Please be aware that all of the statistics and performance discussed in this post reflect the version of the ship as she appeared during the testing period.
These are subject to change before release.
So the IJN Destroyers were nerfed, were they?
Quick Summary: A destroyer making a credible attempt at being an AA Cruiser. Slow (for a DD), with eight machine-gun like 100mm rifles and 10km torpedoes to back them up. It's like a Flint without a citadel, or a Khabarovsk that shrunk after being left in the dryer too long.
Patch and Date Written: 0.5.14.1. November 24th, 2016.
Eight guns, four torpedoes and twenty-thousand hit points. At a glance, she seems more of a cruiser than a destroyer.
This is the ship that got a lot of people's attention. She's not my favourite of the line -- that honour goes to the Shiratsuyu (which is why she got reviewed first). But the Akizuki is definitely the most interesting of the new ships. On paper she looks meh. Slow. Fat. Cumbersome. She has only a single quad launcher. The eight guns look neat. I mistook her for a light cruiser pretending to be a destroyer, erroneously thinking her a destroyer lead until I looked up some basic history about the vessel. It doesn't take long playing her to see her charms.
Those guns are incredible, in both good ways and bad. Lemme show you what I mean...
Like the Shiratsuyu before it, the Akizuki has access to the strange (but awesome) Torpedo Reload Booster that will rearm your torpedoes in 5s as opposed to the 30s timer previously associated with this consumable. With only one set of tubes, this is less powerful on the Akizuki than the Shiratsuyu, but it's usefulness cannot be understated. That you don't need to swap out another consumable to have access to this is also wonderful. Like all of the new IJN Destroyers, you have the option of purchasing premium camouflage for her. At the time of writing this article, I don't know if the Akizuki will link back to the main line in some fashion, so this may have dubious merits towards assisting in grinding the line faster and should generally be regarded as being used to help accelerate crew training and reward container collection.
Module Upgrades: Five slots, IJN destroyer standard options.
Camouflage: Like all of the new IJN Destroyers, the Akizuki has access to permanent, premium camouflage. You can purchase it for 3,000 doubloons. This provides the standard 3% camouflage bonus, 4% disruption bonus, a 10% reduction in repair costs and a 50% increase to experience earning for the ship.
Primary Battery: Eight 100mm rifles in 4x2 turrets in an A-B-X-Y superfiring configuration.
Torpedo Launchers: Four Type 90 torpedoes in 1x4 launchers.
Primary Battery Performance of Tier 8 Destroyers, the Tier 7 Cruiser Flint & the tier 10 Destroyer Khabarovsk.* with the use of Advanced Fire Training.
Oh. My. Gawd.
The Akizuki's guns are hellafun to use. Rapid fire, high velocity, good turret traverse -- they tick all of the right boxes for gun handling. With a decent range, you can comfortably engage targets up close or at a distance depending on your needs at the moment. Their flat trajectory makes leading targets even at the extremes of your range a simple task, but they have just enough arc to be lobbed overtop of low, intervening terrain. You can easily sweep the decks, even at range, walking your fire from bow to stern on an enemy vessel in no time at all. While her shells may individually have a low fire chance, you're spitting out between 160 and 176 rounds per minute. Lastly, they add a mere 3.0km to your surface detection range while shooting, opening up all sorts of module / skill combinations without necessitating them all in order to be able to fire from concealment in open water.
Well, there's the high explosive penetration mechanics for one. For those unaware, it's quite possible (and even commonplace) for high explosive hits to inflict no damage. Setting damage saturation aside for a moment, these hits are caused by the high explosive shell striking armour that's too thick for its charge to damage. This is calculated by a rather simple formula. If an HE shell strikes armour roughly 1/6th its diameter (1/4th for German HE shells) or greater, it does no damage. For the Akizuki's 100mm shells, this means the maximum armour thickness her HE shells can inflict damage upon is 16mm or less. As such, there's a long list of ships within her matchmaking spread she simply cannot damage with her HE shells at all. You can rain hundreds of shots for days and short of starting fires, they will take zero damage. This precludes you from being able to do any damage against any tier 8+ Battleship currently in the game. Against most cruisers you'll face, only their superstructure is a viable target. But where this gets most concerning is against high tier destroyers. Shots directly into the hull of the tier 8+ Destroyers will also register zero damage hits. Your shots must strike the tiny superstructure of these destroyers to do damage -- good luck with that. This makes this armament absolutely phenomenal against tier 7 ships but lackluster against tier 8+.
