ShipComrade

Premium Ship Review #120 – Plus Sized Baltimore

The following is a review of USS Alaska, the tier IX Premium American Large Cruiser kindly provided to me by Wargaming.  Please be aware that though this represents the release version of the ship, her statistics may change in the future.  To the best of my knowledge, these stats are accurate as of patch 0.8.1.  If you have any questions regarding any changes to this ship after subsequent patches, please feel free to contact me.

Faster than a speeding Montana.  More powerful than the broadside of a Baltimore.  Able to delete cruisers in a single salvo.  Look, up in the Arsenal!  It’s a pocket battleship!  It’s a battlecruiser!  No, it’s Alaska!

PROS

  • Large hit point pool of 60,800hp.
  • Solid armour layout with good citadel protection and some HE immunity.
  • Armed with nine enormous (for a cruiser) 305mm guns with solid alpha strike.
  • Improved auto-ricochet angles on her AP shells.
  • Strong anti-aircraft firepower, especially at medium ranges.

CONS

  • Takes increased fire damage like a battleship.
  • Low sustained HE damage.
  • Only modest muzzle velocity and energy retention over distance.
  • Sluggish handling for a cruiser.
  • Large surface detection range of 15.5km.

Overview

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

Imagine you took a tier VII battleship and stuck it in at tier IX with cruiser matchmaking.  That‘s effectively what Alaska is.  Imagine how well Scharnhorst would fare in the hands of a novice with this kind of opposition and you begin to understand the challenges playing Alaska.

The statement above is a gross oversimplification, of course.  Alaska has a lot going for her that veterans will enjoy. Her improved AP shells, for one, open up plenty of opportunities to excel with the right know how.  Her consumables, protection, speed and anti-aircraft firepower provide her with a comfortable bit of flexibility for an experienced player.

But don’t take it from me.  Let’s hear from Lert.

“Actually, I would argue for a ‘casual’ skill floor. Her armor profile, citadel location and protection, the comfort of her gunnery and the increased angle-defeating performance of her American Piercing shells make for a very forgiving cruiser at her tier. Ok, she’s still a cruiser and big mistakes are going to get punished, but on the whole I think she is comfortable, versatile and sturdy enough to make for a ship that even moderately experienced players can make effective to a certain degree. I agree with the skill ceiling, though to me it’s a high ‘high’.”

Alaska has some of the BEST offense and defense among the tier 9 cruisers, rivaled only by Kronshtadt presently. She pays for this in the same way her Soviet counterpart does: by handling like a bus and being stonkin’ huge. Unlike Kronshtadt, however, Alaska has excellent AA defense and it would be the BEST at her tier. However, with the CV rework, anything can change.
iTQteVr.png– One of, if not the worst at its tier. This is a pronounced weakness.
jr7vbn9.png – Middle of the pack at its tier. Not terrible, but not terribly good either.
OzA23Hz.png – Has a significant advantage over her tier mates. A solid, competitive performer.
G8OWSR4.png – No other ship at its tier does this as well as this ship.

Options

Oh boy, a tier IX ship.  There’s a lot of elements to talk about here.

Consumables

Alaska’s Damage Control Party is standard for a cruiser. It has a 90s/60s reset timer with a 5 second active period and unlimited charges.

You have two choices for her second slot.

  • Defensive AA Fire doubles her effective AA firepower for 40 seconds.  This has a 180s / 120s reset timer.  Alaska receives the American cruiser bonus with this consumable, starting with three charges instead of two.
  • Hydroacoustic Search is standard for a tier IX cruiser, detecting torpedoes at 3.5km and enemy ships at 5.0km.  This has a 100s active period and a 180s / 120s reset timer.  It comes with two charges base.

