Carrier Command: Gaea Mission preview – Strategy? FPS? Vehicular action? Yes.

We were visiting with Bohemia Interactive on an appointment to check out the highly anticipated (in certain hardcore circles) ARMA III, but while we were waiting, another little gem caught our attention. It’s a strategy game mixed with an action game, and it has us very interested. The basic idea in Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is that you are waging a war across the 33 islands that make up mankind’s first extrasolar colony. Each island is its own military installation, complete with benefits it can grant your army, and you attempt to slowly take over the entire area. The interesting part comes from how you take over those islands.

You command a giant carrier, which houses a large supply of vehicles for assault and recon missions. From an aerial view of the island (which looks like an undetailed map) you can send out planes and boats on bombing and reconnaissance missions which they will complete autonomously. At any time, you can select one of these craft and you’ll be shown a live picture-in-picture feed of what that craft is seeing during its mission (which is happening in the full 3D version of the environment rather than the map.) Press another button and you can hop into the driver’s seat of that vehicle and take personal command. At this point Carrier Command can turn into an action game as you bombard the installations from the sea or fire lasers from your aircraft.

But Command Carrier isn’t done yet. You can go even further and take control of the individual soldiers who land on the island. Here the game becomes a first person shooter.

The game’s ambition is refreshing, yet ambition needs to be followed through with an equal amount of technical prowess. The inherent problem with a game of this scale (as EA’s Spore so aptly proved) is that when you focus on so many types of gameplay they all tend to suffer. The phrase “Jack of All Trades, but a master of none” is an overused, but not inaccurate phrase. It’s very difficult for a game to take on so many different tasks and still succeed at them all. And there are definitely some elements of Carrier Command that need work – for instance, some of the (futuristic) aircraft/hovercraft controlled more like a sinking jet ski than a tactical military machine.That said, the current game that we played is fun, and looks to be a very solid strategy experience.

We hope Carrier Command: Gaea Mission will finish up as the great hybrid shooter/strategy game it has the potential to be. If there’s one thing the shooter genre needs, it’s more strategy. And if there’s one thing the hardcore strategy genre needs, it’s more engaging action. If Bohemia can significantly tighten up the aircraft controls and bring compelling action to the first person shooting, this will definitely be one to keep on your radar. Judging from Bohemia’s past track record, they should be able to pull it off. After all, their mainstay series, ARMA, is famous for enabling players to hop from rifle-based shooting to attack helicopters to tanks at a moment’s notice.

Part of their secret is their extremely active, extremely loyal modding community whom Bohemia is intent on keeping a big part of this experience. Normally we wouldn’t make a statement like that in a preview (after all, what company doesn’t want to keep their fans engaged and happy?) but they honestly wouldn’t stop saying it during our demo. Seriously, three separate times in 20 minutes. We get it, guys.

We’ll be looking forward to checking out the final product when Bohemia finally deems it worthy of release. The game has been postponed a number of times, and at one point was even rumored to be canceled. Work is confirmed to be continuing now though, and the current target release date is the first quarter of 2012.

Jun 16, 2011