Hi everyone! This is going to be a long post, buckle up!
I"m writing this now having played about a dozen battles total. I've played Shimakaze, Ranger, Ryujo, Worcester, Midway, and Hakuryu. I've continued to refine my thoughts on the current mechanics and how this rework is going.
I'm going to talk about bugs first, and my experience in each ship since I don't think I should generalize much across each ship class, given my recent experiences. I'm also going to list what I think is good and what is bad about the current rework.
Bugs for Wargaming:
There is a major bug while playing aircraft carriers. If you are sunk while operating a squadron, you can still use that squadron. A Worcester sank me, and I sank him and got the "It's just a flesh wound award" because of this. After my squadron dropped all of it's bombs, the UI, the camera, and the game space basically glitched out. The only UI element that continued to update was the score at the top. I couldn't control anything, and everything was frozen. This bug appears to have messed with my port UI as well, since I could not exit the game normally. I had to task manager it to close the game. I've attached the replay so you can observe the bug. @Radar_X
What's Good about the Rework:
The visuals are on point and don't need tweaking. I run this game on a regular laptop with no graphics card, and have had no noticeable frame drops.
The AA feels very powerful and tends to knock planes out of the sky at an incredible rate. DFAA in particular completely ruins a strike. Ships 3-5 km apart tend to knock planes out of the sky so fast that only one strike per squadron can be launched.
Individual carriers are not omnipresent.
DOT damage is only achievable if you plan your strikes well and pick vulnerable targets. If you take too long to complete a strike, you might lose so many planes you can't complete more than one attack.
Dropping a ship that's aware it's getting dropped is tricky. Simple rudder turns can delay multiple attack runs and force a squadron to spend over a minute in what is generally murderous AA.
Reaction skill is required in the attacks, which makes attacks fun.
American planes appear to have decent balance, even at T10. Their torpedoes and bombs do damage but since they are normal torpedoes and HE bombs, there's little alpha strike potential, especially compared to current carriers. A good Midway torpedo strike is roughly equivalent to landing a citadel hit while playing a Montana or Yamato.
Carrier sniping is difficult to impossible because of ridiculous CV AA.
Every time you strike a ship, your whole squadron passes the ship, so you have to circle them and spend at least 10 seconds trying to set up another attack. This exposes your planes a to a lot of AA, and if you fly around their broadside, which is unavoidable, they will take a lot of damage.
Carriers can't straight shut down another player for more than a couple of minutes, even if they drop fighters directly over the enemy carrier.
If you bum rush your planes straight into a bunch of enemy ships and lose them quickly, your next squadron of that plane type will only have a few planes in the new squadron.
Carriers can't one shot destroyers or really do much damage in a direct and reliable way.
What's Bad about the Rework:
The "O" key binding used to open the AA reinforcement menu. The "O" key is far away from WASD and the mouse. I changed the binding to "G" on my computer, which, as far as I know, is not used for anything else. This made focusing AA much, much easier, especially in destroyers.
After a match full of HE spam, most ships have lost so much of their machine gun, non-artillery AA mounts that they are vulnerable to CVs. In addition to this, they have lost most of their health. This is particularly pronounced in the late game, and it allows carriers to mop up the enemy in a disturbingly quick fashion.
Carriers can linger fighter squadrons over destroyers and enemy carriers for almost 2 minutes. These fighters cannot be shot down or directed by the carrier after called. However, this can easily get both classes of ship sunk by gunfire from surface ships and needs fixing, because a clever CV player can use this in critical moments to great effect.
The potential for CVs in a match to alpha strike ships if they decide to work together. Having 2-3 CVs in a match is a return to the omnipresent status of current aircraft carriers.
Focusing your AA. This is annoying in that you feel obliged to make turns to present the stronger broadside, which can you get killed. Focusing your AA doesn't seem to have an effect on how fast planes get shot down. This is mostly because the planes are so fast. The AA focusing idea is cool, but might only serve to get less experienced players killed by ending up in a poor position relative to the enemy surface warships.
The Japanese aircraft carriers, in particular the Hakuryu. Their ability to alpha strike ships with AP bombs in particular is exactly what WG should be attempting to avoid. I understand why WG is testing them in the new meta, but these need to go. Once I figured out how to drop cruisers and battleships regularly with dive bombers, alpha striking them was no problem with Hakuryu AP bombers. The fact that I was chased by a Worcester and Yamato in my Hakuryu and I was able to sink them with AP bombers with ease is a problem. They still sank me, but that's not a good trade for the enemy team. Being able to do tons of damage and sink an AA cruiser is not balanced. I don't believe said Worcester in question had DFAA activated, however. A replay of this match is attached. This is the same replay that has the bug. The deep-water torpedoes are strong, too strong. Their inability to strike destroyers is a non-factor because striking destroyers with torpedo bombers is very difficult to begin with in this carrier rework. It was a weird gimmick that the Hakuryu can have twin engine torpedo bombers that have to drop from kilometers away for the torpedoes to arm, and that the torpedoes go on for 10 km. I hit unsuspecting players kilometers behind my target as a result. As players learn about these torpedoes, that won't be as much of a problem. These alpha strikes planes, the AP bombers in particular, are simply too powerful and easy to use.
The ludicrous speed at which carriers can get a new squadron off and to a target. I realize that the actual number of squadrons a carrier gets off isn't exactly a lot, but it still felt like too much. Even if I lose an entire squadron quickly and get punished with a depleted squadron, I can simply select a new type of bomber and leave with a full squadron. This means that while carriers don't have omnipresence, they can keep the strikes coming all the time, which makes them quite a nuisance.
The planes are so fast, numerous, and continuous it is very difficult to keep track of planes and ships while playing a surface warship. My in-game immersion while playing surface ships was generally broken because I found it too much to keep track of. Situational awareness is equally hard to maintain.
The carrier's ability to distract surface ships constantly. This is particularly a problem with destroyers. Surface warships need to focus on the other warships around them, and constantly being under air attack not only gets old, it is very difficult to keep track of both the air and the sea. Regardless of the fact that a carrier can't do much to a destroyer directly, being spotted by aircraft constantly means the destroyers are going to takes tons of damage from surface warships.
I found playing the Shimakaze to be fairly similar to before. You run around, capping what you can and torpedoing what you can. I didn't feel like I couldn't do what I normally would in the current game. However, I was spotted most of the match, usually by planes. This is because the enemy Midway constantly attempted to strike the Montana player on my team. Usually the planes would fly over me twice per squadron. The carrier only did 600 damage to me after 3 rocket strikes but I'm confident that any surface warships worth their salt would have sunk me very early in the match because of the spotting. The distraction caused by the planes all match was partially a result of me focusing on testing, but I still believe that the distraction they cause to destroyers is annoying. I realize that carriers can't loiter over a destroyer very easily anymore, but the shear number of squadrons carriers can launch in a single match means you get spotted a lot as a destroyer while the planes are on their way to another target. I definitely got spotted much more by planes in this remake than in the current meta.
This ship, without any AA specialization, had no problem knocking planes out of the sky with or without DFAA. This is especially true at the beginning of the match. I played the Worcester exactly how I would in the regular game, camping behind a rock. My game play was not affected unless the Hakuryu decided to AP bomb me with my DFAA down. HE spam also tends to knock out so much machine gun AA that the Worcester can quickly become all bark and no bite. The ability of a carrier to citadel an AA cruiser just because its DFAA is on cool down is not good. In its interactions with surface warships, I found the Worcester to be the same as ever, and planes were generally just a nuisance provided I had DFAA up. Given that DFAA has a 2 minute cool down however, there were definitely moments of weakness in the AA cloud.
The Ryujo feels like a miniature Hakuryu now that I know what I'm doing. Obviously it's scaled down in every way- raw damage, speed and health of the planes, etc. But it is still vastly superior to the Ranger simply because it can alpha strike cruisers and battleships. This doesn't change the current meta at all, which is a problem. The only class of ship the Ryujo can't one shot are the destroyers and other aircraft carriers, short of detonation. Otherwise, the ship itself is much as it was before: a sneaky, quick, easy to sink ship (with gunfire). In some ways the Ryujo outclasses the Hakuryu tier for tier because it can more easily stack DOT damage because it has more standard torpedo bombers, while still alpha striking capital ships with its AP bombers.
The Hakuryu feels a bit ridiculous right now. It's ability to double citadel battleships with it's AP bombers is completely OP. I've already talked about this in the "What's Bad about the Rework" section quite a bit, so I won't continue to keep blabbing about it. Ultimately this needs fixed, hopefully by replacing the AP bombs with HE bombs.
The Ranger feels fairly balanced. All of it's planes are on the slow side, which allows the enemy more time to react and shoot down the aircraft. Stacking DOT damage isn't too difficult, but isn't a cakewalk either. I've found that American planes are more vulnerable to AA simply for their inability to get in and out quick at this tier. This should be no surprise given that the planes are F4F Wildcats, TBD Devastators, and SB2U Vindicators. They get the job done, and you don't feel too dirty as you fly away.
The Midway feels like a proper T-10 aircraft carrier, without being outright overpowered. It's torpedo bombers can do a good bit of damage to an out of position, lone battleship. You drop two torpedoes per plane, but since you have to get much closer to the enemy ship, you generally cannot get more than two attacks off before the rest of the planes get shot down. The dive bombers can stack fires pretty nicely, but like the torpedo bombers, the whole squadron gets shot at continuously while you're striking. My only particular gripe with this ship is that the torpedo bombers give off a bit of an alpha strike feel if you land 3-5 torpedos. I think placing only 1 torpedo on the torpedo bombers would be a simple, effective fix to this.
The move towards making carriers into a support class of ship, who can distract the enemy and intervene at key moments, rather than being omnipresent ships capable of sinking any ship instantly is a great change. The USN carriers feel much more balanced than the IJN carriers because the USN carriers can't alpha strike ships. The AP bombers on the IJN carriers are hilariously overpowered. AA is well balanced, and might need increased in a few cases. The inability for carriers to shut down another carrier is good. Carriers can no longer directly sink destroyers in a direct, reliable fashion, but their ability to spot destroyers and get them killed doesn't seem to have diminished. Carriers can get enemy carriers killed by dropping fighters over them, which is a problem. The constant plane spam from even one aircraft carrier is highly distracting, breaks in-game immersion, and makes situational awareness difficult as there is too much to keep track of. Having 2-3 carriers per match allows carriers to work together for alpha strikes. Even if the 2-3 carrier players don't work together, the fact they have planes all over the map is a return to the omnipresence of current aircraft carriers, albeit in a less centralized fashion. Overall, I think the rework is going in the right direction and is fairly fun to play.
For all those interested, I have attached screenshots of my one absolutely ridiculous Hakuryu match, along with its replay. The replay only works for the TST instance of the game.
Hope you all have found this to be informative,