The following is a review of USS Wichita, the tier VIII Premium American Heavy 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 0.8.0.2. If you have any questions regarding any changes to this ship after subsequent patches, please feel free to contact me.
Wichita is a fast, stealthy heavy cruiser borrowing elements from Baltimore and New Orleans with just a touch of Atago.
- 27mm extremities and deck, capable of autobouncing 381mm and smaller AP shells.
- Uses “American Piercing” AP shells with improved auto-ricochet angles.
- Decent anti-aircraft firepower? Maybe? I mean it’s okay for now…
- Agile with good top speed, rudder shift time, turning radius and rate of rotation.
- Good surface detection which can reduced down to 9.5km.
- No Gimmicks.
- Smallish hit point pool for a tier VIII cruiser and parts of her citadel are exposed over the waterline, making her quite squishy.
- No torpedoes — entirely reliant upon its main battery for damage output.
- DPM and fire output is entirely lacking when compared to same-tier Light Cruisers.
- Horribly sluggish gun traverse.
- Shorter 9km ranged radar.
- No Gimmicks.
Skill Floor: Simple / Casual/ CHALLENGING / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: Low / Moderate / HIGH / Extreme
High tier American heavy cruisers aren’t the most forgiving of vessels in World of Warships. Being caught out in open water is just asking to have your face kicked in. The striking power of their guns necessitates dynamic ammunition choices to generate competitive numbers.
For all the same reasons that Wichita isn’t the best ship in the hands of a novice, it rewards veterans that have mastered the core mechanics in World of Warships. She goes a step further rewarding abuse of vision projection, stealth and island terrain. Her fragility and her modest gun damage hurt her carry potential, however.
– Has a significant advantage over her tier mates. A solid, competitive performer.
– No other ship at its tier does this as well as this ship.
There’s a fair bit of choice here — namely if you want to specialize her for anti-aircraft firepower or not.
There are no surprises with Wichita’s consumables. Everything is standard for American cruisers right out of the box.
- Her Damage Control Party 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. Wichita receives the American cruiser bonus with this consumable, starting with three charges instead of two.
- Hydroacoustic Search is standard for a tier VIII 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.
You have two choices for her third slot.
- Wichita’s Surveillance Radar detects concealed enemy ships at 9km for 30 seconds. It has two charges initially and comes with a 180s / 120s reset timer.
- Alternatively, you can go all Yuro and use a Spotting Aircraft. In addition to providing you with limited improvements to spotting threats (especially over islands), this extends her main battery range from 15.83km to 19.0km for 100 seconds. This has a six minute / four minute reset timer.
There seems like a lot of choice here but it’s pretty uncomplicated.
- If you’re trying to be memeworthy, take the special upgrade Spotter Aircraft Modification 1. For most normal (sane) people, default to Main Armaments Modification 1 in your first slot.
- Special Upgrades dominate the choices in your second slot. If you’re playing PVP, Defensive Fire Modification 1 should be your default choice. If PVE is more your thing (or you’re feeling especially MANLY and like to brawl, aircraft be damned) then Hydroacoustic Search Modification 1 is your better choice. If you can’t afford either, then default to Propulsion Modification 1 or any of the other wiener-choices in this slot.
- Upgrading your anti-aircraft firepower is smartest in your third slot. Take AA Guns Modification 1 until things quiet down with CVs. Otherwise take Aiming Systems Modification 1 for that slight boost to your main and secondary batteries.
- Your fourth slot is up to you and it depends on your preferred play style. If you like dodging in open water then Steering Gears Modification 2 is your choice. If you make islands your waifu, then Propulsion Modification 2 is better.
- And finally, Concealment Modification 1 is the only real go-to worthwhile here. Of course, if you want to emphasize playing in hard mode with open water dodging, you can double stack your earlier rudder upgrade with Steering Gears Modification 3 and get her rudder shift time down to 2.9 seconds. You nutter.
Wichita has a single camouflage pattern: Type 10 – Wichita providing:
- 50% bonus experience gains.