It's important to keep this list of targets in mind. As fearsome as the Akizuki's potential DPM looks, you'll seldom realize it. You'll have frequent matches where you've done in excess of 400 hits yet the lion's share of these shells have shattered on impact. It's important to change up ammunition types depending on the moment.
So it's not hard to land hits with these guns. The challenge becomes making sure they do damage. Stacking fires isn't difficult but it won't kill anything quickly and this can be quite problematic when facing same tier or higher enemy destroyers in a duel. AP is necessary to stack damaging hits against these ships, or landing bullseyes on their small bridge and funnels with high explosive. But if they angle even a little, your AP damage will fall away. My experience taught me to switch ammunition choices on the fly, varying between HE and AP as my needs demanded regardless of the size of target I was engaging. If vessels have large sections of 16mm armour, the Akizuki can rely on a homogenous wall of HE fire. If they don't, well things get interesting.
Finally, to facilitate all of the carpal tunnel clicking that you'll be doing, the Akizuki has a large stealth fire range. With proper choice of skills and modules, this can be in excess of 3km. This lets you begin opening fire with impunity at 8.9km with an optimized stealth build.
Backing up her incredible guns is a single launcher's worth of torpedoes. This may seem off-putting from the harbour but you'll often be so busy with her guns that you won't miss the second launcher's worth. Her fish are hardly anemic, inflicting nearly 21,000 damage per at a 10km range with a 67 knot top speed. If this four torpedo spread seems insufficient to deal with the targets at hand, the Akizuki is also armed with the same Torpedo Reload Booster we all came to love (or fear) in the Shiratsuyu at tier 7. This puts her torpedo tubes back in action in five seconds when this consumable is activated, allowing her to double up her initial launch if needs be. This comes with a four-minute to six minute reset timer depending on if you purchased the premium version or not.
With nearly a two minute reload to her tubes, otherwise, the Akizuki makes a rather poor torpedo boat. However, her fish should not be ignored in favour of her guns. A combination of the two makes her truly frightening while reliance on only the one really hurts her potential.
A Tier 6 German Bayern burns in three places, raked from superstructure to stern with a constant barrage of high explosive shells from the Akizuki. Walking her fire forward, she set her bows ablaze by the time the bridge finally went out. The new IJN gunship is an excellent fire starter, but her individual high explosive shells aren't likely to do much damage in of themselves, if any at all.
Well now, this is sobering. The Akizuki feels more like a large cruiser than a destroyer when it comes to her handling. While her rudder shift time is acceptable, if slow for a destroyer, her turning circle and top speed are downright disastrous for a tin can.
The Akizuki is a blue water vessel. She's not comfortable in the usual DD hiding places which are chalk full of islands and obstacles due to her poor handling. That 730m turning circle makes maneuvering in tight spaces downright prohibitive. If you wouldn't take an Atago into a given area, you're not likely to want to take an Akizuki in there either. During playtesting I received some rather colourful criticism of where I was sailing my destroyer -- or, moreover, where I wasn't comfortable sailing her. This lack of agility also makes brawling with other DDs problematic. Dodging fish salvos becomes exceedingly difficult and requires quite a bit of forethought to be able to dance to the torpedo beats.
What's more distressing than her turning circle is her lack of speed. At tier 8, 33 knots is what we've come to expect of a slow cruiser and not a destroyer. While this is still passable for moving from A to B in a timely manner, this severely limits the Akizuki's ability to dictate engagement ranges when something wants to close with her. About the only saving grace is that few things will want to close with her when they start taking a rain of invisible high explosive shells, even though this is exactly what they should be doing instead of running away. 33 knots is more than sufficient to keep up a stern chase and continue harassing an enemy battleship that unwisely turns tail and runs but it falls short of doing the same to most cruisers you'll face.
