The following is a review of Azuma, the tier IX Premium Japanese Super 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 0.8.2. If you have any questions regarding any changes to this ship after subsequent patches, please feel free to contact me.
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I really don’t know what to call these things. I’m defaulting to “Super-Type A” cruiser for Azuma because that’s what my sources said the Japanese called her, but I reiterate that we really could use a catch-all term to describe these kinds of ships in World of Warships. Between Stalingrad, Alaska, Kronshtadt, Graf Spee and now Azuma and now with Yoshino on the horizon, we’ve got enough of these ships that they could use a name.
- Large health pool of 58,350hp.
- Excellent range of 19.1km on her main battery guns.
- Good alpha strike and penetration for a cruiser.
- Increased penetration on her secondaries.
- Good long-range anti-aircraft firepower.
- Decent top speed of 34 knots.
- Extra charge of her Repair Party consumable with a faster reset timer.
- Octagonal citadel which sits high over the water.
- Relatively thin armoured belt for a large cruiser.
- Large target and vulnerable to HE shells and AP overmatch with few sections thicker than 25mm.
- Takes increased damage over time effect damage like a battleship.
- Most of her continuous AA DPS is located in 1.9km range small caliber guns.
- Enormous 920m turning radius and poor rudder shift time.
- Large surface detection range.
Skill Floor: Simple / CASUAL/ Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: Low / MODERATE / High / Extreme
Azuma’s pretty new-player friendly. This is largely owing to her range and speed which allows her to camp the back, dump HE shells at a distance and generally frustrate their own team by being a non-entity. But hey, at least this is easy to do.
Skilled players can bring Azuma closer and do a bit of tanking, but not much. While her guns are perfectly capable of pressuring the enemy, she doesn’t have an extensive toolkit to facilitate carries, nor the damage output to make them balk. Using and abusing her belt armour and anti-torpedo voids allows for some trollish moments, but these are exceptions rather than the rule. Skill will only take you so far.
– 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.
Oh goodie, a tier IX cruiser. There’s going to be a lot to talk about when we get to her upgrades.
- Azuma’s Damage Control Party is standard for a cruiser with a 5s active period and a 90s / 60s reset timer. This has unlimited charges.
- In your second slot, the default choice is Defensive AA Fire. As per usual, this doubles the firepower from her 100mm AA guns (both sustained DPS and damage from flak bursts) for 40s and starts with two charges base. This has a 120s / 80s reset timer.
- Alternatively, you can swap out Defensive AA Fire for Hydroacoustic Search in slot two. This has two charges base and a 100s active period. This extends her torpedo detection to 3.5km and ship acquisition to 5.0km. This has a 180s / 120s reset timer.
- In slot three, she has a Spotter Aircraft. This increases her range by 20% for 100s. For Azuma this gives her a reach of 22.9km / 26.6km depending on upgrades used. She has three charges base and this has a 360s / 240s reset timer.
- Finally, she has a Repair Party in slot four. This heals back up to 14% of her health over 28 seconds, queuing 50% of penetration damage, 33% of citadel damage and 100% from all other damage types. She starts with an extra charge base for three total. In addition this has a much faster reset timer with a 60s / 40s cool down.
There’s a lot of choices to be made with Azuma’s upgrades however they’re not too complicated when you break them down:
- Your first choice is whether to emphasize main battery performance or anti-aircraft firepower.
- If you select main battery firepower, choose if you want to do this through firing at range or emphasizing her rate of fire.
- In terms of survivability, choose if you want to reduce damage over time effects or attempt to dodge fire by improving her rudder shift time.
You can mix and match if you so choose, but it’s generally optimal to pick a specialization and go full hog down that route. The best performance build will stress DPM and concealment over AA power and dodging. There’s also one stupid choice: see if you can spot it.
- In your first slot, Main Armaments Modification 1 is preferred for most builds. You can take Spotter Aircraft Modification 1 if you really want to stress her range advantages.
- Special Upgrades are best in your second slot. Take either Defensive AA Fire Modification 1 or Hydroacoustic Search Modification 1 for whichever consumable you prefer. If you can’t afford the special upgrades, default to Damage Control Modification 1.
- Unless you’re specializing for AA firepower, Aiming Systems Modification 1 is your best choice. For the latter, take AA Guns Modification 1. If you’re only intending to use Azuma in Co-Op, then man up and take Secondary Guns Modification 1. Totally worth it.
- Now we start to get into defensive choices. If you want to focus on agility, take Steering Gears Modification 2 & 3 in slots 4 and 5. Otherwise take Damage Control Modification 2 and Concealment Expert.
- Finally, slot 6 lets you punctuate your specialization. Main Battery Modification 3 emphasizes DPM. Gun Fire Control System Modification 2 boosts her range. AA Guns Modification 2 improves her AA firepower.
Azuma comes with Type 10 – Azuma camouflage. This provides the usual 3% bonus concealment from surface targets, 4% increase to enemy gunnery dispersion, 20% reduction to post-battle service costs and100% bonus to experience gains.
Main Battery: Nine 310mm guns in 3×3 turrets in an A-B-X superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery: Sixteen 100mm/65 guns in 8×2 turrets.
For a large cruiser, Azuma’s firepower is odd. Every other large cruiser I’ve played, AP shells are the default. They’re the shell I wanted to use. When playing Alaska, Kronshtadt and Stalingrad, I hunted for targets that would let me capitalize on their AP performance. And here’s where Azuma differed. I defaulted to using HE when sailing her — rather, I felt like Azuma’s guns encouraged me to default to her HE shells.
I told myself that my reasons for doing so were elementary.
- Azuma does not have the god-tier ballistics and penetration values of the Soviet large cruisers which lets them easily citadel battleships at most engagement ranges.
- Similarly, she lacks the improved auto-bounce angles found on Alaska which helps reduce the number of AP shell ricochets.
- Finally, Azuma has improved HE damage (as do most Japanese ships).
However, these feel like excuses rather than justified defense at my myopic ammunition preference. Putting Azuma’s main battery firepower under the microscope shows that, true to her Large Cruiser pedigree, dynamic ammunition choice is not only encouraged but also necessary to enjoy success. She’s reliant upon AP and HE, no matter how comfortable the latter will make her feel.
Mega-Zao she is not
Azuma’s HE shells hit like trucks. However, for a cruiser she’s not particularly good at starting fires nor is her damage per minute inspiring. The best that could be said about Azuma’s HE shells is that when you’re not firing AP, you’re not hemorrhaging as much lost damage output as you might in other large cruisers. At least, she doesn’t have the inherent weakness of her contemporaries where they struggle to deal significant damage per volley against destroyers. However, this is all assuming you can land hits regularly.
While Azuma’s HE shells are safe, her AP shells decidedly are not. She lacks the god-tier penetration values from Kronshtadt’s high velocity railguns. She doesn’t have Alaska’s oh-so forgiving improved autobounce angles either. Unless Azuma can line up shots on perfect broadsides, it’s all too common to see her AP shells ricochet or shatter against targets.
Go Fly a Kite
Azuma’s fragility keeps her from safely fighting on the front lines (see the Defense section below). She’s largely relegated to firing from the second line, keeping her distance from her opponents in order to protect her vulnerable citadel. This works to the further detriment of her AP shells, eating away at their penetration value with increased distance.
Thankfully, she’s well setup for this role. Not only does she have excellent reach, she has a good top speed and her gun fire arcs are perfect for kiting opponents.
I don’t like wasting a lot of time talking about cruiser secondaries. It’s so rare they do anything of value. However, Azuma’s secondaries bug me a lot because they could have been amazing. She uses the same 100mm/65 caliber guns found on the Japanese gunship destroyers Akizuki, Kitakaze and Harugumo. These have the same ridiculous 20rpm rate of fire and more importantly, they also have their increased 25mm penetration.
While I giggled for joy at the prospect of a fully secondary specialized cruiser (including taking Inertial Fuse for HE Shells to be able to blast stupid battleships) there are two flaws with this:
- Brawling with Azuma tends to end messily with your ship exploding in a horrendous, greasy kablooie.
- Azuma’s secondaries only have a 5km base range. This just isn’t enough reach in high tier matches to be effective. We’d really want to see a 6km to 7km base range, minimum.
Without reach and with Azuma’s exposed citadel, there just aren’t many opportunities to make use of what could have been a very fun addition to this ship. Outside of co-op, it’s just not a viable choice.
Azuma’s guns aren’t bad. They’re more accurate than I thought they’d be. They have great range. Her HE shells do a nice chunk of damage. Her AP shells and her fire chance aren’t terrible but they are disappointing, especially when compared to previous outings with Alaska and Kronshtadt.
- Kite, kite and kite some more.
- Look for opportunities to use AP, but you’re probably going to be stuck with HE.
- You’re not going to get to use her secondaries often, which is a shame.
What it would have needed to be : Azuma needs to be able to compete with Alaska and Kronshtadt on equal footing. Kronshtadt has DPM and penetration advantage. Alaska has her improved autobounce angles and similar accuracy to Azuma. Azuma’s HE performance isn’t quite good enough to keep pace with these two.
Hit Points: 58,350
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 25mm
Maximum Citadel Protection: 25mm anti-torpedo bulge + 195mm transverse bulkhead.
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 22%
Much ado has been made about Azuma’s durability. For a cruiser, she’s pretty tough. She has a thick belt. She has anti-torpedo bulges. She has a lot of hit points and even a mildly improved Repair Party. Unfortunately, Azuma isn’t a regular cruiser — she’s one of those hybrid large / battle cruiser type deals like Alaska and Stalingrad. So let’s put this into context: For a cruiser, Azuma’s protection scheme is great. Any complaints about her not being good are just being nit-picky. Azuma is very durable when compared to Ibuki or Seattle or what have you. It’s only with a narrow focus on other large-cruisers (and battlecruisers) that her level of durability falls apart.
Let’s start listing the fails…
- Her citadel is raised above water. It’s easy to hit.
- She doesn’t have much citadel protection. Azuma’s citadel protection is limited to a 178mm belt covered by a 25mm anti-torpedo bulge. So not only is she easy to hit, there’s not a lot of armour preventing shells from punching into her vitals. This is easily within the scope of AP penetration for some 203mm armed Heavy Cruisers.
- Her citadel is octagonal (sorta). This is arguably the worst geometric shape you could choose for a citadel (short of a stretched oval). It all but guarantees a relatively flat surface for shells to penetrate into no matter how she angles. So now angling isn’t an effective countermeasure to mitigate citadel hits.
- Her external hull armour doesn’t exceed 25mm. Small and medium caliber HE loves farming damage off Azuma.
It’s not like Azuma isn’t without merit, though. She has an enormous chunk of hit points for a cruiser, which is nice. In addition, the 25mm armour over her belt counts as an anti-torpedo void and it eats HE shells for zero damage. In addition, AP shells which shatter or ricochet off her internal belt also count for zero damage even if they penetrate her outer 25mm bulge. This bulge isn’t an especially large target, unfortunately. Furthermore, she has a turtleback that’s 125mm thick which will cause a lot of internal ricochets. Her final durability bonus is her improved Repair Party. She begins with 3 charges instead of 2 like most cruisers, giving her a maximum of 5 with a premium version of the consumable coupled with Superintendent. To facilitate this further, her reset timer is cut in half, with a 60s / 40s cool down depending if you’re using a premium version or not (use a premium version!). The extra charge generally gives Azuma more effective hit points than Alaska provided you use it perfectly.
Unfortunately, you won’t have more effective health than Alaska because Azuma eats citadel hits for breakfast. While she can recover from citadel hits like other cruisers (queuing up 33% of citadel damage done) that doesn’t do you any good if you get deleted outright. Thus, as great as that extra potential HP is, it’s more likely that because of these catastrophic hits, you either won’t survive long enough to make use of all of the charges or you simply won’t be able to recoup enough HP to make up the difference.
So that’s all pretty damning for a ship type people equate with a baby battleship. It’s really much better to think of Azuma like a standard heavy cruiser. If you wouldn’t try tanking it with Ibuki, you shouldn’t try tanking it with Azuma. Given her size, large turning radius and lack of concealment (see below for that), this has the unfortunate effect of pushing Azuma back from the front lines to keep her safe.
What it would have needed to be : It’s telling just how exposed Azuma’s citadel is that she doesn’t automatically take a : rating here. She’s close, though. Better external armour, something that would let her autobounce 380mm guns, for example, would help a lot.
Top Speed: 34.0 knots
Port Turning Radius: 920m
Rudder Shift Time: 13.9s
Estimated 4/4 Engine Speed Rotation Rate: 4.6º/s
Azuma’s fast. Speed helps Azuma overcome some of her other manoeuvrability ills. To be clear, Azuma handles like a battleship, albeit a fast one. Her turning radius is appalling and she comes about about as quickly as a South Dakota-class battleship. Her rudder shift time is comparable too. For a ship with such a large, exposed citadel, even at her best, she exposes her broadside for far too long to ever be considered safe.
In short, rely on Azuma’s speed. It’s arguably one of her best features. It allows her to dictate the engagement range against her opponents and flex where opportunities arise. If Azuma is far enough back, it also gives her better chances of dodging incoming fire. If you’re beginning to notice a kiting theme, there’s a reason…
Long Range: 8 explosions at 1,470 damage each and 255dps from 5.8km to 1.9km
Short Range: 519dps from 1.9km to 0.1km
Right, it’s theory-crafting time.
I don’t like doing this, but I don’t have much choice in the matter. I only got to play Azuma’s finalized AA armament on the 0.8.2 test server. I’m not terribly confident with my AA assessment here as the test server is the test server (with tier 10 carriers that couldn’t drop torpedoes successfully on a stationary ship). The big difference was that Azuma shed her 40mm twins she had for much of the live-server testing, losing her medium caliber aura and replaced some of her triple 25mm guns with twins.
So let me touch upon briefly what was and theory-craft what she has now.
Azuma’s AA DPS is ALMOST good. ALMOST. Her large caliber guns are great. They don’t have the 6.9km reach to make them amazing, but they put out a huge chunk of sustained damage starting at 5.8km — more damage than anything else at tier IX other than Neptune which is wonderful. Unfortunately, Azuma lacks any medium caliber AA guns, so her large caliber have to carry the weight as planes close. This gives her some of the worst mid-range AA DPS until her small caliber guns can pick up the slack.
At close range, Azuma’s damage output is again wonderful but it’s a mistake to think that short-ranged DPS is going to do much in a given match unless your CV opponent is a complete tater-bot and likes to do flyovers without dropping ordnance for some reason. Maybe (MAYBE!) you might inconvenience them by shooting down aircraft that complete an attack run. Maybe. I wouldn’t count on that ruining their day, though, unless you’re facing a tier VIII CV that’s already heavily taxed on aircraft recovery.
Going back to Azuma’s long range AA firepower, she throws out an average of 8 explosions with a meaty 1,470 damage per blast. These unfortunately have no impact on aircraft that are on their attack runs (with the exception of Hakuryu’s torpedo bombers, because they’re special — maybe this got fixed in 0.8.2). This largely relegates them to being used to protect other ships rather than seeing to her own defense.
The final take-away here should be that without Defensive AA Fire active, Azuma’s only going to mildly inconvenience carriers. Lacking a catapult fighter, she will look like an inviting target, so expect regular attention.
Base Surface Detection: 15.12km
Aerial Detection: 10.73km
Minimum Surface Detection: 11.88km
When Firing in Smoke: 11.73km
When Firing in Open Water: 19.09km to 26.57km
Azuma really drops the ball when it comes to Vision Control. Not only is she fat (without the ph), she lacks Surveillance Radar found on Alaska, Stalingrad and Kronshtadt. She’s just not that helpful at projecting vision. Her dependence on Defensive AA Fire to keep her safe also makes taking Hydoacoustic Search a risk.
Combine the deficiencies of her agility and defense and it’s all too easy to relegate Azuma to a back-of-the-pack support sniper. The further back you park Azuma, the more likely you’re going to have to depend on her HE shells to do all of the heavy lifting and the more boring she becomes.
Azuma meshes very well with Japanese battleship commander skills. In particular, fire mitigation combined with Superintendent are optimal. This isn’t the only option, of course. You can opt for more specialized builds, including anti-aircraft or, (if you’re a complete nutter) a secondary build if you prefer co-op.
It feels kind of redundant to write one of these when it feels like the community has already largely condemned the darned thing before I publish. The amount of commiserations I received when people learned I was play testing Azuma just goes to show the kind of uphill battle Wargaming faces with trying to get people to spend money on this ship. Azuma isn’t obviously powerful, thus she’s been relegated to the mehbote pile, already dismissed.
On the one hand, it’s nice that my job is done for me: the player base is cautious and they’re not going to throw money recklessly at Wargaming over the newest shiny on offer. On the other hand, it concerns me how many times I’ve heard the same inaccuracies about the ship repeated over and over. Azuma isn’t a bad ship. Unfortunately, because she’s not optimal, people will call her garbage (or whatever expletive substitute they prefer) and that’s just not accurate. Azuma’s flaw isn’t that she’s weak. Her flaw is that she’s inconsistent, dependent on her citadel not blowing up and relying on fire damage from her HE spam to pad out her numbers. Some times things will go amazing. There will be those players who swear by her. Contrarily, there will be those who will damn her outright because of real or imagined flaws.
For all my grumbling, Azuma’s on my “forget” pile too. Once I’m done with this review, I’m not going to be playing her. She’s not a ship I enjoyed outside of derping around co-op. You could argue this is owing to her power level. She’s middling. While she does present a fun challenge to do well in, she’s more work than she’s worth, in my opinion. It was hard to feel that she presented me with the tools needed to outplay my opponents. Giving it my all didn’t yield much improved results over just hoping nobody shot at me.
The most damning thing I could say about Azuma is this:
I know I have a contrarian streak. When a ship gets bad-mouthed while still in development, I’m usually inspired try and find some limited element about their performance to champion. I came up empty on Azuma. Believe me, I looked hard too, driven by this inner snootiness to laud some useless factoid that could redeem her in my eyes. That way I could laud it over the masses. You all might have damned her but I was going enjoy her as only the upper-crust of top-hat wearing, be-monocled World of Warships connoisseurs could.
Except, I couldn’t. I didn’t like playing this boat. Instead of supping with the elitists where we all play eclectic premiums, I’m going to have to choke on some base experiences with the commoners and play Giulio Cesare like a bloody peasant.
Screw you, Azuma.
Would I Recommend?
Azuma comes with a 1M free experience price tag, the same as Alaska. If you were to pay for it using the 1 doubloon for 25 free experience cost, you’re looking at a price tag of $164.24 USD. I’m not of the opinion this is worth it (especially when there are tricks to farm up free experience at a reasonable rate), but to each their own.
For PVE Battles?
- How well does the ship maintain profitability in Co-Op modes and how does she fare against bots?
Yes. Azuma does very well in Co-op. You can even get away with that aforementioned secondary build and pad out your damage in close quarters (cuz bots are dumb).
For Random Battle Grinding?
- This includes training captains, collecting free experience, earning credits and collecting signal flags from achievements.
Yes. Azuma works well enough for training Japanese battleship and cruiser commanders, with comparable skill overlaps.
For Competitive Gaming?
- Competitive Gaming includes Ranked Battles and other skill-based tournaments. This also includes stat-padding.
No. Taking any ship with an enormous, vulnerable citadel into competitive is a loser move. It’s on par with stapling your upper lip to your computer desk and standing up suddenly — it’s so bad, it’s painful to watch and people will beg you not to do it (and some sickos will encourage you to do it anyway).
- If you enjoy ship history or possessing rare ships, this section is for you.
No. Azuma, though an interesting “what if” ship, it doesn’t have the collector’s appeal for me.
For her Fun-Factor?
- Bottom line: Is the ship fun to play?
No. If I’m going to sit in the back and spam HE at things (with the occasional AP shell to prove I’m not a complete scrub), I’ll play Conqueror. At least she has a fun hotto doggu theme song.
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!
For my next review, I will be reviewing… well, this is where I would be saying something witty in light of it being April Fool’s. I dunno, Thunderer Two? Famous and Historical Monarch? I don’t have two brain cells to rub together at this point. I’m going to try and finish talking about the premium carriers. The next part, rocket aircraft, is due out this week and dive bombers should be the week after. Then I just need to talk about the ship’s hulls and that will finish off Saipan, Graf Zeppelin, Enterprise and Kaga. After that I think I’m well overdue for a long vacation.