by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Remake of a Classic
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is a remake of the 1988 classic Carrier Command which was released first on Amiga and Atari computers and the next year on several other platforms, including even Commodore 64 which was already getting archaic during that time. I have to admit that I never played the original and I can only assume that I was too preoccupied by Ultima V (released that same year) to notice any other games. But, even without me, the game gathered a large following and was eventually the inspiration behind Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising in 2001 and now finally earning a proper remake in the form of Carrier Command: Gaea Mission.
The basic premise is simple enough: you are in control of a special Carrier carrying amphibious and aerial vehicles and your task is to capture small islands in an archipelago. Each island can be used to increase your defence, mining or production. The backstory to the action is relatively irrelevant. Basically, Earth has been divided into two factions, UEC and APA, the latter of which is in control of Earth. A small force of UEC soldiers land on a small moon of Taurus to fight the APA forces, but most of them end up decimated upon their entry into the atmosphere. Thereafter, the hero – a mere lieutenant – and two of his underlings mount an attack against the APA islands and try to find any other survivors of their task force.
The campaign mode of the game starts with a confusing action scene in first-person perspective. You are grounded and a voice – apparently your own – says that ”I will check out that path”. You, as a player, have no idea what path he is talking about and will spend a few moments running around in classic FPS style trying to figure out where you are supposed to go. A woman called Essi (extra points for a Finnish name) follows you and you must protect her as you are assaulted by robotic enemy forces. At one point, you hear a crash and your character says something about the road getting blocked to which Essi replies that she’ll find another way. It took me a while to swivel around and walk back to figure out that the road I had just followed had been destroyed and blocked and Essi was trapped on the other side. You then continue alone through some typical FPS fare until you find the Carrier and capture it and the game proper finally begins.
Simple and Slow
With the rather embarrassing FPS prologue over and done with, you are faced with a strategic map showing the island that you just captured, as well as a few other islands of the archipelago. You can zoom around, sail to the next island and learn the controls of your amphibious Walrus units and your aerial Mantis units. The latter are relatively weak but fast craft that you will want to use mainly for recon duties until you find better armour mods for them. The 6-wheeled Walrus units are therefore your main method of attack and exploration when you land on a new island. In the beginning these units are armed with simple machine guns, but you will soon find mods that will give anti-air turrets, laser cannons, extra armour, ammo etc. perks to your vehicles.
You can personally take control of any one of your units at any time and switch between them whenever you want to and let the AI take care of the rest. As you explore and capture the islands, the difficulty and challenge increase slowly, teaching you the various aspects of how the islands can be protected (shield stations, radar stations, anti-radar stations as well as Mantis and Walrus units), but the basic premise is always the same: you roam from base to base, taking down defences until you can finally take down the Command Center and claim the island as your own. Occasionally, you will find research stations or factories that provide you with new mods or blueprints for them.
It works, The Mantis is quite fun to fly around with.
Buggy AI, dated looks, bad voice-acting, repetitive gameplay.