REVIEW: Carrier Command, Gaea Mission
Title: Carrier Command, Gaea Mission
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 (reviewed on Xbox 360)
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive, Mastertronic
TL;DR: Very ambitious but just as unfriendly
Family Friendly? Click here for more information.
Gaea Mission is a viciously hard sequel to an 80s classic that seems to want you to give up – but not just because it’s difficult.
It’s quite surprising just how aggressively unpleasant I found it playing Carrier Command, an RTS set in a future where the United Earth Coalition is fighting the Asian Pacific Alliance (glad we’re not stereotyping here…). The chips are down for the heroic UEC, and a final battle will take place on a distant ocean world to decide the fate of humanity. Carrier Command sees you take the captain’s seat in an aircraft carrier, directing and controlling up to four air and four amphibious units in the war against the dastardly enemy.
So I was more than a little surprised to find the game open with a dull first-person shooter section that lasted an hour or more. Sadly, it set the scene for much of what was to come. A breathtaking lack of instruction left me wondering around aimlessly trying to work out what was going on; poor AI meant I had to reload so that my NPC companion finally stopped running against a bit of scenery and came with me to the objective. Your character cannot jump, random small items totally block your path, you can shoot your NPC friend without consequence and yet you die if you touch water. I persevered, though suspect many would not. Surely this was merely an ill-judged introduction to a well-executed real-time strategy game?
When you do finally get to the substantive game, it does get better but is a very mixed bag. The amphibious Walrus tutorial mission sees you run out of fuel before you could possibly complete it, just to show you that you need to refuel on the carrier by only fuelling your Walrus a third of the way. The game is – it bears repeating – very hard indeed, so after I died, I had to restart again with one third fuel. I tried refuelling immediately, but it wouldn’t let me – I had to go through the whole rigmarole of almost running out of fuel before the carrier would refuel me. Thoughtless, perhaps, but it feels somewhat unfriendly.
The fiddly, difficult controls are simply out of place in a game released in 2012, adding further to the sense that the game just doesn’t care if you like it or not. It is very difficult to engage with a game that makes so little effort to guide or welcome you. If you set a path for your units and leave the AI to carry out the orders, it will struggle to take your units to their destination, getting them stuck on terrain or confused about their route, making personal involvement a must – but with multiple units, that’s a real struggle. Another serious gameplay issue is the lack of a compass when directly controlling units – combined with the above problem with allowing the units to reach a destination themselves, it adds up to a most frustrating experience.
The juggling aspect is a key part of the game and you do have to micromanage production and resources, as well as the fuel and ammo of your units, but like the other aspects of the game, it isn’t the enemies that are difficult but the way the game was made that stumps you. I don’t mind losing to a superior, fair, opponent. I do mind dying because the game is glitchy or the mission objectives are horribly unclear.
The graphics are attractive in the main combat mode of the game, but the strategic overview is retro, in an awkward, ugly way. The cut-scenes are very strange indeed; reasonably attractive considering the budget the developers probably had to play with, but the characters seem to speak with lockjaw, badly-delivered lines always emerging through gritted teeth.
The developers reportedly made this sequel because they loved the original, but to be painfully honest I didn’t feel a whole lot of love during my time with Carrier Command.
- Ambitious and unusual concept
- Briefly satisfying when you do manage to pull of some carnage
- Impressive graphics
… White Flag
Buggy AI Gobsmackingly unfriendly learning curve The first-person shooter sections are just pitiful
Rated unsuitable for tweens and younger, though it is hard to imagine a generation brought up on Ghost Recon, Lego Star Wars and Kinect having any patience for this.