The Udaloi represents the last grind before the monstrosity that is called the Khabarovsk. Coming from the Kiev and the Tashkent, the Udaloi is a tough nut to crack at first. It takes a break from the Russian "faster, bigger, tougher" theme and offers something unique instead. On the other hand, you approach Tier X both the capabilities of the ships you face and the quality of opponents you get increase rapidly. However, after an initial adjustment period, the Udaloi quickly proved itself to be more than capable of holding its own against anything it faces. I can't wait to tell you why.
Russian DDs at later tiers
Compared to the other DDs of the other nations at later tiers, the Russian gunboats gameplay is completely different and inherently challenging. Their almost cruiser-level concealment and short torpedo ranges prevent stealth torp runs against juicy opponents that dominate the DD meta at higher tiers. No, you must rely on your amazing guns, high mobility, manage enemy aggro and capitalize on the mistakes of your opponents to do well. You have to accept that you'll be spotted for the most of the round and learn to survive in that kind of environment. As such, Russian DD gameplay at higher tiers is very comparable to cruiser gameplay (especially IJN and KM). Just a lot more faster and more furious.
You get a taste of this gameplay with the Kiev, which is still amazing for its tier despite the recent nerfs. With the addition of the third turret and ridiculous 42.5 knots of top stock speed, the Kiev is still an amazing seal-clubbing machine for its tier. At those tiers you have the advantage of being pitted against opponents who have no idea how to deal with a kiting 45 knots firehose. Your speed and gun range makes you almost invincible to anything but 203mm cruisers and BBs. Ten 70kt torps with 15k damage also allows you to nuke the occasional BB around a corner or anything foolish enough to come close.
Then you get to the Tashkent and the clubber becomes the clubbed. The Tashkent is nothing but a slightly oversized Kiev with a ridiculous amount of extra HP. Higher tiers mean you go against people who've learned to prioritize Russian DDs and actually know how to lead a 40+kt target. Cruisers from Tier 7 and upwards also become increasingly more powerful in armament. Suddenly your speed doesn't mean much when 203mm shells can reach 12kms in just 5-6 seconds. Being a bigger target, it's also more prone to engine and rudder damage. Its big turrets pop in the slightest HE breeze. Having a shorter stock range than the Kiev puts the final nail in the coffin for this thing. For me, it was a huge let down coming down from the awesome Gnevny, Ognevoi and Kiev streak.
An even bigger challenge awaits the Udaloi, because it has to thrive in a predominantly T10 environment as well.
As I said before, the Udaloi is a bit different from the Russian DDs preceding it. First of all, it has a much more compact hull. It's significantly smaller than the Tashkent (see the image) and resembles the USN DDs in this aspect. Being shorter also means better maneuverability in form of smaller turning radius, which is crucial to evade incoming fire and dodge huge torp walls. Its turning radius is just 610 meters compared to the massive 730m radius of the Tashkent.
|The difference in size is very noticeable.|
It pays the price of being smaller with no longer having that ludicrous speed though. Its stock speed is 40 knots, which is 2.5 knots less than the Tashkent. It's not a huge deal, but you certainly feel it. Still, with the flag and engine boost you can do 45 knots when you really have to go fast. I think 2.5 knots is a great trade off for being a much smaller target.
|The bane of your opponents.|
The torp armament also gets turned up to 11 with the upgrade of triple launchers to quintuple torpedo launchers. The distribution is a bit interesting, you have one launcher locked to each side plus another in the middle of the ship that can rotate 360°. So you can fire 10 torps per side and still have 5 more to shoot from the other. The torps also get an upgrade which boosts their speed to 60 knots and actually makes them usable (I find sub-60kt torps easy to evade). 8km range is not much, but it's still good enough for most situations.
|The torpedo launcher arrangement is definitely unique.|
AA armament also gets a respectable buff. Most of your armament consists of long-range big caliber AA guns and you can get the rating up to 50 with the skills and upgrades. However, without the Defensive AA ability don't expect to shoot down many planes. At these tiers the carrier squadrons are incredibly tough and you'll be lucky to take down a single plane from an Tier 8-10 aircraft blob. If you get undertiered the Udaloi can definitely mow down weaker planes.
|It does indeed look awesome.|
Lastly, the looks. Did I mention how awesome this ship looks? The developed superstructure looks amazing with the long-barrelled AA guns sticking out from the sides of it, the spheroid rangefinder that looks something out of steampunk universe and there's a happy little "AA island" at the back. The compact nature of this ship gives it a slickness that no other ship has. Especially with the Type 1 camo this thing becomes a joy to look at. I can't get enough of it.
|The infamous AA island.|
Overall, the Udaloi brings much needed improvements over the Tashkent, but how does it all work out together?
I must say, I struggled a lot initially. Without upgrades and stock guns and having no idea of the capabilities of opponents at Tier 8+, this is a very hard ship to do well with. Only after I got the upgraded guns, the hull, all the necessary modifications and losing some credits with loss after loss everything clicked together.
Firstly, good news. The Udaloi is much tougher than the Kiev and the Tashkent as in it doesn't pop turrets or lose its engine/rudder easily. I've never found myself "stranded" in front of the whole enemy team with my engine out. The turrets do pop every few games, depending on the good ol' RNG but it's not as annoying as it was in the Tashkent. I attribute this to smaller turrets.
