Connoisseurs Guide to the 121
So what is it about Chinese Mediums? It seems people either like them, or they go out of their way to make the point they are nothing but boring Russian knockoffs and not worth anyones time.
Let us all agree that as an idea, Chinese Medium tanks aren’t very original. Not a lot of thinking goes into putting a bigger gun on a Medium tank. And, as I’ve pointed out numerous times; if you look at them and see nothing but second rate copies of the best Russian tanks in the game, then steer clear of them, because you will invariably be disappointed.
But not quite as good as the best still means pretty good, and for the discerning tanker, there is a lot to like about the Chinese Medium tanks. That is not to say you have to be very Pro to drive them, but I think the things that set them apart are the type of things that experienced tankers tend to appreciate more.
Unless, you know, you just happen to think they look really cool. That will work, no matter your skill level.
I do think Chinese tanks look really cool, and to me that’s a big selling point, but it’s not the main reason I like the Chinese Mediums, and the 121 in particular, so much. I thought I’d try and explain the real reason, as well as give you a few pointers on gameplay along the way.
Basically the reason I like the 121 is I’ve driven a lot of Medium tanks, and this one is kind of different. Even if 400 alpha isn’t a lot more than 350, it still makes a difference when you trade shots, and it makes you more dangerous in the endgame.
But there is more to it than that. I would almost certainly drive a new tier X tank just for being different, but I practically no-lifed the 121 grind so I could be an “early adopter” of this particular one. I can drive the maxed out showroom model on the press account all I want, but I drive my own 121 instead even though it only has the rammer and coated optics on it so far, because I want to get used to the way it drives, and see how much of a difference the upgrades actually make.
The way it drives, yeah. Other than aesthetics and design ideology, the first thing I liked about the 121 was the ride. It’s actually not a lot bigger than the Obj 140 or the T-62A, but it is bigger. Mainly the engine deck is taller, and the hull is a little bit longer. It’s also wider; the crew compartment extends out over the tracks a little.
So when I got out in the field, my impression was it was quite mobile for such a big tank. Like one of those SUV:s that’s really a little bigger than anyone would conceivably require for city traffic. And I think that’s the way to approach the 121; it’s a heavy Medium tank, a little more armament and a little more armouring than you, strictly speaking, need.
And that may be some old field howitzer they jammed in the turret, but the workmanship leaves nothing to be desired. It’s fully aimed less than a second after you stop moving, and the Chinese made AP rounds may not be terribly exciting, but they are less prone to bounces and penetration loss than APCR, and they get the job done.
So what we have here is kind of a luxury all terrain vehicle. A glorified gun tractor. A tank marketed at the Barbour-wearing Sloane Ranger, or any bobo hipster with pretences of intellectual tankery. A life style tank.
I think when you try to drive something like a heavy Medium tank, it’s important you are clear about that you are doing it because you want to. You want to try and work with a 122 mm instead of a smaller caliber. You are driving something a little different for the sake of being a little different. Or, you know; because it’s new. That works just as well.
It so happens that the 121 is my second best performing tier X tank at the moment, surpassed only by the mighty, mighty “Yolo Wagon” 263. I’m not sure things will stay that way, and anyway the samples are way too small to be taken seriously, but it is an interesting trend.
I chose the 263 and the 121 for my collection for the same reason: because I like Medium tanks. And with the core Medium playstyle as a starting point, the idea is that both of them, in their own different ways, will help me expand and improve on my Medium gameplay.
There is also, behind all this rationale, the thought of sometimes getting to bring a gun to a knife fight so to speak; because all things being equal, you know you can outtrade other Medium tanks with that big gun. The visceral component, one might say, and it should not be forgotten about. We play this game for enjoyment, people.
And although I don’t hold with camping for tens of thousands of games in a death star waiting for the magical maximum HESH-roll ammorack, it is of course more satisfying hitting a tier X Heavy tank with a 122 mm highroll than a regular old 105. Or blasting a US tank through the engine deck for over 600 HE damage. Or trading evenly with a Medium tank even though your round was a HEAT round to ensure penetration. The 122 mm armament is a lot of fun.
But it’s also a workhorse. That is the same gun off the 113 Heavy tank, and with the combination of armour and the quickest aimtime in the game, you can trade from cover against pretty much anyone. The armour isn’t always going to hold up, but it’s super easy to work, and can most often be relied on to keep you safe.
My friend suggested running calibrated shells is key to success, but I gave it a try, and I don’t really get a lot of mileage out of them. The argument is you can pen more Heavy tanks frontally, and the reload is so slow anyway you don’t notice the difference. For me though, being able to shoot faster allows me to put out more damage and gets me out of more brawls. I tend to shoot at either sides and rears or lightly armoured tanks. Your preferred playstyle should guide you here.
