Throughout the history of this games' versions, Capital Ship carriers have been a bit lackluster and
underappreciated by players and the developers. Their weakness(hp/shield/armor/dps) comparative to other Capital
ship types and their poor, situational abilities, and lack of scaling leave them sparse on the battlefield,
relatively unused, and much less of a threat than their equally priced relatives. Simple fact is, that they simply
do not have the power or lifespan to make as significant an impact on battles as say a colony cap. Plus the recent
nerf on strikecraft build rate saps what little power they had to near none. Carrying the hard counter to lrms,
these ships should be an lrm spammers worst nightmare right?
That being said the solution is: a bit more armor, some extra squadrons and a slight change to certain
abilities.(and the build penalty reduced)
Nothing I'm proposing is a huge overhaul of the carrier as some have suggested, but rather small things that can
make them more useful (and threatening) on the battle field. Here's what I suggest.
Amongst capital ships, the Carrier class has the second worst (on average, and to colonizer caps). This would be
fine if it's abilites were worth more on the battlefield. Carriers real strength( their strikecraft) is diminished
by the fact that SC need time to kill things and the Carrier cap struggles to stay alive long enough for the
strikecraft to be effective. A slight increase in initial armor coupled with a few additonal things will help them
stay alive long enough for their squadrons to be a threat. If people feel that this would throw the balance of this
ships, perhaps a slight decrease in movement speed can counteract this without negating it.
Carrier most will agree that collectively, carrier caps have the least functional abilities in the game, but some
tweaks could very easily make them more potent without being overpowered.
Adept Drone Anima and Heavy Fighters: People have suggested making these AOE. The problem arises of carriers spams becoming devastatingly more powerful. With a different squadron capacity for the Sova (outlined below), the heavy fighter ability gets more powerful and can be put to better use. For Drone Anima, I propose a change to the the
extra fighters it gives to this [ 1/2/3 ---> 1/3/5]. At level 10 a Halcyon would have 11 squads(see below), each
with 5 extra SC. Doesn't seem so bad then does it? (keep in mind that the Halcyon still has to build these extra
strikecraft, which takes time)
Scramble Bombers: Arguably the worst ability in the game, this ability instantly creates 3 bombers for 2 minutes.
With its cool down time down to 40 seconds, you are only able to launch a maximum of 3 additional squads at its
highest level at a time. As fighters can destroy these additional bombers before the abilities cooldown time even
expires, its not likely you'll ever get those 3 additional squads all out at the same time. To rework this weak
ability, I propose an increasing amount of squadrons [2 squads, 4 squads, 6 squads] for this to function properly
you'd have to change the AM cost and cool down times to increase, and possibly decrease the time they're active as
well to balance. This way bombers could quickly be dispatched to deliver a potentially deadly blow to a fleeing Cap
ship. 6 bomber squads doesn't seem like that much, but its enough to have an impact.
At Lvl1 Carrier caps start with two squadrons. Which is Par or lower for regular carriers. I recommend the squad
capacity should be more like this.
Lvl1 Lvl3 Lvl5 Lvl7 lvl9 lvl10
Squads 3 4 5 7 9 11
This solves several problems:
1.) Firepower: Early game, Cap carriers struggle to dish out damage as fast as other cap ships. Adding an extra
squadron to begin with (and another at lvl3) would pose more of a threat to an enemy early game fleet. (3 bomber
squads could spell trouble for any lvl1 cap, and particularly for Bombardment caps with no fighter protection until
they level up a few times)
2.) SC buff abilities: Strikecraft are these Caps specialty, so shouldn't their SC related abilities be tahe most
useful? I generally see people using Skirantras solely for repair cloud, and halcyon solely for push, and sova for
embargo if anything at all. Carrier caps in my opinion need to be better at establishing air supremacy in gravwells.
Heavy Fighters is actually a great ability, the problem is the Sova can't field enough squadrons for it to be really
effective at all. With more squadrons though, this ability can gain a lot of power. Imagine having 9 squadrons of
bombers that deal 30% more damage and have 3 more armor, that + instant rebuild(lvl6 ability) = nothing to scoff at.
