I added direct links since the pictures were not displaying correctly for me.
Updated in Post #25 due to popular suggestions for more gameplay realistic ship designs.
So I decided to do a test to see whether carriers are truly as over-powered as so many people claim them to be. I for one have never felt this to be the case, but I have never fought against AI designs that were comparable to my own. The only times that I struggle against carriers are during mid-game, which I define as prior to unlocking all of the weapons, defenses, and hull mastery. During mid-game, fighting against a fleet of carriers where both sides have a comparable number of same-sized ships and techs usually result in heavy losses for my side. Either I will just barely win with most of my fleet gone, or my fleet gets wiped out just after barely managing to destroy the enemy's carriers, resulting in mutual annihilation. Of course by late game, any one of my ships can easily steamroll countless fleets of carriers, but at this point, my tech is usually more advanced than the AI. This leads me to wonder how they would fair if the settings were more...comparable?
I am testing this on an old map that was played during the late version of 1.3, upgraded to v1.41, and then resumed just for this test.
All techs have been unlocked.
I am playing with a custom faction, but no other mods or cheats are in effect (besides god mode for necessary reasons).
Since I was too lazy to start a new map to fight against myself, I am using the Altarians as my guinea pigs. In this map, I just happen to be allied with everybody else except for them.
I am using God mode to initiate the battle.
So I loaded up on of my end game files, created two fleets, both with endgame techs (including precursor techs), gifted the fleet to another faction, enabled god mode, and attacked each other. Keep in mind that these carriers were made to hold as many carrier modules as possible.
The type of test carrier that I created is as follows....
Name: HCMx9 Carrier
Huge Hull (650 Capacity)
9x High Capacity Carrier Modules
6x Nightmare Torpedoes
43x Precursor Hull Reinforcement
Universal Integrity Field
Universal Displacement Field
Total Cost: 5995.2
Why the torpedoes you ask? Because 9 carrier modules leaves me with about 49 capacity points remaining, which is not enough for anything significant at this point. The percentage boost from fleet support modules are insignificant since the fighters are so weak anyway--even weaker than tiny sized hulls. I could stack a few fleet support modules, but I decided to make another carrier just for that. Also, extra HP to makes the carrier more durable.
Name: HCMx4 Carrier
4x High Capacity Carriers
Same as above, but all fleet buff and debuff modules, as well as repair, jammers, and 3x Nightmare torpedoes.
Total Cost: 6077.1
To make sure that the stats of the ship did not change after trading them over, I also gifted all of my techs to the Altarians. It turns out that due to specializations and what not, the fighters automatically reconfigure to match its owner. In this case, the changes after gifting the ships are the increase in HP (due to race traits), and defense specializations. Of course, this does not really matter since I do not plan on using carriers of my own in this test. This also confirms that each carrier will produce 27 fighters.
And the targets for these carriers are various ships that I built to test the waters. I will not list all of their specific design details here because I am lazy, but here are some things they all have in common...
650 Capacity (Huge Ship)
1200-ish HP (via Precursor Hull Reinforcement)
1000 - 1400 defenses (split evenly during design, meaning modifiers unaccounted)
Single Ship Support Modules Relevant to Weapon Specialization (balanced ships have all modules).
Jamming, Self-Healing, and Targeting
All other Precursor techs.
Total Costs: Around 11-14K each.
I also made buff and debuff ships, but it turns out they were unnecessary.
!!!PLEASE READ IMPORTANT NOTES!!!
Firstly, this game apparently has a cap of 64 ships per battle!! With 9 HCCMs x 14 ships, you are looking at 126 modules, and each generates 3 fighters. The total should be 378 fighters, not counting the carriers, but here, we only see 64 ships no matter what. With 14 carriers (Altarians does not have Organized+2 race trait), this should total over 14K beam attack, going off of the previous image, but nope. This means some ships were cut, with the huge ships given priority over the fighters.
The math checks out.
