cause for this 188 tonnes monster’s removal is that they can’t balance it in the current meta of the game and not that it didn’t actually see full production (a few prototypes were produced, which qualifies for a “not paper tank” designation). I and many other players believe that the root of the problem is something called “Battle Rating compression”, which has to do with the way the game’s matchmaking works. In War Thunder, vehicles are assigned a numerical Battle Rating that ensures a sort of balance as long as players don’t purposefully join battles with vehicles of a lower BR (which wouldn’t be a problem caused by Gaijin, and thus shouldn’t really be taken into account). For instance, the Maus sits at 7.7 BR in Realistic Battles (and 8.0 in Arcade Battles), which means it can fight vehicles from a 6.7 to 8.7 spread (or 7.0 to 9.0 in Arcade). The 6.7 vehicles will often have a hard time penetrating its tough armor from the front, and the 8.7 tanks will go through it like butter, since at that Battle Rating everyone is firing HEAT-FS, APFSDS or ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles).
Considering that the Maus is a super heavy vehicle that moves at a top speed of twenty kilometers per hour, losing its only real advantage (which is the armor) makes it a sitting duck for almost any vehicle that comes across it. So, how do we deal with this issue? If the Maus goes down to 6.7 or 7.0, it will be completely overpowered every time it faces vehicles from 1 BR lower, so that’s not something Gaijin can do. The only answer I can see would be to add a higher Battle Rating limit (the current one is 10.0) and then decompress the already existing Battle Ratings to account for that. Sadly, Gaijin has already stated they do not intend to do that, even if they are also acknowledging that the current system has lead to big balancing issues (big enough that they are removing a vehicle that has long been a symbol of the game, and it’s even featured in many loading screens).
If you don’t already own a Maus ingame (or the other three vehicles) you can “save it” for yourself as long as you get some research points into it before the next big update hits (1.91). I already have my Maus (I suspect most people who have been playing the game since launch have theirs as well), but I still think what Gaijin‘s doing is a big mistake. They are removing a piece of War Thunder history so they don’t need to adjust certain mechanics that are already leading to other issues that won’t be “fixed” as easily in the future. There’s still some time left to turn the ship around, but sadly history tells me that this won’t happen.