I’d really like CSM input here to get an idea on where these ships fall in place as far as CCP is concerned.
As far as I know, carriers mostly fit into PVE, anti-subcapital warfare, and support. To my understanding over recent years, carrier ratting has been mostly killed by scarcity, BRM, and ESS. There are these new CRAB beacons, but a HAW fit dread can outperform them in the same role of destroying the subcapital ships while providing much more value in tank and the inability to be defanged either through killing fighters or applying EWAR to them. I don’t think there’s any kind of PVE that a dread doesn’t do better.
As far as anti-subcapital warfare is concerned, carriers have been repeatedly nerfed in the role they are apparently supposed to be unmatched in. In one patch, CCP nerfed light fighter speed to the point to where heavy fighters have a higher base speed than their lighter counterparts (e.g. Tyrfing II —> Einherji II). I never understood how a game developer could look at that nonsensical scenario and say “Yeah, this is fine”, but it is what it is. Carrier DPS is nothing to scoff at by any means and this hasn’t changed, but when you consider all the nerfs and crippling weaknesses like having fighters destroyed, jammed, or interfered with by drones or other fighters… a HAW phoenix can also apply threatening (and applicable) DPS to subcapital ships with much higher-staying power and none of the flaws. I guess the point is that if a carrier is going to have its primary role nerfed so much with all of the remaining liabilities in place, then why wouldn’t I just spend billions of isk on a HAW phoenix instead?
There are also support fighters, but those have been suppressed with nerfs and the fact that their EWAR strength (See Cenobite and Dromi) often do not outweigh the value of sacrificing an entire slot that could potentially provide another 700-900 DPS with another squadron. They were also entirely removed from supercarriers because CCP seems to want to shift carriers away from the support role entirely and more to DPS. At that point I question why you wouldn’t just fly a dread or titan if you want pure DPS that can’t be defanged. I predict burst projectors will probably be removed or nerfed next.
On top of that, with the scarcity patch inflating the cost of capitals, It’s not really a personal or playstyle decision at this point anymore, it’s the fact that after all the nerfs are considered, if you just compare the value of these options on paper, carriers either don’t make sense, offer too little value for their now increased ISK cost, or only offer niche tactics in comparison to something else. Simply enjoying the playstyle isn’t enough to motivate me if its been nerfed to the point of not providing much more, equal, or even less value than something else while now initially costing 3x as much due to CCP’s scarcity stunt.
This isn’t to say that carriers suck or they aren’t powerful, but I think they’ve been nerfed to the point to where I don’t really see practical value in investing in them for a general role. I’m not going to say “LITERALLY UNPLAYABLE!!!1!” but I think CCP has jabbed them enough times to the point that I will say “What rational person would use this anymore when they can just use X?”. They just appear to me as just another, slightly better, or mostly worse option for any use case. If not that, then they are no longer worth the ISK to satisfy a given use case that can be covered by something else. The price of the ships have gone up, and value they provide have only ever decreased because of nerfs. Most players are probably going to look at the numbers (DPS, EHP, application, the fact that your primarily weapon system can’t be jammed or defanged) and just say “Yeah I’ll stick with my HAW phoenix or revelation instead”. They are versatile and can perform multiple tasks unlike dreads, but when you nerf their performance in every single task they can do, people are just going to use something else that has a much sharper performance.
Where exactly are these ships supposed to practically fit in? They’ve been watered down so much that I can’t see any sharp strengths or roles that can’t be matched by something else anymore, unless I’m missing something or not understanding something. Is there any major content or activity where a carrier is actually required or strategically preferred to anything else, or is it just because players like flying the ship and the option of flying a carrier exists?