Her third slot presents the choice of three options:

  • Alaska’s Surveillance Radar has a 10km range, a 35s active period and a 180s / 120s reset timer.  It comes with two charges base.
  • Her Catapult Fighter launches 4 planes.  The aircraft remain active and on station for 60s at a range of 3km.  It has a 135s / 90s reset timer and two charges base.
  • Finally, her Spotter Aircraft increases her firing range by 20% for 100s (to 22.76km stock or 24.41km with GFCS2).  This has a 360s / 240s reset timer and comes with three charges base.

Finally, her Repair Party is standard.  This comes with three charges base. Each charge queues up to 50% of penetration damage and 10% of citadel damage. She heals up to 14% of her health over 28 seconds with a 120 second / 80 second reset timer.

Upgrades

The options for Alaska’s upgrades largely come down to play style.  You’re effectively choosing between three roles:

  1. An anti-aircraft cruiser (AA).  This is sub-optimal, but if you sustain yourself upon the raging whine-posts of CV players in games and through social media, this is your go-to.
  2. A long range support cruiser (Support).  You’ll be building for evasion, range and accuracy.  This is easiest to play.
  3. A medium range support cruiser (Survive).  You’ll be taking upgrades to improve radar, increase survivability, concealment and the rate of fire of your guns.  This is harder to play but it’s more effective overall for helping your team secure a win.

You’re by no means bound to these.  Mix and match to your pleasure.  However, they do serve as rudimentary guides towards different strengths and playstyles of the ship.

You have two options for your first slot.

  • Main Armaments Modification 1 is optimal.  Alaska’s main battery guns do not stand up well to abuse.  (AA, Support, Survive)
  • Alternatively, you can take the special upgrade Damage Control Modification 1 to increase the active period of her consumable from 5s to 7s to provide a little extra fire and flooding immunity. (Survive)

Her second slot are dominated by special upgrade choices.

  • Arguably, you will get the most use out of Surveillance Radar Modification 1, increasing its action time from 35s to 42s (Survive)
  • In the current CV-heavy meta, Defensive AA Fire Modification 1 is a good secondary choice if you enjoy playing the escort-role (especially for regular division mates).  This increases the action time of her consumable from 40s to 48s. (AA)
  • If you don’t have access to either, default to Damage Control System Modification 1. (Survive, Support)

In her third slot choose between the following:

  • Aiming Systems Modification 1 will always be optimal because this affects your ability to do damage. (Support, Survive)
  • Alternatively, if you want to make tier VIII CVs cry about being up-tiered, take AA Guns Modification 1.  This adds two flak bursts to her long and medium range guns making them shoot 7 and 12 bursts respectively. (AA)

Things get more tame for her fourth slot.

  • The extra fire damage Alaska takes over other cruisers makes Damage Control System Modification 2 the optimal choice here. (AA, Survive)
  • However, there is a case to be made for Steering Gears Modification 2 and actively attempting to avoid incoming fire.  This reduces her rudder shift time from 13.0s to 10.4s. (Support)

Her fifth slot is a question of concealment.

  • Concealment Modification 1 is optimal and brainless.  It works passively whenever you’re not shooting your guns. (AA, Survive)
  • However if you wish to double down on improving her rudder, take Steering Gears Modification 3.  Combined with the previous upgrade, her rudder shift time reduces down to 6.2s (Support)

Finally, her sixth slot echoes the question posed by her third:  Do you wish to emphasize gunnery or her anti-aircraft firepower?

  • There are two ways of improving her main battery.  The first is through her reload with Main Battery Modification 3, dropping her reload from 20s down to 17.6s at the cost of her gun traverse.  This is arguably optimal. (Survive)
  • However, Gun Fire Control System Modification 2 makes Alaska easier to use, increasing her range from 18.97km to 22.01km providing her with an element of safety (especially when combined with SGM2 and SGM3). (Support)
  • And finally, if your raison d’être is to make CV players rage at you, take AA Guns Modification 2.  The increased damage is hilarious (if definitely sub-optimal considering the other two choices here — but you’re a person of conviction and I respect that). (AA)

Camouflage

Alaska has a single camouflage pattern: Type 10 – Alaska providing:

  • 100% bonus experience gains.
  • 20% reduction in maintenance costs.
  • 3% reduction to surface detection.
  • 4% reduction of enemy accuracy.
Two for one. Alaska’s default camouflage has a palette swap option if you have completed the American Cruiser Collection.