- 10% reduction in maintenance costs.
- 3% reduction to surface detection.
- 4% reduction of enemy accuracy.
Main Battery: Nine 203mm guns in 3×3 turrets in an A-B-X superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery: Four 127mm in armoured turrets and four 127mm open-air turret mounts.
Wichita is an American heavy cruiser gunship. This comes with all sorts of damage-dealing baggage. You don’t have torpedoes. You’re entirely reliant upon your main battery guns. You’re not going to dispense as much hurt as a comparable light cruiser using Inertial Fuse for HE Shells. Your gun shell arcs also won’t let you take advantage of as many terrain features as light cruisers. You’re also not setting anywhere near as many fires. And, it’s not like you have battleship caliber guns where your AP shells can take all comers. In summation: the other cruisers have it easier than you do, with torpedo trump-cards or raw DPM to out-muscle their opponents. When you’re playing Wichita, you have to be that much more clever.
You’re bloody-well doomed.
Wichita shares her heavy cruiser plight with Baltimore but without Baltimore’s full gunnery toolkit. They’re nearly similar — Wichita clones Baltimore’s gun performance with the same range, reload time and gun handling. Her AP shells have the same improved autobounce characteristics. However, she uses New Orleans’ higher velocity and lower shell-weight AP shells from a tier lower. These do less damage and have less penetration than Baltimore’s. Wchita has tier seven-and-a-half heavy-cruiser firepower at tier VIII. Well, maybe seven-and-three-quarters. While spamming HE, these two tier VIII American cruisers are identical, after all. It’s only in slinging AP that they differ but it’s a distinct lack.
This isn’t to say Wichita’s AP performance is bad. It’s not. It’s simply not as good as Baltimore’s. Wichita’s AP penetration compares very closely to that of the German Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruisers which are no slouches. She is defined, however, by what Baltimore can do that she herself cannot — namely reliably hit cruiser citadels at maximum range. By the math, Wichita nearly has the capacity to do it. She should (in theory) be capable of contesting up to 155mm of belt armour at 15km even at a modest angle. In practice, your mileage will vary some. I found that her ideal engagement range was closer to 13km depending upon the target and the aspect I could acquire. I was still able to land citadel hits at maximum reach if my opponents were blessedly ignorant and giving me a full broadside to shoot at, even for ships with thicker belts like Des Moines and Moskva.
What sets American heavy cruiser AP shells apart is the improved auto-bounce mechanics they receive. While other cruisers must contend with ricochet mechanics starting at 45º angles, Wichita (and other American heavy cruisers) have another 15º worth of leeway before the game starts making their shells splash off otherwise vulnerable targets. This comes at the expense of having a faster drop-off once this threshold is reached. In practical terms, American heavies can continue firing AP shells when other cruisers have to switch over to HE. In duels, particularly at close range, this can be game changing.
If you feel I’m prattling on at length about Wichita’s AP potential, there’s a reason. This is where the good news ends and a harsh dose of reality sets in.
Area denial is a point of struggle for American heavy cruisers. It’s a challenge to convince enemy ships that they would rather be elsewhere when Wichita makes her presence felt. Against destroyers, this it’s not so bad: Activate Surveillance Radar and watch the lolibotes scatter like roaches. It’s more difficult when facing off against battleships and cruisers.
Against the latter, I’ve already discussed at length how you’re hoping for an opportunity to use Wichita’s excellent AP shells and make them regret their life decisions — hopefully before they get within jousting ranges where they can make use of their world-ending torpedoes. Trading HE shells back and forth doesn’t play to Wichita’s strengths (unless you’re beating up a Hipper or something much lower tier). Given the pacing of combat, most engagements will be at long range during the onset of matches with close-range encounters typically limited to end-of-game. So, preserving hit points and avoiding direct trades with other cruisers is key.
