Carrier Command: Gaea Mission - a super-hard, amphibious RTS in an ArmA 3-quality world
This article originally appeared is issue 243 of PC Gamer UK.
It’s almost like Bohemia remade Carrier Command to remind you how tough games should be. My Mantas are diving into the sea, my islands are being taken incrementally by an aggressive AI while I faff about taking just one of its archipelagoes, and my Walruses are being clubbed to death by ground defences. And the enemy doesn’t even have a carrier! Carrier Command is lemon difficult.
The original Carrier Command, of which this is a particularly accurate remake, was created back in the mists of gaming history, 24 whole years ago. I’m not surprised if you didn’t play it, but I find it sad that it’s been so long. Carrier Command is from the ‘platypus’ genre – games like Battlezone and Giants: Citizen Kabuto that have webbing and bills in all the wrong places, and lay eggs – and those games are always fascinating.
In Carrier Command, you take control of a naval carrier. Obviously. It is both a mobile arms depot and futuristic mothership, carrying four amphibious tanks, four flying egg boxes, a fistful of big guns, and a bellyful of spare parts. You control these vehicles either directly or on the superbly intuitive map, directing them to capture islands which can be turned into mines, factories or defences.
It’s a game of joyous plate-spinning. Keeping an eye on eight precious vehicles and islands whilst trying to focus on your objectives and production is tough. The build we’re playing is a classic beta – feature-complete but without the bells and whistles of a tutorial, campaign and so on – but it’s clear the learning curve is steep.
What makes it compelling is that it’s so well thought out – the vision of vehicles decreases the further they get from your carrier, so controlling them at distance gets even harder. When your carrier is travelling between islands, the game dilates time so that you’re never sitting around. You can flip between unit cameras while watching the map. And woe betide a player who loses a kitted-out Walrus and hasn’t got the spare parts to replace it.
On top of that, it looks astounding. Bohemia have created a perfectly futuristic carrier and placed it in an ArmA 3-quality real world. The islands themselves are hand-crafted (though randomly placed on the map in this sandbox beta), so invading one is like unpicking a fine weave; using a quick air strike to take out the weak AT guns, before a hasty retreat away from the AA fire buys me the time I need to rush a hacking Walrus into the Command Centre of an island. It’s only a pity that the preview build I’ve played has so little variety – the same island types crop up repeatedly, and the enemy carrier is still disabled.
It’s fantastic to see such a faithful remake of such an attractive aberrant. Since E3 last year, Carrier Command has been top of my must-play list, and this playthrough has just made me even more excited.