This ship is definitely tied with Scharnhorst for the most OP ship I've played to date. I decided to suffer through the Mogami (meh) and Ibuki (awful) grinds to get to Zao after getting wrecked in my Des Moines. After 15 or so games I'm happy to say it's more like what a USN cruiser should be with gun-heavy tactics. It is much more versatile than my poor Des Moines and doesn't need to get suicidally close. The AA is merely adequate but you can't have it all.
This was the first round with Zao:
1) Stupidly high shell velocities make shooting from max range a breeze. DDs at 10km are also quite realistic shots
2) Great armor - you can be much more aggressive in Zao
3) Great handling- fast and quite agile
4) High fire chance- burning BBs is absurdly easy
In short, if you have doubts throughout the T7/8/9 cesspool, keep going as Zao is unlike anything else in the line.
Edited by mkcp40, 04 February 2017 - 07:18 PM.