Disclaimer: As a battleship main, and one that doesn’t play CV’s at all, I write this opinion purely from that of an observer to CV play and not that of an actual CV captain.
From my experience in the game since closed beta I can say that from the beginning the balance for CV’s has been skewed. To those who have put the effort into becoming a competent CV captain, I truly applaud (and at the same time loathe) you. It’s a ship class that I have tried but just do not have the patience for. That aside, the CV’s ability to move its weapons about the map with near impunity when top tier and to utterly devastate almost any ship when played by a competent player is frustrating and disheartening as a player. Unlike when against other ships where, if you make a mistake, paying for that mistake with a large amount, if not all of your HP is expected, with CV’s you can do everything right and still end up back in port if you are targeted by a good player. At higher tiers, when the cost to play a ship has increased to the point where being competitive (premium consumables and decent camo) can easily become unprofitable if you are ‘removed’ from the game too quickly, this frustration is multiplied, particularly for destroyers and battleships. Coupled with the current meta on the NA server of CV’s being uncommon (though growing in popularity by my observations), many players do not spec their ships for AA including neglecting the defensive AA consumable and choosing the spotter aircraft over the attack. With this, even the cruisers, those supposed to be the teams best option for AA defense, is now null. So games where CV’s are actually present, any given player’s ability to deal with a concentrated attack is severely diminished. Further though, and certainly worth noting, a ‘nearly’ full AA spec’d Montana with AFT, BFT and manual AA and the AA reload module equipped with flags, cannot thwart off a strike from a Hakuryu. The ship with arguably the best AA in the game will still sustain large amounts of damage from a concentrated attack. Granted it’s not as maneuverable as a Minotaur or a Des Moines, one would expect it to be able to hold it’s own.
Recent CV changes and additions have further widened the gap for balance with the introduction of AP bombs, and lest us not forget the Graf Zepplin. These two in particular have made the lives of players, particularly German BB players, very difficult. The capability to do 20k damage in a single strike makes AP bombs very annoying, coupled with their smaller dispersion circles and if the bombs overpen, strikes can still do massive amounts of damage to a DD, let alone a cruiser or BB. The most recent iteration of the GZ is just a click-delete for CV captains from what I’ve seen. The already small auto-drop circles make large targets impossible to miss and small targets easy to incapacitate – no skill needed.
On the other side of the coin, based of what I’ve seen, read, and experienced (albeit limited), the play-ability of a CV for the average player is difficult. Though they are supposed to be reworking this, and I hope they do soon, add that to the current system for income and XP and playing a CV is that much harder. I love being able to provide support for my team, in any way I can. The current play-ability of CV’s makes it so I don’t want to try to play them (I also prefer to be at least good at something before I really play it) as I would be more of a hindrance to my team and fodder for the enemy. I would enjoy the ability to spot as dynamically as the CV can and damage as dynamically as they can as well. Maybe, hopefully, in the near future the rework will come and CV’s will be more universally played, but that’s just not today.
Finally, the last nail in the coffin for the CV’s in my opinion, has little to do with the overall balance of the CV’s but the current player meta. Players are far more likely to play for themselves than for the betterment of the team. I know I sound a bit like a broken record on this topic but the inability for players to play as a team in a team based game irks me. Your ability as a cruiser, for instance, to provide AA in this example for your team can be crucial, particularly if the other team has the better CV player. The defensive fire consumable, if equipped, can mean the difference between a ship losing more than 50% of its HP or, in some cases, none at all. As a team effort though, and not to pick on cruisers, a players ability to stay with the fleet and contribute by NOT getting focused can be just as important.
I look forward to the day when the CV is playable by the average player base, when the skill gap is not so large, when their single strike capability is not so devastating, and when players can play as a team as the norm as opposed to the exception. I hope I covered as many of the bases as I am able to in this review/critique and am certainly open to comments and suggestions.