The path to doing well in the Udaloi starts with letting go of your bad habits learned during the Kiev and to some-extend Tashkent grind. You must carefully manage the enemy aggro and keep track of who's shooting who. You can not rush in, start spamming a target while dodging shells from 4-5 ships. It just doesn't happen at later tiers.You can't be the sole target for the enemy team. Instead, you need to take advantage of chaos and prey on targets who are either busy (fighting someone else, swinging guns to other side), weak or making a mistake (giving you a broadside, getting in torp range).
Another thing you realize is that you should use AP whenever possible. The AP shells of the upgraded guns are simply amazing and still penetrate at oblique angles, even something heavily armored such as a Yamato. However you should make sure you hit the superstructure against heavily armored targets. Don't expect to hit the waterline belt and do damage against BBs at this tier. You can citadel cruisers when you have a really good angle, but otherwise keep shooting the slightly above the belt when you don't have a good angle.
When you get the hang of catching people off-guard with AP, you'll be rewarded with ridiculous damage. I hit an Atago with a 10k volley at 8 kilometers and I had a 6k AP volley against a North Carolina. Normally, you get about 2-3k AP salvos against cruisers and BBs which drop down to about 1.5k as the angle gets worse at which point you should switch to HE.
The funny thing is even at these tiers, nobody expects to be absolutely AP wrecked by a DD, so your worst opponents (cruisers) have no problems giving broadsides to you in order to hit you hard. You however can use the tight turning radius, great acceleration and your smoke to dodge shells and punish them with 3-5k AP salvos. With 3.7s loading time you can trade really well with cruisers if they underestimate you.
The Udaloi also presents the worst possible cockblock for the non-Russian DDs. Absolutely no destroyer can get in a gunfight with you and hope to survive. Also, absolutely no non-Russian DD can outrun you. So if you play aggressive and stay ahead of your team, you force them to either flee back to friendlies(they'll see you before you see them) or force to engage you (which is mostly fatal). I've had games where I forced Shimakazes, Kageros and Fubukis to throw walls after walls of torps at me instead of my team. They were desperate.
You can reliably hit even maneuvering enemy DDs all the way up to 11-12kms. USN DDs are surprisingly easy to get rid of due to how slow their projectiles are. Only below 6kms or so they can start landing shells on you, but even in these situations the Udaloi can come out on top with its higher HP pool and rapid-firing guns. I've had situations where I fought against 3 DDs and came out on top. Watch out for IJN DDs who use their guns though, HE salvos from the Fubuki and upwards absolutely devastate other DDs if they manage to land their shots.
Some more advice
Before I wrap everything up, let me share some hard-earned lessons earned during my long Khabarovsks grind.
- Always scout forward at the beginning of the round but never try to engage the whole enemy team if you get detected. If an enemy DDs spots you and their whole team starts shooting at you (it's a sight to behold), immediately pull back. Without firing a shot if possible. If you catch an enemy DD without support (if you get detected with nobody around), run them down with engine boost and try to force smokes from them.
- Be liberal with your smokes if you're in trouble. Use them if you suddenly get focused before you turn into a sad, burning and immobilized Udaloi.
- Be liberal with your torps as well. If you're being spotted for no reason, just dump some torpedoes in the suspected direction of the enemy DD. You'll be surprised how many random kills you get with this.
- When you have multiple opponents approaching at you and you're not detected yet, pop your smoke and farm some damage. Most enemies turn away when they're caught in the shell spam, so make sure they're close before popping smoke.
- If you see a broadside it's AP time. Regardless if it's a BB or a CA. Otherwise keep trying to set fires with HE.
- If your team is passive and you can't close in to use your guns, focus on caps and go hunting enemy DDs until something happens.
- Never engage multiple cruisers unless your target is extremely weak. Always seek 1v1 fights.
- Spam HE on those Iowas and Yamatos that just park their ships and reverse. They will be extremely annoyed and will waste a lot of damage by shooting you.
- Abuse the turret traverse time of your enemies. Is a Mogami taking a turn? Light it up, fire 3-5 salvos and then disappear before it gets its guns on you.
- The trick to doing well in Russian DDs is by shooting as much as you can. A good game will be about 200-300 hits while an amazing match will be between 300-600 hits.
- Zoom out after firing a salvo with the shift key and look around. It's very important to keep your situational awareness during combat.
Lastly, here's how I set my Udaloi and my Udaloi commander up:
Pretty straightforward. I opted for GFCS because the Udaloi has somewhat worse accuracy than other Russian DDs. Main battery upgrade #3 is absolutely mandatory for increased DPS. The concealment upgrade combined with the camo will take down your detection to 8 kms, a very respectable value for a Russian DD.
I opted for Demolition Expert for my second 4 point skill. Honestly, my Udaloi doesn't have much trouble with its engine or its rudder so I didn't go for Last Stand. With 10% fire chance per shot you'll farm way more damage from enemy BBs.
I have a few Udaloi demonstration videos on my YouTube channel. Here's a fun one with commentary:
The Udaloi is a great ship for its tier. With upgraded guns, torpedoes and toughness, it resembles a mini-Cruiser rather than a pea-shooter DD that needs to GTFO as soon as a cruiser shows up. It's always underestimated by the enemies— something you learn to exploit eventually.
It's a straight upgrade to the Tashkent and the Kiev, but it's also different enough that you won't want to sell it when you unlock the Khabarovsk. I decided to keep my Udaloi along with its captain and I don't see myself selling it anytime soon. It's definitely well worth the grind.