Hands On (Deck): Carrier Command (Beta)

Fishing, APC style.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission has entered a “play & contribute” beta, a familiar sort of exercise in which you get to play a slice of the strategy campaign – the meaty archipelago-conquering core of the game – in exchange for your pre-order. Having already dabbled in some of the story mission elements of this action-heavy strategy, I was keep to get stuck into this deeper challenge. Read into the depths to see how I got on.

Remakes now seem to be thematic of our time. Not sequels, but actual, wholesale redoings of original games. Some are inexplicable, while others, like this one, make perfect sense. Carrier Command’s original incarnation was well ahead of its time, and it’s only logical that we, the people who live in the future, should want to revisit it. There’s that niggling sense that perhaps we should be basking in a world of game design that doesn’t need to dredge up things from decades past, of course, but we’re able to rapidly skip past that when we see what a robust and handsome creature this remake is turning out to be.

We plunge in: an overview of the archipelago is provided on the map screen, which is the versatile management screen for all aspects of the game. A few tutorial voice-overs chatter away as we decide on the best course of action. Here you can zoom right out to get the full picture of what’s going on, and all the way in to see the specific locations of units and structures on the individual islands. Here too you control your carrier, which can be directed to move between the various islands, entering a “time warp” acceleration when in open sea. On the occasions where the enemy carrier is present at an island you are moving toward, the journey stop some distance from the island anchorage and have to cruise the remainder of the way into range.

You can’t send your flying and floating drones out too far from the ship, either, and you’ll need to keep them in effective range to be, well, effective. The map screen is overlaid by the interface carrier’s vehicular deployments – AI controlled mantas (VTOL craft) and walruses (amphibious assault vehicles) – which you can take direct control of at a whim. This full-screens their point of view, which is otherwise reduced to a camera view top right of the map. Once in control you find yourself enjoying a rather punchy shoot ’em up, with a few diversions such as defending a vehicle that is hacking a base, or helping to repair battered craft in the field. Leaping between the vehicles, to the map, and back to vehicular control again is a seamless joy. Watching a craft you were just controlling limp back to the carrier as you charge back to the fight with its replacement is evocative to the point of thrillingness.

Once into the campaign proper the first thing I did, of course, was attempt a frontal assault on a heavily defended enemy island. That didn’t work particularly well, and all my vehicular units found themselves popped and abandoned like so many party balloons. I pulled back and studied the map a little more closely. Perhaps attacking the enemy island which was given over to industry, rather than defence, might help my progress.

And indeed, you do need to give over many of the installations on islands to productivity, because you need to keep the carrier supplied – via little cargo boats – with new mantas, walruses, and equipment for the same. You also need to keep an eye on fuel. A carrier can be stuck at an island if it doesn’t have enough fuel to make the trip. More importantly, the base craft are all extraordinarily flimsy, and need to be buffed up significantly if you’re to keep them alive against the aggressive computer-controlled units.

Three big challenges face Bohemia’s dev team at this point. AI, variety, and stability. This build is very much a work in progress, with months of development time left to it, which will be one reason why it feels a bit wobbly (I had a CTD during one battle), and I suspect Bohemia will advance their build considerably for the proper commercial launch. The AI right now is not stupid – it pathfinds well, and shoots and enemies accurately – but it nevertheless rudimentary, and things like hacking a compound certainly rely on your manual intervention. It’s theoretically possible to play the entire thing from the map, but I suspect that will end up being far too frustrating, and would largely be missing the point.

Anyway, once I did arrive that that industrial island, I found myself jammed – which leads into my third point about variety. The designers were already mixing things up a bit – requiring me to move the carrier around the island to deploy my attack vehicles within its diminished, jammed range. If they can continue to be inventive in this way throughout the campaign, then it could be enormously satisfying. The game will largely be about blowing up an island’s defences, securing its facilities, and driving off the enemy carrier in defence of your own islands. It’s not clear to me whether the two vehicle types available will really provide enough tactical variety to keep things fresh after you’ve beaten a couple of islands. The layer of electronic warfare defending that first island suggested that maybe it could.

The campaign is tough, and that’s almost certainly down to the early stage of balancing that it finds itself in, but I also found it engrossing, even in this unfinished state. Probing an islands defences and realising I could bring the carrier in close to the shore to provide massive fire-support for my initial assault was a thrilling moment. If Carrier Command can boast a few more of those in the course of what I expect will be lengthy campaigns, then we could be in for a treat.


  1. Neurotic says:

    I think it’s even cooler when it’s a well-established developer doing the resurrecting – I had no idea Bohemia were behind this! And, it’s another of my old-skool Amiga favourites! Happy days!

  2. Biscuitry says:

    Carrier Command will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my very first game, you see. I’m glad that this remake seems to be staying true to what made it great.

  3. Vagrant says:

    I am always impressed by how Bohemia interactive handles making new games, by creating something that fits within the scope of their original engine, instead of making something from scratch or having to make extensive modifications.

  4. DaftPunk says:

    Viva La Bohemia!

  5. MrThingy says:


  6. TheWhippetLord says:

    This game looks very promising indeed. Hopefully it’ll spawn a subgenre at last and I can stop pining for Hostile Waters. :)

    • Max Ursa says:

      for the life of me i couldnt think of the carrier game narrated by one of the classic Dr Who’s, hostile waters… *searches for disks*

    • Werthead says:

      Carrier Command inspired Hostile Waters. I suspect Hostile Waters inspired Carrier Command (2012). Based on this I expect Hostile Waters 2: Aquafierce no earlier than 2020 :-)

  7. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    By Jove, I think they “get” it!

  8. Sassenach says:

    Quite aside from commendations on it’s style, I am impressed and suprised that development seems to be moving along as solidly as it is. Well done them.

  9. kzrkp says:

    I’m curious about the related novel that was published. link to heliospublishing.com
    Proper writing can do wonders for a proper game. :)

  10. Heliocentric says:

    Carrier Command: Gaea Mission – Play & Contribute Supporter
    £ 31.99

    That’s just to high for me, i guess I’ll just have to watch how this develops from the outside.

    • Harlander says:

      It’s £15.99 if you just want to get into the beta (and get the game)

    • Caleb367 says:

      That’s the uber-deluxe package – netting you access to the beta, soundtrack and two copies of the game (on on direct download, the other a Steam license). The basic one – which I also got – gives you the beta access and direct download copy on release only for about half the price.

  11. Jimmy says:

    I had a loan of this game when I was 13 on my Atari ST FM 520. I returned to it via STS emulators but it crashes. I was following the dev diary of the guy who started the remake ten years ago nearly, and I knew Bohemia were working on the new version – couldn’t go to a better company. Looks like it’s finally close..

  12. ayo says:

    Fantastic!! One of my favourite spectrum/st/amiga games is back with vengeance been waitin for this since Hostile waters too,H W deserved an even bigger sequel and the ending was disappointing.Nice one tho Bohemia:-)

  13. bill says:

    It has harvesting? Gah… One of the best things about Hostile Waters was that I didn’t have to worry about all that rubbish…

    Hostile waters 2 with less turrets and a few more tactical options to take out enemy supply lines, etc.. would be awesome.

    • MadMatty says:

      uhm theres harvesting in Hostile Waters- just booted it up

    • Zombat says:

      Guess you forgot all about the Scarab with it’s nanite powered scrap vacuum?

    • AlexHeartnet says:

      My understanding that the supply lines in Carrier Command are pretty much automated. You just designate an island as either stockpile or factory, where they get moved around by submersible cargo drones without needing any further interaction from the player.

      Oh, and supply chains can be cut off if the enemy takes the right island. Having the supply islands is one thing, making sure the supplies can actually reach you is another entirely.

      The supply ships here might actually be represented ingame as actual boats that can be attacked and sunk, rather then hand waving them as being the only submersible vessel around because they weren’t able to make actual physical supply ships in the first game.

  14. Joote says:

    I bought this a few weeks ago. The strategy part of the game stays faithful to the classic and is fantastic to play even in beta.
    The other good thing is, if you buy it now you can get it for half what the release price will be, and get early access.

    I have a feeling that this game is going to be BIG.

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  16. aldo_14 says:

    Desperately hoping they allow vehicle/unit modding for this.