Atago Review (IJN Tier 8 Premium Cruiser)

That bridge design is straight out of Star Wars
When the Atago was first released after the end of closed beta, I had a lot of difficulties justifying an expensive purchase. I enjoyed the heck out of IJN cruisers in the beta, but it looked like an uptiered Myoko but with forward pointing torpedo launchers and somewhat gimped rudder turn time. Besides the monster that was called the Mogami, it just didn't look interesting enough. I didn't give it much thought afterwards.

However ever since its release, the Atago received numerous buffs. Now, whenever you ask the question "What's the best high tier premium?" Atago is guaranteed to be one of the first suggestions. In ranked and team battles, they're everywhere. So when I decided that I enjoy high tier gameplay more than Tier 5 seal clubbing in my Marblehead/Murmansk, Atago was my first choice as a premium and oh boy does this thing does live up to its popularity.

Atago in all its glory

Under the hood

The Atago is a Takao-class heavy cruiser, which was a small upgrade over the Myoko-class and preceded the later Mogami-class. The main differences over the Myoko are more powerful torpedo armament and one of the sexiest bridge designs on a cruiser ever. Despite being top-heavy and having that awkward #3 turret, they were regarded as the finest cruisers Imperial Japan ever built.

Finally the IJN designers get the torpedo launchers right
Torpedo angles for science
When it comes to World of Warships, there are some extra stuff that help make the Atago really special. The main attraction is its repair ability, which makes it the only tier 8 cruiser with this ability. Secondly, it is the only IJN cruiser with forward looking torpedo launchers. On each side one launcher is looking forward and one backwards. This is a huge deal because Japanese cruiser torpedoes are actually pretty fast and have high damage and longer range than their counterparts.

When it comes to other stats, the Atago is pretty much a standard late-tier IJN cruiser. It has a 5x2 turret layout with 2 forward and 3 rear-looking turrets. Its RPM is slightly lower at 3.8RPM which gives it a roughly 15.8 seconds of reload time, 0.8 second longer than the Mogami. The range is only 15.8 kilometers which is pretty mediocre for a T8 cruiser, but after the recent nerfs it's not disadvantaged over the Mogami or the Myoko. It has a slightly high rudder shift time compared to the Mogami at 8 seconds. This can be brought down to 6.7 seconds which is still very good for a cruiser. The turn circle radius is 30 meters wider than the Mogami but at 790m it's still pretty decent, beaten only by shorter USN cruisers.

The guns are your standard IJN 203mm guns which are all the same between Tier 5 and Tier 10. You the best cruiser HE shells and middle of the road AP shells. The shell velocity and the trajectory can be described as mediocre. However most of the time you'll want to shoot HE because of consistent high-damage salvos and for those sweet sweet fires. At 17% fire chance, you'll be setting everything on fire and sometimes even get multiple fires per salvo. Usually about a third to half of your scoreboard damage will consist of fires. The AP is decent, but penetration angles are inferior to the USN line.

I saved the best stat for the last; the Atago is the stealthiest IJN Cruiser (>tier 5). Its base concealment range of 11.2km can be further reduced to 9.1 kilometers which is pretty much a DD-level concealment. This allows the Atago to move freely on the battlefield and dictate the terms of the engagements it participates, unless a DD is involved.

When it comes to the survivability department, I can only say that it's an IJN cruiser and you shouldn't expect more. It has less citadel armor compared to the Mogami (127mm vs 140mm) and nobody will have any difficulties citadeling you when you show a broadside. Despite this it can still bounce cruiser AP shots consistently when you angle. I could honestly tell no difference between the Atago and the Mogami when it comes to taking hits.

Overall, the Atago epitomizes the spirit of the IJN cruiser line. It is stealthy, maneuverable, has decent armor and is packed with firepower. If you like late tier IJN cruiser gameplay, you just can't ask for more.

On the track

In experienced hands, the Atago is a self-sufficient hunter-killer. I liken it to a shark in WoWs, you'll only see them when they want to reveal themselves and when they do, you can be sure that you'll be at a disadvantage. In inexperienced hands however, it's a free kill ready to be milked for damage. Again, similar to the other IJN cruisers.