Then we get to battleships. Wichita can put out the hurt with her AP shells on battleships that provide enough broadside for your shells to bite in. You’re not going to be anywhere near as good as a light cruiser pummeling them with HE shells and setting fires, however. For a heavy cruiser, you’re not terrible at it, but taxing a battleship’s Damage Control Party and stacking multiple fires is a challenge without sustained bombardment or a whole lot of help. In order to keep yourself from being deleted while harassing, you must make use of island cover to lob your shells from a point of concealment. Firing at a hale and healthy battleship from open water is just asking to get spanked, and not in the sexy way.
Wichita’s gunnery is comfortable if you’re a veteran player of American cruisers. Her fire arcs are nice. Her range is workable if a little on the low side. This can be padded with her Spotter Aircraft, but giving up her Surveillance Radar is a bit of a hard sell unless you’re a meme-machine from YouTube. Her rate of fire feels almost good enough — especially if you’re working with her AP shells. She’s not quite on Baltimore’s level overall, but she is close.
You’re still going to miss not having torpedoes. You’re still going to look enviously at those light cruisers spraying fires and shells at a faster rate than you can. And so help me, I nearly pulled my hair out a few times coping with her slow turret traverse. Overall, Wichita’s performance is solid, but she doesn’t lead the pack in any aspect. She’s sufficient unto the task and nothing more.
- Oh yeah, she has secondaries. Whatevs. Her main battery gunnery is hella comfortable.
- Her AP performance is steady. Use it whenever you can. Her HE is good for a heavy cruiser but she’ll never hold a candle to those light cruisers.
- Her turret traverse feels downright glacial when you’re forced to make sudden manoeuvres.
Hit Points: 37,900hp
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 27mm
Maximum Citadel Protection: 152mm belt
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 4%
Tier VIII cruisers are in an interesting place. They have two key survivability improvements over their tier VII brethren — increased hit points (which is to be expected) and improved structural plating. It’s this latter element which is so wonderful. The jump up from 19mm extremities to 25mm+ for most cruisers gives them the ability to potentially tank and ricochet smaller caliber battleship shells (along with all other AP). Being able to avoid sudden deletion is wonderful, if locked behind a modest skill-wall. Yet despite this, they are largely found wanting when compared to tier IX and X cruisers due to the scarcity of healing. The effect is to make select tier VIII cruisers feel very tanky when top tier. When they’re not, they’re not (imagine that). Wichita is no different.
To play tier VIII cruisers that lack a Repair Party is to accept this duality of being both a potential bully and a ready victim depending on what RNGesus has dispensed through matchmaking.
Wichita, like all tier VIII cruisers is thus a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to her durability (except Prinz Eugen, but she’s special). If you’re not a regular cruiser player, it’s going to be hard to look past her flaws, namely:
- She has a small hit point pool for a tier VIII cruiser and no ability to heal. Her treaty-cruiser pedigree really shows here.
- She has almost no anti-torpedo protection.
- Her exposed citadel sits above the waterline.
There is no counter argument against Wichita’s small hit point pool. This is a ready flaw. Wichita has 4,500hp less than Baltimore which amounts to as many as three penetrating hits from battleship caliber weapons (or up to four if you’re Scharnhorst – lul). This disparity in hit points only compounds when you compare her to the heavyweights at tier VIII which includes Prinz Eugen and Atago — two ships with the ability to heal. If caught out, Wichita is easy meat. Wichita must use concealment, armour, terrain and her agility to keep herself safe. In this regard, Wichita is well set-up — see Agility and Refrigerator below and we’ll talk more about her armour later. Her ballistic arcs are also decent for making good use of island cover.
Wichita’s anti-torpedo protection looks to be in a similar sorry state until you weigh her against other cruisers. This is just a fancy way for me to say: “they all suck”. The only rays of sunshine are that Wichita’s agility makes her an unappetizing target for destroyers and her Surveillance Radar has a wonderful side effect of making lolibotes wet themselves and then wish they were elsewhere.
