Back in the 80s, Carrier Command became a cult classic, and although it wasn’t a huge commercial success, it captured the imagination of its fan base Now, in 2012, Bohemia Interactive have decided to try and catch lightning in a bottle again with a reimagining of the original. But while Bohemia Interactive have kept the RTS feel, much has changed since the 1988 original. Do these changes make Carrier Command: Gaea Mission worth buying? Read on and find out.
The campaign starts on the distant moon Taurus, an Earth-like planet out in the reaches of space. This planet is a pivotal battleground in the United Earth Coalition (UEC)’s long campaign against the rogue Asian Pacific Alliance (APA), which gained dominion over the Earth in an apocalyptic conflict. Your faction is here to capture vital resources to support the UEC’s campaign for Earth. You play as Myrik, a lieutenant in the UEC, and it is up to you to take control of a lost carrier and use it to fight against the APA. Throughout the campaign you’ll take control of both aerial and amphibious units while you plan your strategy against your enemies. However, the game also contains some first-person shooting sections which offer players a change of pace from the RTS core gameplay.
Unfortunately, the FPS sections of the game are not very good. They are only in place to move the story forward and to try to give the player a character they can relate to, but mechanically speaking, these sections are poor. The gun you start with is overpowered and the enemies are very weak, and there is little variety here when you consider you only get the one gun and one enemy type to experience. There is no sprinting or jumping, which results in your character feeling very stiff and sluggish. It is surprising that the developer would break the formula by adding FPS sections – Carrier Command is known for being a strong RTS game, and that is really where the focus should have been. Luckily, the FPS sections are short, and you quickly get to the game you came for.
Once you get to the strategy core of the game, things get much better. The carrier you find in the FPS sections acts as your base of operations and it is from here that all attacks and strategies are launched. The object of the game is to control all thirty-three islands on Taurus. It sounds like a simple task, but there is plenty standing in your way. You will also have to use all the resources on the islands you already control to fund your campaign as you move forward. These resources can be spent on unit and productivity upgrades, which become crucial later in the game. Each island is a campaign unto itself and these islands display a number of different environments, which adds variety to the look of the game. During each battle for an island, you’ll be able to deploy up to eight different units at any given time. This may seem like a small amount given that other games in the genre rely on creating as many units as possible, but when you consider the amount of micromanagement each unit requires, this limit is plenty. That is the basic premise, but there is more here than just point-and-click.
Carrier Command does manage to take the RTS concept and make it more interesting and relevant, and arguably the best feature of the game is the ability to take control of one your vehicles. Traditionally in RTS games, you’ll be given a view of the entire battlefield and you’ll control your forces from afar. But in this instance, you can get right into the middle of the action and put yourself on the front lines. Most RTS fans will admit that one of the weaknesses of the genre is that your units do not use countermeasures – it is just a fight to the end and whoever has the most hit points wins. In this game, you can employ the countermeasures you always wanted and use strategy to win over firepower. Of course, there are limitations to this, but it is a great idea and it could set the stage for future titles.
While the unit isolation is promising, the game is plagued with issues. You will find that when you take advantage of controlling the unit of your choice, the computer does a very poor job of keeping your other units out of danger. Sure, your squad-mates will talk to you, but they won’t really contribute to the campaign in any meaningful way. Before long you’ll be taking out enemies all by yourself, and that gets old fast. In addition to the poor AI, there are a number of graphical and sound-related issues to contend with. Walking is jerky and the voice acting fails to sync with the characters talking. Speaking of the voice acting, it is almost nonexistent. The dialogue is just silly and the tone fails to reflect the mood of the game. The rest of the score is fairly generic and manages to blend into the game while you are playing.
Overall, Carrier Command is a mixed bag. There are some fresh, new concepts that would do a lot to keep the RTS genre alive and healthy. Unfortunately, the execution of some of the major features of the game either fail to impress or just fail altogether. The amount of time this game took to develop and release didn’t do the end product any justice, so the hype set expectations way too high. Luckily, there is quite a bit of game here, so if you can get past the faults you’ll be rewarded with lots of gameplay. Though this is a difficult game to recommend at the full MSRP, if you can find it as a rental or get it discounted then it would be worth a look just to see a new take on the RTS genre.
This review is based on a review copy of the PC version of Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, developed by Bohemia Interactive and published by Rising Star Games.