Dear Greybox Devs,
I want to start by saying I really do like this game and had a ton of fun in the "Recruit" bracket (even first starting out with level 1 ships). It was decently balanced. Due to "Veteran" bracket unbalancing I'm putting this game on hiatus until it's fixed. I read in a thread from 5 months ago this was a problem, seems it won't be fixed anytime soon. One account to show authenticity to my claim: My T3 Ballista vs a T4 Onager (same company), the main guns are NOT upgradable, so it's not like this player had spent considerable time/money to upgrade this ship to do this. This player's Onager 1-shot (I was full HP) my Ballista multiple times in a match. That's when I started the pick up on the main problem with the current state of game, I've explained below.
I spent a bunch of time in "Recruit" to unlock all the t3 ships I would need for "Veteran" to accommodate each role when necessary. I felt no pressure or point to buy anything in the f2p model and that's good. Elite status is fine as it's XP and such that affects progression, pay-to-progress I'll call it. Anything that DOESN'T affect the PVP gameplay/elements of a game is okay for transaction purposes, if this boundary is broken your game could be branded the infamous; "pay-to-win".
You are treading on thin ice with your current model. It seems you have this planned this and if so, more F2P-experienced players will have picked up on it. The balance is quite good as I mentioned in "Recruit" bracket...then there's "Veteran" bracket...balance is thrown out the window and T4 anything can face-tank just about ANY T2/3 ship. Even the Corvettes just sit behind T2/T3 ships and wail on them with a high probability of winning the bout.
This HUGE power difference wasn't there in "Recruit", so, why is it present in "Veteran"? Here's my theory...It's a tactic I've seen in F2P games for quite some time, not quite a paywall, BUT, a system designed to suggest/bully the player into upgrading to one of the higher leveled units (for a cost of course), T4 in this case, since they get wrecked while playing a T2/T3.
This kind of dirty business will get you labeled a pay-to-win game and it won't be long until your population dies out and ex-players slander your company. If you were to promote less power difference between the different Tier ships like a 5-10% (or even less would be preferable) per Tier level, people will pick up on this and praise the balancing. No one likes losing, but even less so when it feels like it's out of their hands because they are needlessly gimped.
It is of the utmost importance you try to balance your game as much as possible even more so since it is a PVP game. More than anything this will create good will between your company and the player community. New ships, tiers, etc release and the players will expect you will do them right keeping the balance. Over time this will grow the game. If you want to population to climb/decline sporadically; cash grab all you can and continue doing what you're doing. If you choose the latter, I will not be returning, EVER, there are much more fair F2P games I can turn my attention toward.
Hope you make the right choice Greybox!