Firepower

Main Battery:  Nine 305mm/50 rifles in 3×3 turrets in an A-B-X configuration.
Secondary Battery:  Twelve 127mm/38 rifles in 6×2 turrets with one mounted fore and aft and two on each side.

Alaska’s doesn’t have the brainless gunnery found on the Soviet Stalingrad and Kronshtadt battlecruisers. You have to pick your targets.  You must pick the correct ammunition for the job.  Even then, you still need to aim carefully.  Tick all of these boxes and Alaska will reward you handsomely.  What’s more, the impressive damage totals you accumulate feel earned.  Knowing when and how to use her autobounce or knowing when and how to transition from a support gunship to a front-line brawler are just some of the ways Alaska rewards clever play.  This does mean there’s a bit of a skill-wall to unlock the full potential of not only Alaska’s guns, but the ship itself.

For as good as the potential of her weapons is, this also means they can and will misbehave.  She does not have the exemplary penetration of the Soviet battlecruisers which easily challenges battleship belt armour at all ranges.  She is not a “Megazao” like Azuma is (falsely) purported to be, capable of stacking fires for easy big numbers.  Alaska has neither cruiser-levels of accuracy or the HE DPM to compete with her contemporaries in trading matches, nor does she have the fast rate of fire necessary to keep put down enemies quickly if she flubs a citadel shot.

If you were hoping for idiot-proof gunnery, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  Getting the most out of Alaska’s main battery firepower takes a lot of work.  That’s probably why I love it.

A Big Ol’ Dose of Feels

Alaska has comfortable forward firing arcs but she’s not ideally setup for kiting with admittedly lackluster firing arcs to the rear. Her turret rotation of 6º/s is acceptable and far outstrips the ship’s own rate of turn.

Let’s start with the basics:  You’re not going to feel like you’re fighting against Alaska’s weaponry. She doesn’t out-turn her turrets even with Main Battery Modification 3 slowing them down.  She has decent forward firing arcs though her rear arcs could use some work. While these may seem like fire arcs and rotation rates are minor quibbles, they are two points of contention that I struggle to abide, so it’s good to see those squared away with positive sentiments.  Moving on, her base range is acceptable and her rate of fire isn’t punitive.  On the whole, the basics of her weapon handling are generally comfortable though she’s not perfect.

The two areas where Alaska falls short here are her dispersion and shell flight times.  Alaska uses the same linear dispersion as Graf Spee.  This is better than that of a battleship but appreciably worse than that of a cruiser.  Alaska’s guns don’t have the high velocity of the Soviet battlecruisers nor their energy retention so her tendency to overshoot or undershoot a target is greatly reduced.  However, this does cause longer lead times to targets at range, making gunnery uncomfortable at distances greater than 15km.

On the whole, the handling of her guns is alright.  Now what about her shells?

Shell flight time in seconds. These numbers were pulled from the in game client using the shell flight time estimation in the UI.  I personally attribute any lead time greater than 9s to be “uncomfortable”.  It gives more nimble targets, like cruisers and destroyers, far too much room to wiggle and dodge.  Alaska’s ballistics are comparable to (and slightly better than) those of the American 406mm guns on North Carolina.
Alaska dispersion test. 180 AP shells fired at 15km locked onto a Fuso without camouflage. Shells come in from right to left.  Alaska is using the Aiming System Modification 1 upgrade to reduce dispersion by 7%.

It’s Not How Big It Is…

Size solves a lot of problems.  For Alaska’s damage output, her 305mm caliber lends two strengths:  meatier individual hits and increased HE penetration.  Alaska’s HE shells penetrate up to and including 50mm worth of armour leading to fewer hits shattering for zero damage.  If she had the accuracy to go along with this penetration, Alaska’s spam would be a credible threat but she’s lacking in that department.