And speaking of equipment, I am running with only rammer and optics as I said, and it’s really not too bad. Normally I wouldn’t drive a tier X tank without Vstabs, but I’ve been so excited to drive the 121 I don’t have time to wait for the garage crew to install all the upgrades yet. I figured the tank could still execute the core playstyle, and it would be interesting to see how much of a difference the different upgrades actually make. As it is, I think it’s more important to learn how the thing moves and positions itself, and the limitations of the traverse, engine power, and gun depression.
Three things, basically, are going to happen. First I’ll get the improved controls. Those will improve the traverse and make the tank a little faster; I will be able to relocate more effectively and brawl a little better. Then I’ll get three more boxes installed, and I’ll have Vstabs. This means having the lowest possible aimtime in the game, which will improve trading, snap shots and firing on the move, which latter the tank sucks at anyway so I don’t do it a lot. Third and lastly, I’ll put the improved tracks on it which means it will take two hits to break the track every time.
All these upgrades will help give me an edge and get me out of a few more sticky situations, but on the whole the tank is pretty strong already. With eight equipment boxes unlocked, it’s going to be better, sure, but not radically different.
Sooo… How to Drive it?
Well, drive it like a Medium. With a Heavy tank gun on it. Or like a mobile Tank Destroyer with a lower alpha gun. Seriously, it’s not rocket science.
You want to think about doing three things. One, hang back or gang up so you can save your hitpoints, because your high alpha makes you super dangerous in the endgame. Two, think about where the red team would least like to have to deal with an extra Heavy tank gun, if even just for a short while. You have the mobility to make that happen. And three, think about what favourable situations you can put yourself in, because there are a lot of things you can do.
You can fight Medium tanks from cover and hold them off or take them out with your higher alpha. You can trade against Heavy tanks and big TDs as long as you are hull down. You can circle slower opponents if they are isolated. You can help take chunks of damage out of unsuspecting, dug in enemies.
But here’s a caveat. You can trade with Heavy tanks because you will often have the same alpha they do, and in either case you can put in effective shots against them. But that doesn’t mean you should concentrate on fighting Heavy tanks, because if you play your Medium as a Heavy, you are just playing a worse Heavy, even if you are playing a heavy Medium.
It does however mean you shouldn’t be afraid to go with the Heavys if the matchup favours that decision, because in good conditions you can be really effective against Heavy tanks. And as you are a Medium tank, you have all that mobility to help you orchestrate those conditions. And yes, that’s just a roundabout way of saying you need to work on your positioning in the 121.
Still, the thing can brawl. If you get close to a Heavy tank you will easily have the mobility to keep behind its gun, even without the improved controls. And you can put out 1200 damage in around 20 seconds, so you can clear out damaged opponents pretty quick, even though your DPM isn’t fantastic. The 120 mm front plate and sturdy turret will also allow you to bully Light and Medium tanks, especially if they don’t carry a tier X weapon.
So in the best of all worlds, where you have a matchup you can work with, and move between hulldown spots, and land all your shots, you can have some great games in the 121. In some ways, it’s actually easier to drive than other Mediums; the higher alpha and user friendly armour lends itself to a lot of in game situations. As long as you can dictate the terms of the engagement, the 121 is a really strong tank.
Ways the 121 is not better than the Russians
I know people will continue to make this argument, so I thought I’d just get the key ways in which the 121 is not better than the best Medium tanks in the game; the T-62A and Object 140, out of the way.
From the top down, the 121 has slightly larger cupolas than the Russians. The gun lacks more than 1000 DPM, and isn’t as accurate or as stable on the move. Terrain resistances aren’t quite as good, and you have 100 hitpoints less.
So yeah. The 121 is worse than Russian Mediums. But it was never intended to be a Russian Medium in the first place, and as heavy Medium tanks go, it may well be the best.
The Short Version
So I guess if I had to simplify, three things make the 121 tick. High alpha, lightning quick aimtime, Russian style armour. Add good mobility to this, and that’s basically what you have to work with. If you’ve driven a Medium tank before, the peculiarities of the 121 aren’t difficult to identify and adapt to.
Against the background of other Medium tanks, the 121 is new and different. It offers a new style of gameplay for the discerning Medium tank driver. Or, a bigger gun for the frustrated Medium driver.
In the context of the game as a whole, the Chinese Mediums aren’t really that special. They follow a simple yet effective concept, and if you’re down with that, they are super fun. If you think they sound lame, they are going to be lame, because other than the slight novelty of design, there isn’t a lot more to see.
But if you fancy yourself a bit of a gun stat nerd and Medium tank elitist, the 121 is a bit more tank than you need for everyday driving, but you can still daily-drive it. It’s a family sized sedan with like huge offroad tires, a winch, and a rollcage. A Sports Utility Tank.
IrmaBecx says if you’re not worried about things like parallel parking and your carbon footprint, drive one as fast as you can.