Adept drone anima is the same way (but needs a slight fix).
3.) Scaling: Carrier caps go from to weak in the beginning of the game, to somewhat inconsequential (or dead meat)
in the late game. I rarely ever see a lvl 10 carrier cap, and it's not easy to keep one alive to reach that point,
which is why I think at their highest level they should be able to field a respectable number of SC. 7 squads just
isn't enough for the abilities to function well and isn't enough for the investment in this cap ship to be worth it.
Since it becomes increasingly difficult to lvl up past level 6 in the late game, I feel the reward for keeping your
Cap Carrier alive for it to reach those levels should be greater, I.e. +2 squads. Plus that late in the game you
dealing with squadron number in the 50+ range. Having 10 or so buffed up squads in those ranks could make a much
greater impact in the air.
NOW ON TO THE GOOD STUFF: THE TRUTH ABOUT STRIKECRAFT
I observed and tested each race's Carrier cap a good deal before I wrote this so I could understand exactly what is
wrong with them and noticed some peculiar things about strike craft behavior. Following these observations and a few
tests I've found that SC are at their best when they're standing still. Here's why:
Attack behavior vs flak: Flak cruisers are designed to destroy swarming enemies and deal the most damage when all
their guns are firing. When Strikecraft are flying around they are the most vulnerable to flak, allowing the
frigates to target up to 5 at one time, and dealing ALL of their damage to your squadrons. By telling your squadrons
to hold position, flak can only use a fraction of their total fire power (2 guns max). I tested my theory on flak
militia and found that stationary squads live significantly longer than moving squadrons against flak. I sent 4
squads(from a Sova) against 3 flaks. I had 2 moving and 2 stationary. The stationary fighters lived nearly the
entire fight between the sova and the militia, while moving ones died quickly after engaging.
Attacking frigates: Stationary fighters are more efficient at killing frigates because they are not out of range of
their target when their weapon cooldown expires(which happens occasionally when they're flying around), therefore
dealing their damage quicker.
Defending against other Strikecraft: During my trials I noticed that all the strikecraft have 2 basic attack
behaviors, 1.) Circle and fire, and 2.) Linear attack passes. I tested stationary TEC fighters against moving vasari
fighters, and then vice versa and here's what I discovered: Against fighters that chose the cirlce and fire method,
the stationary fighters decimated them, acting like tiny little flak cannons that were able to target all their
force in one direction or many. The circling fighters remained within the stationary ones' attack range and got
mopped up VERY quickly. AGainst the fighters that chose a linear attack pass, the stationary fighters performed
somewhat poorly, but were still able to deal a significant amount of damage (enough for a squadron of fighters set
to attack local area only to clean up with ease). I also tested stationary fighters against a bomber squadron. The
bombers were destroyed on their second pass. Strikecraft choose their own attack behavior, and I've found that they
chose linear about 50% of the time and circling the other 50%. Those choosing to circle get obliterated by
stationary fighters, leaving the other half to deal with all your remaining fighters.
The drawbacks: Attacking ships requires a bit of micro management. Fighters and bombers have a very limited range,
making attacking moving frigates with the hold position behavior enabled somewhat troublesome. First to get them to
stand still, DO NOT issue an attack order, simply tell them to move near the frigate(s) you want them to kill, and
they do the rest on their own. If the frigate decides to move (or retreat!), issue the order to attack until the
frigate stops again or leaves the well. Remember though that they won't automatically attack anything NOT within
their range until you tell them to or set them to a different behavior.
Using stationary fighters to defend your fleet is INCREDIBLY effective (I'd say they are almost better at it than
flak frigates). The nice thing about this is once the fighters are launched in the well, they stick in tow with your
carriers when they are set to hold position, turning your carriers in to super flak.
Pretty Cool stuff.
If you're interested in any of my proposed Carrier Cap fixes, or completely against them let me get your vote on it