If you’re especially paranoid about torpedo damage, you could always swap out her Defensive AA Fire for Hydroacoustic Search and trust on her USN cruiser reputation to keep torpedo planes away. That’s a bit of a gamble with the rework, though
Then there’s the matter of her citadel. First of all, it’s not especially big. Much of it is deeply submerged with only the machine spaces being a viable target for enemy gunnery. This section is considerably smaller than that found on other cruisers (especially when compared to Baltimore’s). The roof of her citadel is proof against overmatching so only direct hits count here. What’s more her machines spaces are recessed further back from the ship’s bows giving her considerably more protection from overmatching battleship guns where shells may fuse long before reaching her boiler rooms.
With her 27mm thick hull, knowing what can and cannot overmatch your hull is key to Wichita’s survival. Against 381mm guns or smaller, you can be lazy and ensure that your bow is no more than 30º to the enemy and rest confident that you’re safe. Against larger caliber guns, going perfectly bow on is necessary to avoid their shells striking the raised 140mm transverse bulkhead of her machine spaces through the sides of the ship. You have less belt armour to work with than Baltimore, which means more of an area 406mm+ shells can overmatch if you’re caught angled.
Your best defense, of course, is to not get hit in the first place.
- Frustrating target for 381mm or smaller AP shells when properly angled.
- Citadel is exposed over the waterline but it’s a smaller target than some other cruisers.
- Squishy overall.
Top Speed: 33.6 knots
Port Turning Radius: 680m
Rudder Shift Time: 6.0 seconds
4/4 Engine Speed Turning Rate: 6.0º/s
Wichita’s top speed bugs me. 33.6 knots — it’s the point-six which stands out. She’s the first ship to have this but not the last. Before Wichita went into testing, every other ship in the game has a top speed with point-naught or point-five after it. It’s like Wichita’s top speed was supposed to be 32.0 knots but someone glued a perma-Sierra Mike signal onto her during development (32 * 1.05 = 33.6). This theory doesn’t hold water, though, given that I would expect to see trickle-down errors in her turning radius, but she’s a-okay there with an as-expected 680m. So as it is, Wichita is simply weird with her point-six knot decimal.
Let’s not get distracted by that minor gripe about decimals. Wichita handles like a dream. She has it all. She has a good top speed. Her turning radius is below 700m. Her rudder shift time is wicked-fast. She comes about quickly. Match her up against the other tier VIII cruisers and she’s in the top three of each one of these four metrics. She feels like a much smaller ship than her armament would suggest. The only gripe I have with this ship is that her fast rotation rate almost necessitates taking Expert Marksman on your commander. She won’t out turn her turrets during the initial leg of a manoeuvre but without the skill, her turrets will freeze in place when you try and counter rotate them.
As good as Wichita handles, it pays to remember that she’s not fast. 33.6 knots, while good for a tier VIII cruiser isn’t enough to dictate engagement ranges in all scenarios. You need to stick a Sierra Mike signal on her to get her speed up over that much tastier 35 knot threshold which will (eventually) let you outpace most threats.
Long Range: 5 explosions at 1,260 damage and 124dps between 3.5km and 5.8km
Medium Range: 6 explosions at 770 damage and 233dps between 1.5km and 3.5km
Short Range: 282dps between 0.1km and 1.5km
I’ve said this often and I’ll say it again:
Don’t buy a premium ship based around its anti-aircraft firepower until the CV rework is finished balancing.
So who’s comfortable with the AA numbers that are out there? Give me a show of hands. Anyone? Is it just me?
I’ve invested way too much time into learning a set of values that are entirely transient. Rather than bore you all with details that aren’t likely to be relevant in the long term, I’ve provided some pretty pictures for you to look at with lots of colours. You can stare at them and draw your own conclusions. In the long run, they’ll be about as accurate as anything I could say here.
Seriously, those pretty charts and all of those numbers and how they affect a given attack squadron aren’t likely to be accurate a month after this review is published. Whatever anecdotes I describe may not be replicable in the immediate future. Are we clear?