61 x 56 = 3416 Beam Atk
(61 x 70) + (3 x 240) = 4990 Missile Atk (The above picture included a ship in slot 2 with support modules)
61 x 21 = 1281 Kinetic Atk
And if those 64 ships loses the battle, the entire fleet is destroyed. I am not sure if this is an intentional or technical limitation (or just my computer, someone test?), but that is how things are. Essentially, this means that a fleet of well-equipped Huge Hulls will ALWAYS trump a fleet of carriers due to this limitation. I do not know if people were already away of these things, but this was news to me.
Secondly, either it is my computer or it is the game, but while the viewer does not crash on me when generating so many ships in battle, it is far too choppy to be viewable on video. I plan on just showing result screens.
Despite the aforementioned discovery ensuring that carriers will never be a match for a large fleet of huge ships, let us have some fun anyway.
First some rules...
I was not consistent with picking which side to initiate the attack, so do not let the "Victory" or "Defeat" at the top distract you.
All of these ships exclude engines, life support, and sensors.
Win Conditions are as follows:
Carrier Wins if Huge Ship is destroyed.
Carriers Lose if the carrier and all fighters are destroyed
Tie if the huge ship and the Carrier are both destroyed, even if fighters remain.
The Conditions for Victory and Defeat are as follows
1 v 1 - Carrier vs BalancedShip
Result: BalancedShip Wins
As you would expect from the stats, the carrier had no chance. Even if the fighters could destroy the BalancedShip, with the carrier destroyed, it would be a tie anyway. Still, it was a close call for the BalancedShip. I reran this three times, and the BalancedShips's missile defenses dropped to 0 once, but no HP loss.
1 v 1 - Carrier vs BeamShip
Result: Carrier Wins by Lanslide
Maybe I focused a bit TOO much on stacking up beam atk. This is by far the poorest performing ship.
1 v 1 - Carrier vs KineticShip
Result: Carrier Wins
Despite having the same defenses as the BalancedShip, this one was destroyed too. However, it performed significantly better than the beam ship. The short range of kinetic weapons was probably the main cause of this defeat, especially since it never made it to the carrier.
1 v 1 - Carrier vs MissileShip
The missile ship actually managed to perform pretty good, especially since it destroyed the carrier early on thanks to its long range. Even if it got destroyed by the fighters afterward, this can still be considered mutual destruction since no carrier means the fighters disappear.
1 v 1 - Carrier vs DefenseShip
Result: Carrier Wins
Apparently, stacking more defenses and sacrificing offense is not the answer to defeating carriers either....
1 v 1 - Carrier vs KamikazeShip
As the name would imply, I built this design with the thought in mind of a fast ship that can take out the carrier before it is destroyed. Obviously, it worked and performed really well. Use the powers of the Divine Winds when you need to take out those pesky carriers fast!
2 v 2 - Carriers vs BalancedShips
Result: BalancedShip wins
From the way this looks, carriers seem to be losing their touch the more ships we add on against balanced ships. 1 v 1 gave the BalancedShip more trouble, but in 2 v 2, the BalancedShips had no trouble at all.
2 v 2 - Carriers vs KamikazeShips
Finally! A great use for tactical engines! These ships do what they were meant to do! This design costs about 11K, but I get the idea that these ships could be build cheaper and more effectively. With these specs, they managed to take out half of the fighters before getting destroyed as well, which is unnecessary.
Also, it turns out that these ships are so fast that my computer cannot keep up, resulting in choppy graphics.
2 v 2 Carriers vs MissileShips
Interesting enough, these MissileShips perform better two on two than one on one. They might even win if it were 3v3. I will bet that if you added some beam or kinetic weapons to speed up the rate of fire and accuracy, these ships would actually be able to win since missiles are a bit too slow.
3 vs 3 - 2 Carriers + 1 Buff+Debuff Carrier vs MissileShip + BalancedShip + DebuffShip
Basically, the debuffing gives the other two enough time to take out the carriers before they get destroyed. Nothing too interesting here.
