Although this is a bit late on the draw, I wanted to give myself some time to cool off and really understand what Wargaming (WG) is trying to do, and why they’re doing it. After reading and watching a lot of content and really looking deep into it, I feel confident that I can say what I I think, and what I would personally do to actually balance the carrier class.
First things first, I am a carrier player. I have been playing carriers since before the manual attacks were removed from tiers 4 and 5, and some might argue that I’m biased towards the class, which I am, but I’m also biased against it. I am best in aircraft carriers, yet they are my least played class, so I do feel the pain of all the cruiser, destroyer, and battleship players out there that feel like carriers are these omnipotent gods that do whatever they please, however wrong this may be. This class is and always has been, profoundly broken, starting with its inception during the launch of this game.
Carriers are broken, they always have been, and it’s all WG’s fault. From day 1, WG hasn’t had a clue what to do with carriers, or how to make them play nice with all the other classes. World of Warships is a game of counter-play, where skill is more valuable than what ship you’re driving, but this isn’t the same for carriers. While a Benson can do quite fine and even top the scoreboard in a T10 game without a drastic change in play-style, a carrier cannot. A Shokaku is at a profound disadvantage when playing in a T10 game since the AA (anti-aircraft) power-creep is enormous between T8 and T10. To achieve just an average amount of damage or get above the halfway mark on the scoreboard requires patients, skill, and the enemy team to ignore you while you strike them, none of which are easy to come by.
Aside from bad match making, all across the tiers people are failing their team in carriers, much of this problem can be attributed to loss of manual attacks at tiers 4 and 5. This decision by WG has forced players to learn at tier 6, and not at tier 4, where the AA is much lower and allows for a missed approach. Moreover, tier 5 carriers must now contend with tier 6 carriers who do have manual attacks, making the learning curve only harder and less desirable than before. Tier 6 is very frequently matched up against tier 8 ships which makes the role of a carrier captain even more difficult. This combined with the lack of planes in the hanger and the high AA power of this tier ruins the learning for new players. This directly leads to the lack of players that are seen playing this class.
I understand that it’s no fun at all to die early game to a carrier, and once again Wargaming failed. WG made no real carrier guides showing the nuances of how to play with and against this class, but left it up to third parties like Farazellth and iChase Gaming to do so instead. It was because of them that I learned how to play carriers, but not everyone is willing or able to seek out help to advance their skill. So anyone who wants to play carriers now needs to slog through the hellscape that is tiers 4 and 5, only to get to tier 6 where there is an entirely new ability they never knew existed.
Perhaps the worst thing that WG has done to date, is introduce AP bombs. I have never seen or even dreamed that Wargaming could do something as rashly or poorly as introduce AP bombs into this game. I was astounded when they first talked about them, hoping that it would give the USN carriers something to compete in the damage race against their IJN rivals, yet I was shocked to see a horrendous abomination be introduced that ignores battleships, save for a few, and focuses on deleting cruisers, the very ships meant to counter carriers. This ungodly weapon of pure knee-jerk reaction nonsense has become the single greatest plague for all players in this game since it forces even AA cruisers like the Des Moines to fall back to the cover of the fleet, lest it be annihilated by bombs from hell or torpedoes from Poseidon.
What I’ve said is all true and scary, but there is a way to change and fix carriers without totally overhauling their basic game mechanic. Firstly, remove AP bombs. They are a travesty and they should be removed from existence. I honestly don’t want to see them reintroduced until WG can really balance carriers, but since that seems to be a “wok in progress”, I would rather just have these bombs removed entirely. Next, manual attacks NEED to be given back to tiers 4 and 5 carriers. If WG really is worried about seal clubbing, then they can simply lock manual attacks for all players who have played 1 or more games in tiers 9 or 10 carriers. I understand that many players find the lower tiers to more enjoyable and many were fine with the changes to low tier carriers because it would improve the quality of gameplay at those low tiers, but that’s not a good enough reason to make an entire class exponentially harder to learn. It is also true that players may make alternative accounts simply to play at these low tiers and “club”, but this too isn’t enough of a reason to ruin this class’s learning tiers. What if WG did change it so people could learn again? This learning tier will quickly fill up with carriers learning and discovering new skills, which will prompt them to continue up the tiers as they get better and better, increasing the total population while lessening the strain on lower tiers.
Playing something like a Kagero against a competent CV is something akin to watching a MMA champion kicking the living daylights out of a 13 year old kid that wouldn’t way 100 lbs soaking wet, it’s simply not a fair fight. Whether the enemy CV spares your life is irrelevant, since you won’t be able to do anything since you’ll be spotted for the entire duration of the game. I know how this feels, trust me I do, so what can be done? My idea is to add a fuel timer on the aircraft. Fuel is not something the WG developers have troubled you with until now (maybe), because it is an unnecessary thing to know and keep track of, but it does make sense for carriers. In WWII, aircraft were used for scouting and attacking of enemy fleets, and the major problem faced by all carriers was that of the aircraft range limit. My idea is to give carriers a fuel gauge for their planes, which could be increased or deceased by decreasing or increasing the bomb load or ammunition load on said planes, just like how War Thunder does it. The base range would allow for any airplane to fly from one map corner to the other and back again, allowing for strikes across the map while still having ample time to strike the enemy, even if the first go is a failure. This means that fighter planes will need to be placed in very tactical spots to engage the enemy without losing all their fuel in the chase. The UI (assuming that the game engine can handle it), will give a notice to players when half the fuel reserve has been used, and when the planes can only make back to carrier if returned now. This is complicated, but it would mean that players couldn’t just spot the whole map all game, and it means that positioning with your carrier will become a new art, allowing for quicker attacks and greater danger to the carrier, a gripe that many have with carriers.
Aircraft Carriers are broken, but this is sadly by design. I don’t believe that Wargaming needs to completely overhaul the basic RTS (real-time-strategy) game-play that makes carriers so unique. They could instead could fix the underlying issues of the class like its spotting potential, UI (user interface) that can’t follow more than one or two commands in quick succession, AP bombs, and so on. With these changes and real how-to videos that all players can see and understand without needing to open YouTube would go a long way to helping people understand how to interact with this class. I would highly encourage Wargaming to enlist the help of carrier captains from around the globe in this testing phase, using their experience and skill to help fine tune these changes. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but I believe that this class can be changed for the better and allow all players to enjoy this game.