Carrier Command: Gaea Mission

Bohemia Interactive is having a really busy year. When they’re not getting arrested for taking tourist photos in foreign countries, crawling on their bellies for loot in DayZ, or expanding 270 km² battlefields for ArmA III, they're taking on a remake of cult classic 80’s game, Carrier Command.

If you’re not familiar with the name then, well, I feel old. It's a reimagining of a game made by Realtime Games Software back in the days of Amiga, Atari, and the ZX Spectrum.

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The core of the title was about taking command of a futuristic seafaring aircraft carrier and doing battle over some 60 islands with a second more advanced carrier. This was accomplished primarily by gathering resources and building vehicle units; the Manta - a flying aircraft - and the Walrus - an all terrain tank.

The original game was responsible for advancing rendering techniques and 3D graphics of the time, and was very influential in its day. So Bohemia taking on and remaking such an iconic game - not only in its genre but in gaming history - is a pretty ballsy thing to do.

Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is all about real time strategy at its core, but there are times when it also becomes a first person shooter; these moments are infrequent and they are a mere advancement in the story arc to reinforce that you are, infact, captain of an aircraft carrier, and you can walk around and do some of the dirty work yourself.

These FPS sections are rather uninspiring and not very difficult, as your rifle tends to do a lot of damage and your shield can take as many bullets as you like. Playing this stuff felt more like a formality, and basically just an excuse to show off Bohemia’s new Reality Engine, which allows you to take in the sheer scale and size of the islands, as well as their associated dynamic weather and lighting effects.

The main control of the game is through a top down radar map, where all the gameplay action is displayed in a small window in the top right corner of the screen. All your orders are performed by setting waypoints with contextual motivations of the units via a radial menu: these include commands such as "defensive", "offensive", and "protect" - etc. By sending units to various buildings on the map, you can take control and use them to build more units or gather further resources.

Because you have to gradually collect various resource and production buildings, it can take quite some time to get into the main part of the gameplay. Be prepared to sit down for at least one to two hours just to get two or three Walrus on the field, and almost twice the time again to start producing air units. But, once the core elements are in place, the game can get quite addictive.

The campaign takes place on the planet Taurus. Earth has been taken over by a faction called the Asian Pacific Alliance (I wonder if New Zealand is apart of this coup?) and a group known as the United Earth Coalition is attempting to wrest control of an archipelago of islands from the same group on this new planet.
The sci-fi universe in which the game is set has Earth’s drinkable water resources at a virtually non-existent level. You take control of Lieutenant Myrik, of the United Earth Coalition, and lead the assault on a water-based planet in a distant planetary system, which itself is orbiting the gas giant ‘M38’.

As you progress through the game, you gain control of various islands (there are over 30 in total), which then allow you to gain resources and build up a sizeable army of both aircraft and all terrain tanks. This could be perceived as somewhat of a downgrade from the original game's 60 plus islands, but the sheer scale of each island makes up for it. The story and lore is heavily present through each objective, and will have you pressing onward right to the very end.

You can have up to four ground and four air vehicles, each of which can be deployed as various sub-types (such as light, medium, and heavy). You can then customise which weapons and other armaments you apply to each unit which, depending on its type, will allow for more slots for weapons and gear. While the customisation adds strategy, it would've been nice if there were more vehicles to choose from to add more visual variety.

Each mission features dynamic weather which affects the terrain, varying from tropical sun to snow blizzards and rain, so when your Walrus is treading mud in a rainstorm, it's time to upgrade to the Manta and attack from the air - but watch out for lightning! All of which adds a dynamic element to the strategy of any given situation.

Unfortunately, the AI can get really confused if a Walrus gets stuck in the mud, and will repeatedly move back and forth to free itself - unsuccessfully 100% of the time. So, if you’re not paying attention and fail to take over the blundering tank, then you will quickly lose battles because the support is not there.

There is also a Skirmish or ‘Strategy Game’ as it’s called, where you can set up your own battlefield, number of islands, and difficulty level. This mode is very customisable, with a number of options to play with, however it is just another singleplayer experience - just without the story.

Which brings me to one of my biggest gripes with the game; there's no multiplayer... none. This game could be really awesome to play against friends, but unfortunately it was not on the cards for Bohemia. I’m crossing my fingers for a Multiplayer DLC in the future, as I think Carrier Command: Gaea mission would get some serious online time if it was available.

All is not lost though, because I can confirm - after asking Bohemia directly - that modding support tools, like you'd see with Bohemia’s ArmA titles, will be available sometime after the game's release. This could really boost the already sizeable community and allow others to possibly create Multiplayer modes... I eagerly await the results of the community's exploration.

Carrier Command: Gaea Mission shows that Bohemia are real fans of the original game, and they have managed to reboot an 80’s classic in a way that I believe no one else could pull off as successfully or with so much care.

Unfortunately, the lack of multiplayer really lets the title down in overall value, but the campaign is enjoyable (bar some rough voice acting and gameplay quirks), and will take you a good 20-30 hours to complete. The game runs and looks fantastic in motion, too. I’m looking forward to further DLC support and to see what the modders add to the game once they get up to speed with it. For now, it's a tentative recommendation only; make sure you know what you're signing up for before enlisting.

"If only it had Multiplayer..."
- Carrier Command: Gaea Mission
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 45 Min


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