by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
I've often dreamt of being in the navy. Iceland doesn't have an army, but if I had joined I imagine I'd be in the command of my very own aircraft carrier by now. While submarines are also cool, nothing matches the awe inspiring firepower of a carrier. Especially the one featured in Bohemia Interactive's upcoming Carrier Command: Gaea Mission. Ah, a man can dream.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is an intriguing mix of strategy and action and gives the player complete control over how he wants to play the game. The game literally puts you in the commander's chair, controlling everything through a screen in front of you. The strategy part features an archipelago consisting of 33 islands. These islands act as ‘strong-points’ that you will have to take control over to strengthen your position. The action part comes into play when you launch an attack on an enemy island or an enemy carrier. When you do, you get to control any one of your units while leaving the strategy and tactics up to the AI. I expect that most players will want to play the game as a mixture of both as that will give you control over every aspect of your attack.
The game's campaign will start with the player crash-landing on an enemy island. Your objective then is to fight your way to the first vehicle and ultimately to your carrier. From there, you will be able to launch four areal units called Mantas and four amphibious ones called Walruses. Each of these is highly customisable and everything from their weapons systems and armour to their scanners and sensors can be changed to your preference. Your units can be directly controlled and flying around in a well-equipped Manta and blowing things up is incredibly satisfying.
Scout drones can be used to see what defensive units await your invading force before launching an attack. You can control these too and it’s wise not to get too close as enemy units will spot and attack it as soon as it comes in range. You'll have to take care not to fly out of telemetry range either; when you do you will start to see increasingly severe noise in the camera feed. Scramblers can be built which will limit the range of your carrier's communications array, forcing you to move your carrier closer until the scrambler can be found and taken out. For this, a combination of a spy drone and the carrier's own cannons can prove very useful.
Even the carrier itself can be directly controlled if you so choose. Sail it to an island, take control of its cannons and lay down a suppressive barrage on the enemy base while your units mop up the straggling survivors. The carrier has two types of cannons: straight flying plasma and more traditional ballistic shells. Senior designer, Martin Melichárek, showed us a neat trick where he flew a drone close to an enemy outpost and switched between the cannon on the ship and the drone; firing from the cannon and using the drone to monitor the impact, using it to adjust the cannon's aim.
In tactical view, the map shows a satellite image of the region with enough detail to show the foundations of the buildings on the island. It will not show whether the enemy has already constructed anything on those foundation until you have visual confirmation from one of your units. Every inch of the islands will be traversable in the game, leaving the full map open for action. The islands are diverse, no two look the same and each is part of one of six different temperate zones: temperate, wasteland, arctic, volcanic, marshland, and mountainous. A real-time day/night cycle and weather pattern adds even more diversity in the ambiance of combat.
One of your primary tasks is setting up your island network and ensuring that it is well. An island can be converted into any of three categories: mining, manufacturing, or defence. Defensive islands give adjacent connected islands defensive bonuses and by customising the optimal network of islands, you can keep the enemy from capturing them while you go out to hunt for his. Enemy island connections are not visible, however, so islands that look harmless could be armed to their proverbial teeth.
Starting conditions are flexible and you will be able to set how many islands you start with, how many resources you have and what the victory conditions will be. The latter are divvied up between total control over all islands, the destruction of the enemy carrier or both.
No multiplayer will be included but if this game proves successful, Mr. Melichárek promised that the sequel will definitely feature multiplayer. I, for one, would love to battle some of my friends carrier vs. carrier. Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is a one of a kind game, although comparisons have been drawn with such classics as BattleZone and Homeworld. Few strategy titles manage to achieve Carrier Command’s level of depth and this is exactly what makes it worth looking out for.