Have you always wanted to be Poseidon? Ruler of the sea, god and conqueror of the waves? Well this is your chance! For about forty bucks you can get your own carrier and with a force of tanks and planes, conquer the ocean. Of course, I'm talking about Carrier Command: Gaea Mission. A remake of the 1988 classic Carrier Command, and developed by Bohemia Interactive, the makers of Arma 2, this real-time-strategy game sits you firmly at the helm of a futuristic carrier. Let’s take a look at whether this game will be worth your forty bucks…
Once you start up the game, you see a cut-scene showcasing planes, drop pods and carriers. You also get to know the story behind the game in just a couple of minutes, as the story’s not overly complicated or profound. As far as the story goes, you play as Myrik, a member of the United Earth Coalition (UEC), who are at war with the Asian Pacific Alliance (APA). The APA has taken control of the Earth, so you’ve left to seek a home base on another planet, Taurus. The inhabitants of the islands that dot the planet aren't cooperative though, so taking said islands is done with force through your carrier and its vehicles. That's basically the story. Of course this game is not really about the story - it would be a mission impossible to create a crisp and in-depth story around this 60 hour campaign. Still, don't get the game expecting to play a sixty hour movie, as it is purely centered around the gameplay.
Once you start the game, you will be playing it as a first-person-shooter until you take command of your first vehicle. I quite like the idea of this, however it felt like I was playing a ten year old game at that moment. Seeing as this is the first thing you experience once you start the game, I think it's a big mistake. In my opinion, the beginning and end of a game are the most important, mainly the start as every player will get to see it. It felt like I was moving a plastic doll through a plastic environment; not impressive at all. Then you sit through a poorly-executed story section, and I was happy once I finally reached my first vehicle. I even checked to make sure I wasn't playing the 1988 version really quickly: no, I'm not joking.
So you quickly get command of your very own carrier. This can be upgraded, repaired and basically serves as a central control room for all your units. The upgrades, tools you can create and resources you need get very in-depth eventually, which really was a big plus for me. It introduces you to all the complicated tools you have to manage nicely and gradually through the use of short conversations with your crew. Getting you in control of the carrier and all its duties is really nicely explained. The game throws decisions on your plate regarding your ship, forcing you to prioritize certain tools over others. For example: Do I upgrade my ship armor or engines first? Do I build a new vehicle first, or do I upgrade the guns of another one? The system works really well, and you really have to take your next destiny into account.
Which brings me to the next subject: the actual goal of the game. You are taking islands, defended by robots or drones. To take the island, you must hack the central command center. Sounds simple right? Well, the execution can be quite tricky. Sometimes, the command center is guarded by great defences. In these cases, it might be smarter to take out radars first, so the enemy cannot detect you properly any more. Or perhaps the command center has a self-destruct mechanism, blowing up all your units if you don't evacuate them. Each island has its own tricky bits, every island needs a different approach. Another thing to keep in mind before you approach is its statistics. Before you go to an island, you can check its defence strength, terrain, resources, etc.
Why does this matter? If you’re entering a swamp terrain with your walrus (which is best described as looking like something you’d use to roam on Mars) you might be in for some trouble, as it might get stuck and be unable to move. Also, you might want to watch out attacking a heavy defended island if your vehicles are damaged, or if you don’t have many. Islands may defend themselves with ground troops, tanks, airplanes and artillery. Ground troops are a joke and can be taken out really easily, whereas walruses, airplanes and artillery need some more firepower to get taken out. I haven't experienced too much trouble, as long as you bring all your vehicles and restore ammo regularly. How do you restore your ammo? Either by docking your vehicles to your carrier, or by visiting depots on the island. In the same way, there are also repair, refuel and garage depots on the island. This all adds a bit to the realism: you cannot shoot or drive forever.
You do not have to drive all your vehicles personally. You can point out on the map where you want your vehicles to go, and the AI will take care of it. You can also tell the other vehicles to "assist" the vehicle you are currently driving. This is all very easy and smoothly done, so I used it a lot. A disappointment however is the AI itself, having trouble driving around walls, killing your vehicles by driving off a cliff, etc. It does work most of the time, but on the other hand I did have to intervene a couple times at least each mission. The AI seems a bit rubbish and unfinished.
Driving the vehicles yourself works quite well, at least in third-person mode. If you wish to play in first person you will experience difficult controls, but in third-person-mode everything works really smoothly. Also, flying was not much of a problem and felt polished. Shooting wasn't much of a problem either. Then again, this only goes for third-person-mode, as the first-person-mode once again doesn't always react as you would hope. The objectives are pretty much always clear, and so is the map: nice and clean. That being said, each mission requires a different strategic approach, but you’re the one to decide how you are going to tackle the problems and challenges. The map really does help, showing you all the paths. The islands are mostly laid out nicely as well, giving you multiple roads to a destination. Scouting with your planes usually helps as well, knowing what is waiting for you. I really liked this, as this adds up to the strategic and realistic side of things.
On to the graphics. The start of the game really repelled me, but this is because this game is not meant to be played as a FPS. It still surprises me Bohemia Interactive chose a FPS intro. It's fine for the story, but that's about all. For a game that centers about the carrier-based gameplay, I think this was quite a big mistake. However, when you get access to your vehicles after that, the world suddenly looks a lot better. If you look in the distance you can see beautiful environments, lightning and structures. Each island has its own environment, which is great as it keeps things fresh, and shows you beautiful landscapes. It's not the best looking game out there, but it does a nice job trying to get close to it.
To round this up... I'm looking back with mixed feelings. I really like the idea, but the execution is just not what it should be. I have respect for Bohemia Interactive for trying to create something on this scale, something unique that blends so many genres. However, the result is that the gameplay isn't all that smooth, the story is negligible and it doesn't give me much reason to start the game up after I saved the last time. Perhaps longer development and a bigger development team could've made this game a revolution, however, for me it's a slight disappointment. Still, Bohemia gets my respect for trying to be different, and trying to implement all these great features.