Hit Points: 20,400
Maximum Armour: 19mm side plating & deck plating (272mm+ required to overmatch)
At 20,400hp, the Akizuki has a boat-load of hit points for a Destroyer. This gives her the highest hit point total of any destroyer until you reach tier 10. I wish I could say this was all gravy but in my experience in the Akizuki, this hit point total becomes entirely necessary in exchanges with enemy destroyers. Her guns really do struggle with putting damage onto enemy DDs that are tier 8+ and these extra hit points buy her the time needed to drive off her aggressors. Still, I do feel that her hit point total might be a little too generous.
The Akizuki limps away from the initial scrap at the center cap circle on Islands of Fire. The smoke screen behind her was left by the Benson she engaged. The Akizuki came off worse from the fight, with her engine knocked out and inflicting only minimal damage to the tier 8 American Destroyer. When her targets are angled, the Akizuki struggles to do any damage to high tier destroyers and will fare poorly in such duels.
Concealment & Camouflage
Surface Detection Range: 7.6km
Air Detection Range: 4.4km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 5.97km
Concealment Penalty while Firing: +3.00km (vs max potential range of 10.2km to 12.2km)
The Akizuki's base surface detection range will appear on the large side, but it's important to keep in mind that as a tier 8 vessel, she has access to the Concealment Modification 1 upgrade which immediately shaves off 10% (760m) from this value if a player chooses to install it. This immediately puts her on better footing than any tier 7 destroyer she's likely to encounter (short of a Shiratsuyu). This doesn't quite hold up so well when you start measuring her against the tier 8+ destroyers and you can expect to be spotted before they spot you, though this distance is usually within 100m or so with full concealment options. Still, it's a far cry better than the massive Soviet DDs, so there's that.
The Akizuki wins out when she fires her guns, gaining only 3.0km worth of surface detection range. This compares exceedingly well against the Soviets (5.9km) and reasonably well against the other Japanese and American Destroyers (3.81km). In practical terms, this gives her a comparable base value to the USN Destroyers when it comes to stealth firing at about 9km when fully rigged for concealment. With Advanced Fire Training to boost her range up to 12km, this provides a 3km buffer from which to shoot. With care, an Akizuki can shadow a larger ship and rain an incessant barrage of shells without fear of being detected.
Alternatively, you can use her stealth to travel from A to B without being spotted, making approaching and contesting cap circles possible. Just be aware that the Akizuki does not dodge torpedoes anywhere near as adeptly as other destroyers and that close range brawls should generally be avoided without backup. However, this stealth approach can allow her to set up for some surprise torpedo runs which can help prompt an enemy capital ship to blow their Damage Control Party early and facilitate setting them ablaze as a follow up.
AA Battery Calibers: 100mm, 25mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 5.0km, 3.1km
AA DPS per Aura: 83, 75
The Akizuki has the best AA values of any destroyer currently in the game. If she'd had the option of Defensive Fire, she would have been the perfect Destroyer Escort for capital ships (if carriers ever come back to being commonplace in matches). Still, this is a welcome feature of the Akizuki. Not only does it open up the option for more team-based play -- being able to add your considerable AA umbrella onto beleaguered ships being targeted by attack planes, it also provides the Akizuki with a bit of autonomy. Any Destroyer driver will tell you that being constantly lit by enemy planes is a real nuisance. Her AA-power gives the Akizuki the ability to knock down shadowing aircraft, albeit slowly.
Annoying. A Saipan keeps its F4U Corsairs in proximity to the Akizuki, keeping her lit and preventing her from approaching the enemy fleet and engaging. Her flak was sufficient to swat one of these pests and drive them off.
The Akizuki is one of the most exciting destroyers to be introduced with the new line. She's a difficult ship to evaluate in terms of Skill Floor. I decided on Casual, simply because you can choose to spam nothing but HE and you will see results -- the fires set will hoover up enough damage to encourage players to continue this act without ever having to reach for AP shells. Couple this with her low detection range and this creates a pretty forgiving environment for modest levels of success. However, to get the most out of the Akizuki, it requires very dynamic play. She has the potential to be disgustingly overpowered with the proper selection of skills, modules and play style, making her quite capable of shredding just about any opponent that dares wander into her range.