Though what makes the Atago so potent is its ability to repair. At tier 8 cruisers start to struggle a lot as DD and BB classes start dominating the field. BBs get a lot more range, more guns and better velocity shells. We're talking about higher calibre shells that ignore angling. This means more citadels across the map that you can't do much about if you're revealed. DDs get more torps, higher damage and better concealment. Only one or two torps is enough to ruin your match. You fight against Tier 9 cruisers with repair. Poor cruisers just can't catch a break.

Not so much for the Atago. You get two (three with premium) repairs and depending on the type of damage you received, you can expect to repair anywhere from 10k to 20k+ damage. This means you can lick your wounds after getting BB citadeled or after an HE fight with another cruiser. This makes the Atago instantly dominant at its tier and very competitive with Tier 9 cruisers. Though, the fun begins when you get downtiered with 6s and 7s. These cruisers just can't hope to match your firepower or survivability and you'll just mop the floor with them. Sometimes even victories against multiple opponents is possible.

Atago can be played much more aggressively than your average cruiser, simple because you can repair damage. You can afford to be more daring and act like a proper cruiser. I personally like to follow friendly DDs into the caps using my 9.1km concealment and blap enemy DDs that engage them. It's a great DD escort. Even if you get spotted first, they'll have only seconds before they're revealed themselves. You have the perfect guns for killing DDs and even one or two hits will disable multiple modules. Depending on how many shells you land, you can expect to do anywhere from 1k to 9k damage to DDs. It is an excellent pest-control ship; up close and personal.

Against cruisers, the Atago has no problems getting rid of them. This is mostly due to your concealment, you'll spot them 3-4kms away before they can spot you (with CE skill) and at Tier 8 not many opponents have CE themselves. Putting you at a massive advantage. The only cruiser I feel I should avoid are T10 cruisers simply because they quickly overwhelm you with superior firepower. 

I love fighting BBs in the Atago. The trick is to make sure they're not shooting you. Afterwards simply shoot HE into their superstructure and keep setting them on fire. If you see their turrets turning towards you, you can simply stop shooting, let them get distracted by a teammate and open fire as soon as they fire at someone else. Most BBs have 30 second reloads while the concealment penalty for shooting lasts only 20 seconds (of which 16 seconds is your reload), so it's abusable. It's just too much fun trolling your opponents like this.

Despite better angles, I found the torpedoes to be pretty unreliable damage dealers on the Atago. Yes you do get more torpedo hits, but it's mostly nothing compared to your gun damage overall. Don't expect to become a pesudo IJN DD with forward looking launchers. The angles of the launchers also don't overlap much, so you can't launch 8 torps with quick succession unlike the other IJN cruisers. Though they give you a good advantage when you're angling against a dangerous opponent. Which sometimes forces you to inevitably close range. You can launch your torps by swinging to the either side slightly and force your opponent to maneuver. With some luck they might even show you the broadside you've been waiting for.

However, the Atago is not without weaknesses. The rear-looking third turret is very annoying to use. If you're shooting while angling, it doesn't like to fire at all just like the Hipper's infamous third turret. You also lose 3 turrets to rotation instead of 2 while swinging your guns to the other side.

The second weakness is inherent to the IJN cruisers and it's their huge citadels. Despite having decent armor, the IJN cruisers sport the biggest citadel surfaces in the game and the Atago is not an exception. You have to be aware of your environment and who's shooting what. Especially when you want to make a turn because an accidental broadside to an enemy paying attention will cost you a lot. Therefore, don't expect to start seal clubbing when you get an Atago. There's still a steep learning curve to cruiser survival at Tier 8 and you'll be instantly punished for your mistakes.



It might indeed be too good
You get it; the Atago is overall a pleasure to use. It has every tool and gadget to take advantage of or salvage any situation and is simply the top dog around its tier. If you like aggressive high tier cruiser gameplay and are looking for a unique high tier premium to print credits, the Atago is your choice.

I'd even call it the best IJN cruiser before the Zao. It's that good, perhaps even too good for what it is. It's hard to feel comfortable with Wargaming paywalling such a dominant ship.

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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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