Wichita’s anti-aircraft firepower in 0.8.0.2 is “okay”. It verges on “pretty darned good” if you specialize heavily into it and have Defensive AA Fire running. This is all improved further by her small aerial detection range, but we’ll speak more on that later. You’ll obliterate tier VI aircraft on the first pass with all this going for you. Against tier VIIIs, you won’t be able to prevent a drop but you will kill the planes that made the attack run as they attempt to return to the carrier and probably red-out the remaining aircraft, preventing a second strike. Against the tier Xs, you might shoot down a single aircraft on the first attack run but they’ll be able to launch a second before they take serious damage.
Of course, if the enemy CV obliges you by running into your flak explosions, then you’ll annihilate the squadron suddenly and hilariously (for you). Do note that Wichita doesn’t put out as many medium and long range flak explosions as some of the other cruisers. Her flak is (much) easier to dodge than something coming from a Baltimore which is arguably the best AA ship at her tier currently. Wichita’s sustained DPS values are only modest too, so she’s definitely not a nightmare for CVs when her Defensive AA Fire consumable is on cool down.
Now make sure you forget everything I said here because it won’t mean squat after the next patch inevitably changes everything.
Base Surface Detection: 12.06km
Air Detection Range: 7.68km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 9.47km
Detection Range when Firing in Smoke: 6.8km
Main Battery Firing Range: 15.83km
In Wargaming’s efforts to simplify stealth and radar mechanics, they made this section a heck of a lot more complicated.
Top down, Wichita’s vision control can be summarized as “very good”. Her surface detection is competitive. Her aerial detection is the best at her tier. She has access to both Hydroacoustic Search and Surveillance Radar. She’s a Smoke Generator away from being downright overpowered in this category. There’s not many drawbacks here.
In the current (highly transitory, so don’t get used to it) meta, by far Wichita’s most interesting quirk here is the ability to ambush aircraft. With a full specialization, you can get her aerial detection down to 6.2km with her long range AA spitting out shells at 5.8km. This gives almost no reaction time for CVs to avoid running into her AA bubble, particularly for planes moving at speed. If she had a more force projecting with her long range AA, this might be more praiseworthy. Instead it’s more of a curiousity than anything else. She’s not an easy ship to look for from the air (though it is admittedly trivial to find just about any ship right now, regardless of size).
Wichita has comparable surface detection to Mogami and American light cruisers which, while not the best within her Matchmaking spread, is highly competitive. There is a downside to it with the 0.8.1 radar rework. In order to mitigate stealth-radar, the lower a ship’s surface detection, the less radar reach they have. This largely divides the American radar ranges into two ranges — 9km for the more stealthy light cruisers and 10km for the larger heavy cruisers. Wichita is one of a few exceptions, being saddled with the shorter of the two ranges. So, while the ship itself is more stealthy and able to abuse concealment distances, she doesn’t have quite the same sudden projection of vision when her consumable activates. It’s easily a fair trade — Wichita’s concealment allows her to pull off some very aggressive stunts.
As close in as Wichita can get to her opponents before being spotted, I found myself missing Hydroacoustic Search. Slipping within 10km makes Wichita’s AP shells truly monstrous. I lost count of the number of cruisers I successfully ambushed this way, blowing out their citadels before they could react. Doing so wasn’t without risks and I lost more than one attempted duel to the sting of a cruiser’s torpedoes. In the current meta with the CV rework, it’s simply ill advised to set aside Defensive AA Fire for Hydroacoustic Search. If things settle down it may become more viable to do so, improving Wichita’s strengths.
On the whole, Wichita offers a whole lot of control where vision mechanics are concerned. She’s stealthy. She has a nearly full-to-the-brim toolkit with her consumable options. She’s all but invisible from the air. This is clearly one of her big strengths.
Rebalancing your Captain to Tier VI
My instinct is to spend a lot of time here and go over the fine points of min-maxing Wichita for various builds. As it stands right now with the CV rework, the value of some skills for this ship are still a bit up in the air. Generally speaking, it’s safe to glue whatever commander you’re using currently for your American heavy cruisers on Wichita. Let’s just leave it at that.
Premium ship releases in 2019 are leading off with a pair of winners. I like both Irian and Wichita for similar reasons: they’re elegantly designed ships. They don’t saturate the game with a glut of gimmicks. Irian is a simple, small caliber gunship with a heavy torpedo armament. Wichita is a stealthy heavy cruiser which excels at interdiction. Wichita taps into Baltimore’s play style and adds a touch of dynamic sneak-and-stealth to the mix. She’s drawn from the same pedigree as premiums like Alabama, De Grasse and Ashitaka (now that she’s fixed). They may look a little dull, but don’t let that fool you…
It strikes me as odd that I didn’t take a shining to Wichita like I have the other three premiums. Don’t get me wrong: I liked Wichita, but she hasn’t been a ship I’ve reached for to play casually in my off time. I’m attributing it to a bit of exhaustion rather than an inherent problem with the ship. I might just be running a little low on enthusiasm between all of the recent chaos. But make I thought it was worth noting that she hasn’t charmed me.
Speaking of charm … stealth for a cruiser, never mind a heavy cruiser, doesn’t quite have the charm it once did. Aircraft are far too prevalent in the current meta to call this an automatic game-winner the way it might have been a patch or two ago. This is important for Wichita. While she suffers less than some other cruisers in this regard, she doesn’t escape this shift entirely. Wichita has paid for her stealth — her lack of Baltimore’s AP shells can largely be attributed to this as a balancing measure. And you can’t always use it. I found myself missing that extra potential damage and penetration from Baltimore’s shells.
If you like Baltimore’s play style, Wichita is a solid performer. If you find yourself in a game without aircraft carriers, she really comes into her own and feels distinct. Ambushing other cruisers is so much fun and bullying destroyers away from cap points never gets old. When the air cover is thick, Baltimore is hands down better and Wichita feels like an up-tiered, buffed New Orleans.
Would I Recommend?
It’s worth spending a moment here reiterating what may have been lost in the disclaimer prefacing this article. Your premium ships may be changed in the future. Base your buying decisions with that knowledge in mind.
For PVE Battles?
Meh. Wichita does alright. It’s just that the AI is predictable: they focus fire on the lowest hit point target they can see and they charge headlong towards it. Wichita, with her smaller starting hit point pool, may end up the focus-fire target. Her weapon systems also don’t excel with bow-on situations. She can do alright, but it’s more work to make her excel.
When CV and aircraft bots are back in the mix, this will upgrade to a firm Yes.
For Random Battle Grinding?
Yes. Wichita is an excellent commander trainer for the American heavy cruiser line. As a tier VIII premium, she’s a solid credit earner too.
For Competitive Gaming?
Yes. So long as CVs aren’t in the mix, she’s a good alternative choice to Baltimore if you want a bit more concealment and flexibility at the expense of striking power.
Very yes. Wichita has 13 battle stars. Go look her up. Her design and construction alone is a really interesting story.
For her Fun-Factor?
No. I like Wichita, especially from a game-design perspective, but she wasn’t a ship I found myself being excited about playing during the testing period. It was work. It wasn’t fun for me.
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!
I’ve been sitting on this review since the end of December. It’s one of the “big five” that I’ve been plugging away at for literal months. The changes with 0.8.0 necessitated doing some sections over. I was a bit of a fool hoping that the CV mechanics would be a bit less volatile at this stage, but lessons learned: I’m not waiting on things to stabilize anymore.
I feel like a bit of a broken record saying that a lot of work went into this review. This investment felt exaggerated with the delays in Wichita’s (and Alaska’s) release which has kept me hopping back and forth between projects making only incremental gains. It’s made worse that I’ve only got two reviews out so far in 2019. I’ll be improving on this next week with Charleston’s review and maybe, maybe by then I’ll have time with Alaska to get the last information I need for her to finish her evaluation for an early March publication. Note to self: annoy Wargaming for access to Alaska.
This will just leave Dreadnought as my 2018 holdover. It’s going to feel pretty darned good to clear my desk of all this backlog. Thank you all for your patience and (as ever) a very special thanks to my patrons on Patreon for their continued support.
Armour penetration data was pulled from: