It might be a surprise to some that Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is actually the reboot of the classic strategy masterpiece Carrier Command that was originally released on the Amiga and Atari ST in 1988. The question is, though, has Bohemia Interactive managed to successfully update the series, or does it crash and burn?
In the distant future, Earth has been ravaged by war and is now an almost uninhabitable wasteland, the oceans have become polluted and a new supply of fresh water is needed to restore the planet to its former glory. A solution was found on the moon Taurus of gas giant M38 in a distant planetary system and now a race is on to take control of the moon before the power-hungry Asian Pacific Alliance.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission follows the story of Lieutenant Myrik, an experienced soldier in the United Earth Coalition as he commandeers a damaged and disused Command Carrier battleship that he must use to conquer a series of islands on the moon Taurus and eventually defeat the enemies more advanced Command Carrier. Unfortunately, as epic as the scale of the story is, it is quite slow paced and fairly forgettable, on top of that, the cutscenes are painfully voice acted and don’t really fit in with the rest of the game too well.
The opening section to the game which is used to introduce you to the characters and locations is actually delivered in the form of a first person shooter. Unfortunately a fairly poor one at that. Enemies are ridiculously easy and the controls are far too inaccurate. This section of the game lasts far too long and it would have been far more beneficial for it to have been much shorter. This could easily put many people off the game before they even manage to get to the strategy sections that form the bulk of the game.
Once you have finally made it past the opening section, the game takes on its true persona and anyone who has played the original will immediately notice that the gameplay in Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is pretty much identical. You take control of a Command Carrier that allows you to deploy up to eight units; four amphibious vehicles and four aircraft, that you can either control directly or by issuing commands on a top-down map. It may seem rather simple to only have two different types of unit, but the sheer amount of customization allows you to adapt these units as you see fit to suit the situation. When you first start you are only able to use a small variety of armaments, though once you have completed a few missions or retrieved the required blueprints from an island's research centre you will be able to build additional weapons, armour upgrades and support items for you vehicles such as AA guns, lasers, ammo boxes and repair units. Of course, having a varied squad is key to surviving your attempts at conquering the numerous islands.
The islands themselves have a great amount of variation and range from mountainous wastelands and volcanic fire pits to arctic tundra, and no two locations are the same. Your main goal on each of the islands never really changes as you will always have to take the enemies command centre, but to mix things up a bit, you may have to disable shield generators, hack firewall devices, destroy radar stations or investigate research centres, all which help to keep the game varied and not too linear. Once you have taken control of an island it becomes a part of your supply network, each island fills the role of either production, resource collection or as a defensive island and by setting up extra building on these islands you are able to change their roles as you see fit.
It should be noted that Carrier Command: Gaea Mission shouldn’t be taken lightly. The gameplay is quite slow and it will require a lot of patience to get the most out of what the game has to offer. Even after 15 hours of gameplay, I had hardly scratched the surface of the campaign. Production times are quite long and once an item has been made you will have to either collect it from your stockpile island directly, or have it delivered to you via your supply barque, a small vessel that can track the location of your carrier. Both of these take time and if you are in desperate need of reinforcements you may be waiting for quite a while, and to add salt to the wound, the supply barque can only carry a limited amount of supplies.
Their also happens to be a lot of downtime to contend with as well. Once an island have been captured you must return all of your vehicles to the carrier before you can move on to your next location, this means they’re making their way back to the ship without even a single enemy in sight, which can be rather frustrating. Once all your vehicles have returned you can finally set sail again, but this again is not a quick process. It obvious that this downtime is available so you can decide on what production you may need to continue, which repairs are needed to be made to your carrier and what supplies you require from your stockpile, but the time in which it takes to do most of these tasks is normally much shorter than what is required to get back into the fray and you may spend quite some time just staring at your screen.
One obvious flaw to the game is the A.I path finding which often seems to get confused, on numerous occasions some of my amphibious vehicles would get stuck between rocks, crash into trees or just stop all together, requiring me to step in and fix the problem myself. This was most annoying when my other vehicles were already in position and taking fire, thus ruining the carefully planned pincer movement or airstrike I had spent much time and resources planning. Your attack vehicles aren’t the only things that seem to get confused either, on a few occasions my supply barque failed to arrive at my location and would just stop, in order to rectify this I would have to manually move my carrier into range of the barque, wasting time and fuel in the process.
As well as the main campaign, Carrier Command: Gaea Mission offers gamers the choice to play a strategy game, which is basically a simplified version of the campaign that gives you complete freedom over how you go about your conquest of the group of islands. Your only goal in this mode is to capture islands and defeat the enemy carrier, and this ends up being far more enjoyable than the actual campaign due to a wide variety of pre-game settings that let you choose your starting resources, production rates and the number of islands that are initially under your control.
When it comes to achievements, Carrier Command: Gaea Mission features the obligatory story progression achievements plus a whole host of achievements for destroying certain numbers of vehicles and turrets while in direct control mode, these may take some time and if you favour the strategic gameplay over the vehicular combat they will take even longer to earn. One achievement that may take even longer to earn though is Island Hopper which requires you to capture over 250 islands. As the game only features an archipelago of 33 islands you will need to complete either the campaign or strategy games a minimum of 8 times and that is if you capture every island each time you play through.
As I mentioned earlier, Carrier Command: Gaea Mission isn’t for the faint of heart and will require a lot of patience to get the most out of what the title has to offer, but once you get to grips with the game’s complexities you will discover a strategy game with plenty of depth and a huge amount of scope. While it is slightly frustrating from time to time, it is a faithful reimagining of the classic strategy game and anyone who is a fan of strategy and is looking for something that is a bit more challenging will find this to be right up their street.
The reviewer spent approximately 15 hours playing through the campaign, and an additional 8 hours in the title's strategy game mode and only felt seasick once or twice