The meta, as ever, involves keeping track of not only the targets you can see but also those you can't. Knowing that there's no enemies within your stealth firing range opens the Akizuki to fire with impunity. Pulling the trigger hastily on a German BB that secretly had a DD or spotter aircraft providing eyes will only get your ship blown out from under you as your spotted butt gets tenderized by shell-wall coming off their secondaries. And that's your own darned fault.
Just wow. It's rare that you get to drive a ship that feels so completely broken-powerful when top tier. The big weaknesses of the Akizuki, primarily the difficulties of her guns to inflict damage, absolutely falls away when facing off against tier 6 and 7 opponents. Suddenly your HE shells can penetrate the superstructures of Battleships, the bows and sterns of cruisers and the entire length of destroyers. The Akizuki absolutely wrecks face in these engagements, like it's not even fair. I'm reminded very much of previous monstrous seal clubbing favourites like the St.Louis, Kongo and Kiev. Yet this advantage melts away when she's facing her own tier or higher, at least to a degree. Like these previously mentioned ships, they still maintain their teeth and can catch the unwary with some surprising strikes. The Akizuki does this by stacking fires, swapping to AP to pepper targets where they're softest and dumping fish at the unwary that try and stop her rampage.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to switch your ammunition choices while in the Akizuki. Firing all one ammunition type or all of another will get you some nice numbers, but it's when you flip flop between them, often against the same target, that the numbers really add up. The most frustrating targets to engage were always same tier or higher enemy destroyers for me. Even with the high rate of fire, the Akizuki really struggles to put down a tier 8+ DD that wants to brawl. When word gets out that you can bow-tank an Akizuki in a Benson+, the Akizuki's in for some rough times.
And this will probably be the dichotomy with this ship. I can see some largely polarized opinions forming about the vessel. Those that suffer beneath her guns will think her overpowered. When they take her out themselves, they'll probably feel that her guns are worthless as they cannot stack direct damage effectively. Yet there will be those players with skill and experience that can seem to do no wrong in her. They'll bully and assassinate with seeming impunity, sliding through the ineffective pickets made by a floundering enemy team that can't coordinate the hunt of this dangerous ship.
Yeah, I think she's overpowered. She's hellafun to play but I can't imagine the Akizuki being very popular for people who have to play against her. Still, she comes in second place for me behind the Shiratsuyu for my favourite ship in the new IJN line. She's an exciting addition. I wonder how long it will before we see her take some stat adjustments to balance her out? I guess it all depends on how the masses do with her. If enough players struggle with inflicting damage, then the purple unicorns may have this chariot left untouched for a long time, giving them an overpowered boat to enjoy for some time.
Teamwork is overpowered. Work in close proximity with your allies to truly maximize your performance in the Akizuki. She can't brawl well, but she can certainly distract an enemy. Her large hit point pool makes her great for tanking shells, so by sticking close with a friendly Benson, she ensures that short of the whole enemy fleet showing up to a cap point, she can help ensure local dominance.
Outfitting the Mini-Khabarovsk
The Akizuki is pretty straight forward to kit out.
Don't forget to equip some form of Concealment Camouflage. Combined with the Concealment Modification 1 from the upgrade section above, your surface detection range will now drop down to 6.6km which is nice. In terms of signals, if you can swing it, the Sierra Mike signal is great for giving a bit more pep to your engines. This will nudge up the speed from 33.0 knots to 34.6 knots. Still terrible but almost what I would call destroyer-speeds. Victor Lima and India X-Ray signals are also helpful in an offensive sense, bumping your chance to start a fire by 10% over their base value (to 5.5% or 6.0% if you combine the two). Watch out for those detonations though.
Recommended Captain Skills
As I said with the Shiratsuyu, there's a Captain Skill tree overhaul on the horizon. Some of these new skills look very interesting, with one in particular (HEAP) worth having a discussion about in regards to how this will affect ships like the Akizuki. For the time being, we just get to play with the old one. Here's the skills I recommend: