I don’t always have time to write one of these, but this is going to serve as a quick preview of the upcoming tier 9 American “Large Cruiser” Alaska. Seriously, America, you’re cute with how desperate you are to differentiate yourself from your roots. You can call it a “Battlecruiser” without bending knee to the throne. No one will think less of you. Wargaming was very kind to provide me with a preview of version of this ship and she is subject to change.
Alaska is highly anticipated. I have quickly fallen in love with her early game play. I cannot stress this enough: The initial test iteration of USS Alaska is perfect.
It took less than three games to reach this conclusion (though playing more only further confirmed it). Somehow Wargaming had stumbled upon the perfect balance of PROs and CONs that made this ship so appealing in my eyes. Unlike the brainless gunnery of the Soviet Kronshtadt and Stalingrad battlecruisers, Alaska’s weapons reward careful aim and target selection. She cannot spam AP shells willy-nilly and hoover up 150,000+ damage. You have to pick your targets. What’s more you have to pick the correct ammunition and even then you have to aim carefully.
Tick all of these boxes and Alaska will treat you right. The amount of damage she can stack is amazing and what’s more, it feels right and earned. Use and abuse her autobounce bonuses and aim at the right parts of ships to unlock your prize. Know what ships you can bounce off your 27mm bow and which ones you have to bait into your angled belt. Pick and choose the right consumables to match your play style. Know the moment when you have to transition from a second line gunship to leading the charge to provide cover for your allies.
This does mean there’s a bit of a skill wall. Like I said, this isn’t a CTRL + ALT + WIN ship. Alaska isn’t like Belfast, Graf Zeppelin or Fujin. She doesn’t immediately force her opponents to play differently because she ended up on the enemy roster. Her current build encourages a light touch, a flexible play style and rewards it in spades.
It’s not the end of the world if Wargaming does buff (or significantly change) Alaska. It will be a shame, though. Buffing Alaska will only further the influx of powercreep. It will be taking a new and novel vessel and make it into something gaudy. Alaska, performance wise, will become the meta-defining, must-have, flavour of the month. You know the sort — baked in with the imperative of “What are you waiting for? LIMITED TIME ONLY!” Buy more doubloons to preemptively convert into free-XP to get her as soon as you can so you too can be ahead of the curve!
Alaska has so much going for it right now. Like Duke of York before her, it’s quite likely that she’s going to pay for a more “accessible” redesign with everything that has made me love her at this early stage. It’s a shame that the community may lose access to one of the most interesting premiums so far to come across my desk this year. This is admittedly one of the risks of playtesting pre-release vessels. It’s too easy to fall in love. It’s too easy to be discouraged when you see something changed that was once worth getting excited over.
We’ll see what the future brings.