Generally, if the game was less bomber spam focused.... overall balancing would be improved.
This is hard. The game's design is inherently hard to balance.
There are a lot of powerful AoEs out there, especially in Rebellion, that make ANY sort of fleet made of actual ships suffer immense damage and/or get heavily impaired. Strikecraft allow for a way to maintain a fleet that can have its valuable components stay out of the way of most damage while still exercising offensive power.
Any fleet that ISN'T composed heavily of carrier cruisers would be much less convenient to use effectively (not saying it can't be done, just that it's nowhere near as trivial) once technologies start to exceed a certain threshold.
Corvettes were a real nice addition in my opinion - they provided an early game hard counter to LRFs (that can focus fire - unlike flak) and are immune to Titan AoEs. They can be useful at any tech level but massed corvettes a hell of a lot more counterable than mass strikecraft - any cruiser or capital ship or starbase AoE can affect them (unlike strikecraft which are largely immune), and more generally anything can fire at them (unlike strikecraft) and they aren't free. Also they're pretty bad against fortifications. And fighters from light carriers can wreck them.
Heavy Cruisers are meant to be a sort of late game powerhouse but they have many many counters. Once again, starbase AoEs, certain capital ship AoEs, support cruiser abilities and Titan AoEs can hit them hard. It's not pleasant having your fleet of mighty cruisers get Repulsed, Mass Disoriented, pwned by a Kultorask, hammered by a Ragnarov, pounded on or eaten by a Vorastra, microwaved repeatedly by an Eradica or obliterated wholesale by an exploding Argonev. It would take much more care to use them than it would to, say, use bombers. Also, bombers can wreck them.
Light Frigates and LRM Frigates suffer all the weaknesses of Heavy Cruisers and more, since they're not individually as strong and can be killed more easily unless the user displays some sort of exceptionally fine microing skill to keep them alive. Flak gets similarly melted and can't do much more than defend an area against limited numbers of specific threats anyway. Light Frigates can theoretically counter support cruisers and light carriers but in reality they would get Repulsed / generally obliterated in the process.
Light Carriers wield the dual advantages of extreme range and large amounts of firepower that can be attuned to the situation at hand. They are expensive and slow but they are much easier to use in the face of the all that nasty crap out there. I've only played original Sins and then skipped ahead after a few years straight to Rebellion (wasn't around for Entrenchment/Diplomacy) but I think their story went something like:
- LRFs had no proper early game counter, fighter carriers were underused since they carried only 1 squad.
- Carriers upgraded to be more effective / powerful.
- Expansions introduce increasingly powerful objects such as starbases and titans that need taking down.
- Theoretically these powerful objects have hard counters (torpedo cruisers, corvettes) but these are harder to use / easier to stop.
- Carriers can be kept away from big dangers and hit hard.
- Massed carriers for all!
Corvettes, flak, LFs, LRMs, HCs snd torp-cruisers all have a lot of counters. Bomber carriers don't have many. Fighters are effective if given time, and a few capital ship abilities can hit them. That's about it. Fighters are also built by light carriers for that matter so they don't actually alter fleet composition.
If there were no light carriers then there would be a lot more general attrition (advantage TEC), AoE synergies would be harder to counter (advantage Advent), starbases would become much tougher bulwarks (advantage.. turtles?), Titans would become even more dangerous fleet-killing hammers (advantage everyone except maybe TL) and in general it would be pretty different.
So yeah. My two cents.