Instead she largely has to rely upon her AP shells to do the heavy lifting.  Like most battleships, Alaska lacks sustained damage output especially when compared to cruisers.  She relies upon high-damage salvos — the ol’ vaunted alpha strikes — to dispatch enemies.  This is best done with citadel hits; preferably with multiple shells at a time to thoroughly gut, if not outright sink a target.  While multiple regular penetrations yields respectable damage, it’s really those sweet, sweet AP citadel hits you’re after.

To help you and your AP shells along, Alaska enjoys the improved auto-ricochet angles of other American heavy cruisers.  They don’t begin to check for ricochet until they strike at a steep 60º angle though this tapers off just as quickly at 67.5º.  Engaging Alaska with anything other than the bow guns on a given ship much more risky as she’s quite capable of delivering penetrating hits where other battleship-caliber guns would simply bounce off.  If a ship angles to unmask their rear turret(s), they leave themselves vulnerable.  This is particularly effective against cruisers and the softer, upper hulls of enemy battleships.

So big hits, lots of HE penetration and less chance of auto-bouncing — those are Alaska’s strengths.  If they sound like improved battleship guns, lemme stop you right there.

This graph shows the potential DPM of the tier 9 cruisers, including when upgrades with Main Battery Modifcation 3 (MBM3) or when Saint Louis is using her Main Battery Reload Booster (MBRB) consumable.  There shouldn’t be much in the way of surprises here. Alaska relies upon alpha strike with citadel hits rather than sustained damage output to best her opponents. Please take note of her HE DPM — it’s the worst at her tier.  This is compounded by her lower accuracy relative to most of her competitors.  She cannot afford to trade HE blows.  Azuma’s stats should be considered a Work in Progress and subject to change.

It’s How Well It Penetrates…

For her ammunition of choice, Alaska’s AP penetration values are only modest.  While it’s a huge step up from American 203mm guns, she can’t contest battleship belt armour except at medium to close ranges. Penetration values courtesy of the wonderful site found at: https://mustanghx.github.io/ship_ap_calculator/  Azuma’s stats should be considered a Work in Progress and subject to change.

Alaska’s AP penetration isn’t quite up to battleship levels.  She can’t contest battleship belt armour — especially tier X battleships if there’s even a slight angle or distance to them.  Alaska doesn’t have any auxiliary weapons to lean upon to pad out her numbers either.  Her secondaries are all kinds of meh (only a 5km range and not enough of them) and she has no torpedoes at all.  She’s only a modest fire-starter.  You must make those AP shells work for you.  This means being choosy with your targets, redeploying as needs be rather than picking straight up fights.

Alaska’s go-to means of influencing battles comes from the direct damage of her guns. If you struggle with landing citadel hits, picking off weak points or leading targets at range, your time in Alaska will suck.

Summary

  • Buckle-up, buttercup.  Alaska’s gun performance is all on you.  Her gunnery isn’t forgiving.
  • AP should be your go-to ammo, with decent damage and nice auto-bounce mechanics.  Just keep in mind you’re not able to contest battleship belt armour until very close ranges and almost everything can face-tank you.
  • Don’t be shy of reaching for HE if things get difficult but don’t lean on it too heavily unless your want to see your numbers tank.

Evaluation: OzA23Hz.png
What it would have needed to be G8OWSR4.png:   Alaska barely squeaks in here, mostly due to the potential of her guns.  A big strike against them is the difficulty in using them optimally.  If you can’t make those situations happen, they’re only worth a jr7vbn9.png.

Defense

Hit Points:  60,800
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 27mm
Maximum Citadel Protection:  229mm belt + 26mm citadel wall or 27mm bow + 260mm transverse bulkhead.
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 13%

Of course Wargaming would change Azuma on the eve of this being published — as if I needed a reminder that she’s still very much a Work in Progress. Well, this is up to date (for now), but it may change in the future. Alaska has a good ol’ chunk of hit points to play with.

Easy Praise

Alaska has amazing protection levels for a cruiser — easily the best not only at her tier, but rivaling all other cruisers in the game.  She’s almost comparable to a battleship.  Almost.

Her citadel defense is excellent.  Not only is it fully submerged, she has a 229mm belt and she boasts a 260mm citadel athwartship fore and aft.  Her citadel also doesn’t abut against the exterior of the hull, so belt penetrations do not automatically mean citadel penetrations.  Furthermore, she has a hidden 96mm deck beneath her main deck affording some protection to plunging AP shells from extreme ranges.  For a cruiser, her magazines and machine spaces are about as well protected as you could ask for.

Her defenses don’t stop there.  Like other American and German heavy cruisers, her extremities are a minimum of 27mm thick, preventing overmatching from 381mm AP.  Alaska is reasonably well protected against cruiser and destroyer-caliber HE shells.  Her 36mm main deck is immune to everything that’s not coming from a German ship and her 28mm upper hull provides similar levels of protection against most destroyer-caliber high explosive rounds.

Finally, there are areas where Alaska truly does measure up to battleships.  She has well over 300mm worth of faceplate and barbette armour which is on par with some of the capital ships she faces.

3D model found on gamemodels3d.com. This gif illustrates two of the three layers of protection over top of Alaska’s citadel (the first being her 36mm deck). Alaska’s citadel rests right at the waterline, limiting the amount of protection afforded by the 96mm reinforced deck from incoming AP shells due to its height.

Gun Durability

This said, Alaska’s guns are not quite as durable as those found on a battleship.  While she does have impressive barbette and faceplate armour, they don’t boast the same amount of health.

  • Cruiser Main Battery HP:  10,000
  • Battleship Main Battery HP:  20,000
  • Alaska Main Battery HP:  15,000

These are the same hit point values seen on ships like Graf Spee and Kronshtadt.  Reduced health means increased vulnerability to critical and catastrophic damage.  This is worth keeping in mind when you take your turn up on the firing step to help tank for your team.  While they are stronger than those of a cruiser, Alaska is also likely to take more hits overall.  Choose your upgrades and skills with this in mind.

Weaknesses

There’s a downside to this battleship similarity, though.  Alaska also borrows a battleship’s vulnerability to fire, suffering a full 60s burn instead of the 30s of other cruisers.  Left unchecked, this adds up to a loss of 18% of her hit points per blaze.  This necessitates the use of anti-fire & flooding skills, upgrades and consumables to prevent her suffering the worst from these damage over time effects.

There are three significant weaknesses in Alaska’s defenses beyond her vulnerability to fire.  The first is her vulnerability to battleship-caliber AP shells.  They’ll overmatch her bows and they typically have enough penetration to land citadel hits even when she angles — her belt armour is good, it’s just not that good.  Her anti-torpedo protection is also lacking, with low mitigation and poor anti-flooding measures.

Summary

Alaska is well defended but she’s not without her vulnerabilities.  Fire, flooding and AP overmatch will each take her apart.  Still, she has a large hit point pool which, when coupled with her Repair Party, provides her with greater longevity than most other cruisers within her Matchmaking spread.  However, this falls well short of what battleships can endure.  Alaska has the staying power provided you play her like a cruiser.  She can, for brief periods, tank like a battleship against select opponents provided their gun caliber does not exceed 381mm and you play her smart.

  • Good armour profile for a cruiser with excellent resistance to small and medium caliber HE.  Again, I stress:  For a cruiser.
  • Cannot stand up to 406mm+ battleship caliber AP shells for long.
  • Lots of hit points. Very beefy.  Or Moosy.  Cuz Alaska.

Defense Evaluation: G8OWSR4.png
What would have to happen to DOWNGRADE to OzA23Hz.png
For the moment, Alaska is holding her own but it’s a close contest between her and Kronshtadt.  Alaska wins out due to better HE protection, her 27mm extremities and her smaller, less exposed citadel.

Agility

Top Speed: 33.0 knots
Port Turning Radius:
850m
Rudder Shift Time: 13s
4/4 Engine Speed Rotation Rate:
4.8º/s

Alaska feels like a battleship here, albeit one with a bit more wiggle in her tush.  It’s possible to get her rudder shift time down as low as 6.2s if you’re so inclined.  Unfortunately with her sluggish rate of turn, even this isn’t going to give a convincing booty quake.  There’s not much to say here beyond that — think of her as an Iowa-class that doesn’t handle like a bloated sow three-days-dead and you’re not far from the mark.

Evaluation: iTQteVr.png

What it would have needed to be jr7vbn9.pngFor a battleship, Alaska would be one of (if not the) best at her tier.  As a cruiser, she’s one of (if not the) worst.

Anti-Aircraft Defense

Long Range:  5 explosions at 1,540 damage and 159dps from 5.8km to 3.5km
Medium Range:  10 explosions at 980 damage and 489dps from 3.5km to 1.5km
Short Range: 571dps from 1.5km or closer.

Hey, guess what?  Azuma’s still a Work in Progress and subject to change.  Under the new AA system, DPS doesn’t stack anymore.  It doesn’t grow ever more powerful the closer you get to the ship.  Since patch 0.8.0, each aura stands upon its own.  The killing zone in Alaska’s own AA defenses resides in her medium range aura (between 3.5km and 1.5km) where the combination of high DPS and mass volume of explosions presents a nightmare for attacking aircraft.

It’s worth repeating this:  The aircraft carrier rework is not finalized at this stage.  As such, any of the statistics discussed in this section may not reflect how the ship will perform in the future.  My review covers Alaska’s anti-aircraft firepower from patch 0.8.0.3.  Given the relative volatility of flak mechanics, this section will be brief.  All might be made invalid with the next change Wargaming implements.

Alaska’s anti-aircraft defense is almost identical to that of Buffalo but with a denser cluster of 20mm Oerlikon mounts. She’s an anti-aircraft heavyweight.  Like other heavy cruisers and American battleships, her AA defense is focused around personal protection rather that fleet defense.    At maximum range, Alaska’s anti-aircraft firepower is respectable but modest.  She generates five flak bursts at this distance.  American long-range flak doesn’t get especially dense until two or more vessels link up and focus on a target.

Her attack power ramps up enormously as her 40mm Bofors nests take over at 3.5km with a wall of ten flak bursts and a huge spike in damage per second.   At close range, her DPS all but guarantees shooting down aircraft trying to ascend after an attack run.   A properly setup and specialized Alaska is a thorny prospect for any aircraft carrier to engage.  Tier VIII aircraft don’t stand a chance and tier X strikes fare little better.

Investing heavily into anti-aircraft skills and upgrades pays big dividends in the current meta.  Time will tell if this trend continues going forward.

Don’t buy a premium ship based on its anti-aircraft firepower until the CV rework is finished balancing.

Alaska’s anti-aircraft gun layout with her twin 127mm/38s in red (x6), her quad 40mm Bofors nests in yellow (looks orange to me – Lert)  (x14) and her single 20mm Oerlikons in green (x34).  In Bofors we trust.

Evaluation: IRRELEVANT

Refrigerator

Base Surface Detection: 15.5km
Air Detection Range: 12.15km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 12.18km
Detection Range when Firing in Smoke: 12.09km
Main Battery Firing Range: 
18.97 to 22.01km

When it comes to size, Alaska lives up to her state namesake:  She’s huge.  The only way to keep her hidden is to tuck her away from the rest of her compatriots in the back line.  Bonus points if you sandwich yourself between something from the British Empire and Russia like the state does. There should be a Thunderer or Dmitri Donskoi back there you can hang out with (you have more in common with them anyway).

While there are some cruisers with worse surface detection than Alaska, there aren’t many. She is, on the whole, pretty terrible in this category.  Even a few battleships (still) manage to have a better surface detection than she does, including Monarch, Lion and Roma.  I get a chuckle that her smoke detection range is little better than her upgraded surface detection range.  The similarity between the two values does make it easy to know when you can fire from a friendly smoke screen by using your minimap rings as an indicator.

Alaska’s consumables are worth mentioning here.  With the diminished value of aircraft for spotting, Alaska is reliant upon using Hydroacoustic Search and Surveillance Radar to provide her with intel.  The former is a hard sell in a current meta — giving up Defensive AA Fire just isn’t reasonable while the rework is in progress.  This leaves her sensory projection to her Surveillance Radar with a 2km to 5km gap between her surface detection and the range of her consumable which is hardly ideal.

It’s no surprise that Alaska fails hard at Refrigerator (Vision Control).  She’s the size of one.

Evaluation: iTQteVr.png

What it would have needed to be jr7vbn9.png:   She’d need to stop being American and eating all of those double cheeseburgers.

Don’t Juneau What Skills to Take?

True to her confused heritage, Alaska does well when babysitting a captain with either an American battleship’s specialization or a heavy cruiser’s specialization.  She’s less optimal for a destroyer, light cruiser or aircraft carrier commander.  Similarly, keep your manual secondary specialized Massachusetts commander away.

Note that from the skills I list below, you’re not going to see anything regarding anti-aircraft work.  That’s not because they don’t work in the current meta — they do.  It’s just I can’t say for certain if the current meta will stay current over the near future.

High Value Skills:  Priority Target (1), Preventative Maintenance (1), Expert Marksman, (2), Adrenaline Rush (2), Basics of Survivability (3), Superintendent (3), Fire Prevention (4), Concealment Expert (4).

Final Evaluation

When I first played Alaska back in the Fall of 2018 (oh god, has it been that long?), I was enamored.  The initial build  was delightfully well balanced — a good mix of offense and defense that rewarded careful play.  She punished stupidity, both my own and that my opponents and I appreciated that to no end.  The ship hasn’t changed too much since that time. Wargaming raised her citadel oh-so slightly and increased the duration fires burn but that’s about it.

It may be the exhaustion talking, but I’ve found it hard to feel excited for her now.  The whole tail end of this review process has felt downright mechanical.  I kept hoping to find some weirdness to spice things up but nope — Alaska was still Alaska.  Here we are, five months later, and she’s still the solid ship I first played way back when.  I kind of feel cheated not to be able to share in the enthusiasm and frustration the community has endured waiting for this ship.  For certain, she is a prize worth waiting for.  To me, though, she’s just work.  I think I’m going to need to take a long break from her before she’ll feel sparkly-special again.

I don’t have universal praise for this ship.  The biggest criticism I can lay against her has to do with her guns.  They’re one of Alaska’s greatest strengths yet they’re not forgiving.  I predict we’re going to see many a complaint regarding their performance.  They look like battleship guns but they don’t act like them.

  • The optimist in me says they have battleship-caliber alpha strike with American cruiser auto-bounce angles — that should make them easier to use!.
  • The pessimist in me says they have a battleship’s rate of fire with a cruiser’s shell damage — they’re never going to kill ships fast enough for some players.

Alaska’s guns straddle the line, as so many of her systems do, in between those of a battleship and cruiser.  She has the best and worst of both worlds.  Social media being social media, I have little doubt that the negative will win out as a talking point.

The solution, of course, is to git-gud — don’t over extend and keep a wary eye on the minimap. Many players resent having to git-gud, though, and prefer their ship was simply better. To them I say:  I’m sorry.  Alaska isn’t that ship.  She’s strong but she’s not going to hold your hand towards excellence.  I love ships that reward intelligent play.  That’s why I fell in love with her last year.  That’s why I’m sure I’ll be back at her helm in a couple of months after I’ve put this burnout to bed.

In the meantime, make sure you check out some other recent reviews regarding Alaska before pulling the trigger.  Dissenting opinions contrary to mine are ideal — better for you to get a balanced outlook on this ship, especially if you’re thinking of spending money on her instead of just free experience.  Be aware that it’s possible for Alaska to change in the future, too.

Would I Recommend?

Alaska comes at the low-low price of 1M free experience (and I’m assuming they’ll also charge you 1 credit).  At the standard conversion rate of 1 doubloon for 25 free experience, this works out to a retail cost of $163.24 USD if someone were to buy the doubloons needed to convert it all.  Obviously, you can make this cheaper for yourself by spending some time grinding for it, but these free experience ships have had a history of not sticking around for very long.

It’s cynical for me to say, but if you want Alaska, you probably have no more than a year to farm.  We can hope she will be a more permanent feature like HMS Nelson, but Missouri, Musashi and Kronshtadt say otherwise.  This probably has something to do with the improved economy of the higher tiered free-XP ships.  Alaska shares Musashi’s and Kronshtadt’s credit earning which is slightly improved over that of a tier VIII premium.  Provided you can make Alaska perform, she’s a solid credit earner.  If that feat ends up being commonplace, Wargaming are likely to pull the plug as they have in the past.

The race is on to collect the XP before Alaska disappears. Oh, artificial scarcity. You’re so Evil.

For PVE Battles?

Mouse:  No.  I’m not a fan of Alaska in co-op.  I did a couple of dozen battles with her to verify her earning coefficient and she was okay, but not great.  Having enemies continually charging bow-in on you really hurts her damage output.  She’s also huge, so you’re spotted around the same time as your battleships and all of the bots would rather focus on you than them.  Provided you can survive long enough to joust, you can get some meaty hits in.

Lert:  “Yes. She has the tools and performance to make herself count against bots.”

For Random Battle Grinding?

Mouse:  No.  Y’know what, I’m going to be painfully honest here:  There are better trainers.  There are better credit earners (or there were — pickings are getting mighty slim there with them always being retired early).  If you’re farming awards, there are better ships for that too.  Alaska can suffice here, but you could do so much better.

Lert:  Yes. She trains captains well and makes good bank. Her versatility means she’s almost never completely without answers to whatever situation she finds herself in.”

For Competitive Gaming?

Mouse:  Yes.  She’ll do alright in an isolated tier 9-only environment liked this recent season of Ranked Battles.  Ditch Defensive AA Fire and load up on Hydroacoustic Search.  She’s got enough of a punch that other ships have to respect her.  Just be super careful on positioning — you won’t last long if you get focused.

Lert:  Maybe? She functions well with others and punishes cruisers, the mainstay of competitive gaming. Just not entirely sure her smaller hit-point pool and healing potential might make people choose other options.”

For Collectors?

Mouse: Yes. She’s a handsome looking ship and she was actually built in steel.  She even has a combat record.

Lert: “Yes.  Built in steel, served, beautiful ship, so yeah. Her service life wasn’t partiularly impressive or noteworthy, but she still did more than Kronshtadt or Azuma; including existing in the first place.”

For her Fun-Factor?

Mouse:  Yes.   If you like your large-cruiser hybrid-style gameplay, Alaska is a riot.  Her guns are very rewarding to use.

Lert: Yeah, I enjoyed my time in her, enough to buy her the moment she drops.”

What’s the Final Verdict?

How would the ship rate on an Angry YouTuber scale of Garbage – Meh – Gud – Overpowered?

  • GARBAGE– I hate it!
  • Mehbote – An average ship.  Probably forgettable.
  • Gudbote – The best thing ever.  Totally not overpowered because I like padding my stats in it.
  • OVERPOWERED – I hate playing against it!

In Closing

There is just HMS Dreadnought left on my ‘to-do’ pile for reviews.  That’s barring any other releases that creep up in the meantime.  I kinda want to take a break and tackle some other projects first.  Oh, before I go, have a related Drachinifel’s video on the history of the Alaska-class.

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