E3 2011: Carrier Command: Gaea Mission Preview Impressions

Is Carrier Command an action game or a strategy game? Both, as it turns out! We find out more at E3 2011.

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Remember Carrier Command for the Commodore Amiga? No? Well, that's OK: Bohemia Interactive is resurrecting it with its upcoming strategy/action hybrid, Carrier Command: Gaea Mission. At E3 2011, we caught up with Bohemia's Martin Melicharek, who showed us a demonstration of this intriguing game, which is currently set for release in the first half of 2012, definitely on the PC--and possibly for consoles, too.

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At first, it was hard to wrap our heads around Carrier Command, but after a short while, we were better able to understand how this strategy/action game works. If you played Battlestations: Midway or Battlestations: Pacific, you then have a basic understanding of how Carrier Command works. As captain of a giant floating craft carrier, you fight for control of a 33-island archipelago. You do this by building units and structures as you would in a traditional real-time strategy game. From a tactical map, you deploy units and give move and attack orders to them.

However, you don't just watch the action from overhead. Instead, you take control of these units and jump right into the action, playing Carrier Command as if it were an action game--and a surprisingly varied action game, at that. There are two basic types of craft: aerial and amphibious. In an aerial unit, you take to the skies and play Carrier Command like a flight combat game, shooting lasers at your foes. In an amphibious unit, the action is at sea or on land. The single-player campaign even has first-person shooter levels, in which you, as the captain, infiltrate bases while taking aim at robotic guards and other enemies. (FPS levels will not be a huge part of the game, however.)

Units are highly customizable. They come in light, medium, and heavy variants, and you can slot various technologies into them. So depending on how you outfit a unit, you might be able to launch a small recon aircraft, release defense drones, or fire cruise missiles. And not every craft is suitable for every mission. For instance, Melicharek drove an amphibious craft onto an icy island's shore, but it moved slowly and handled poorly on the frigid land because it wasn't suited to the terrain. Each craft has subsections that can be destroyed, making that part of your unit unusable. For example, should a turret get destroyed, it will no longer fire. These smaller craft aren't the only vehicles you control, however. You can also move the large carrier that functions as your primary super-unit and even control the turrets and other installations attached to it. And if you'd rather stick as close to the battle as possible, you don't even have to switch to the overhead map to issue orders: you can issue commands from a wheel menu while in command of a craft.

Your general goal is to capture islands by building command centers there. To do that, you can destroy an enemy's command center and build your own in its place, or you can infiltrate it. Should you succeed at such a capture, you then take control of all the units there that belonged to your enemy. When you aren't fighting, you use the islands under your control to produce units, mine resources, or provide defense. You can change an island's role (from defense to unit production, for example), but the change doesn't occur immediately.

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The game takes place on the Planet Taurus, which is providing refuge to two different factions after Earth's destruction. The archipelago is made up of 33 islands, so you should expect a lot of environmental diversity, whether you stick to the campaign or play one-off skirmishes. The game is currently single-player only, but Melicharek expects that multiplayer support will be added at a later time. Sound intriguing? Expect to be playing Carrier Command: Gaea Mission sometime next year.

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