3 vs 3 - 2 Carriers + 1 Buff+Debuff Carrier vs BalancedShip + DebuffShip + SupportShip (buffs)
Result: BalancedShip with Buff and Debuff Wins
This was actually an interesting battle because the BalancedShip was destroyed pretty early on, but not before destroying all three carriers. This pretty much left my remaining SupportShip and DebuffShip to mop up some 40+ remaining fighters. My Debuffship is essentially a heavily armed missile ship with all the fleet debuffs, and my SupportShip is a beam ship with backup missiles and all of the fleet buff modules, slightly not as well defended. The two survived without losing HP.
A few other combinations that I tried:
2 Carriers vs DefenderShip and BeamShip - Carriers Win. It was sad to watch.
2 Carriers vs 1 MissileShip - Carriers Win
2 Carriers vs 2 Kinetic - Carriers Win
2 Carriers vs 2 BeamShips - Carriers Win
2 Carriers + 1 Buff+Debuff Carrier vs DefenderShip + SupportShip (buffs) + BeamShip - Carriers Win. Even 2.4K+ defenses die instantly.
2 Carriers + 1 Buff+Debuff Carrier vs 2 BalancedShips - Carriers Win...flawlessly. Balancedships could not even get close.
2 Carriers + 1 Buff+Debuff Carrier vs MissileShip + BeamShip + KineticShip - Carriers win flawlessly. The other ships could not even get close enough to attack.
2 Carriers + 1 Buff+Debuff Carrier vs 2 BalancedShips + 1 SupportShip (buffs) - Carriers gets roflstomped.
I stopped at 3 v 3 because of the 64 ships limit. Adding anymore would just reduce fighters and put the carriers in a less favorable situation. At 3 v 3, the carriers are already missing out on some fighters, so technically it is slightly unfair, but oh well.
1. For those warlords who love to blow up everything, carriers give you the best bang for your buck! They are extremely powerful for what they cost to build, but they are not invincible either. If they need to be nerfed, then a price/capacity increase on carrier modules would not be a bad choice.
A lot of the ships in the 1v1 rounds cost almost twice as much as the carrier that it fought. For example...
KineticShip - 11843
MissileShip - 10425
BalancedShip - 11129
Carrier - 5995
2. Balanced ships are the way to go against carriers if you are looking to win, unless the faction you are fighting against has only unlocked one type of weapon. Missiles to destroy the carriers from afar and kinetic and beams to deal with those pesky fighters. While a bit more expensive than the rest, you are almost certain to come out on top!
3. Missile weaponry are a carrier's weakness. Even if you cannot win, as long as your long ranged missiles take out the carriers, you can at least guarantee mutual destruction. They may need protection if you are outnumbered, though. Alternatively, building really fast ships to dive through those fighters to go straight for the carriers work too!
4. Playing too defensively against carriers only makes things worst. Those fighters will drain your shields instantly.
5. Ships that perform poorly 1 v 1 will perform even worse the more you stack, especially against carriers.
6. When your opponent of equal power buff/debuffs, you need to do the same!
7. The 64 ship limit means that stacking too many carrier modules will only work against you. Having more balanced ships seems the way to go for a carrier.
8. Also because of the 64 ships limit, I just realized that a fleet of custom designed 64 tiny hulls will be unbelievably devastating if you maximize capacity. These fighters only had around 50 beam and missile atk, but Tiny hulls can have over 100 atk in multiple weapon types and have better shields. You can even squeeze in a few with support modules. Hyperion Shrinker or Universal Displacement Field can reduce their size 2 logistics down to 1. OMG, I need to try this!
9. Kinetic weapons are crappy, as I suspected.
So to wrap things up, it seems to me that at the end of the day, a ship with carrier modules is still just a ship. It is far from being too OP'd or game-breaking. Its main advantage is in its swarm tactics and cost-to-power ratio, but it is not without exploitable weaknesses or ways to come out on top without spending too much. A fix for them can simply be to make the carrier modules much more expensive, or limit the quantity a ship can have to one or two.
So tell me what you peeps think? Am I missing some important detail here? Are these fighters not strong as they can be fore some reason (do tell me please if you know)? Still think carriers are too powerful?