HighFleet is just the start of Microprose's retro sim revival
Carrier Command 2 and Tiny Combat Arena both look great, too
There’s more than enough Microprose to go around. Graham has been delighted by Highfleet’s supremely clicky interface, as well he should. It looks excellent. But the resurrected publisher has a few more games coming out in 2021 that are worth tracking as well. I'm keen to play both Carrier Command 2 and Tiny Combat Arena. They’re two throwbacks to the publisher’s polygonal past, but modernised in some really fascinating ways.
I don’t know where to start, so I’ll go alphabetically. Carrier Command 2 is like being on the bridge of the Avenger’s Helicarrier, but in the 80s. The basic idea is you have control of the carrier and all its systems from the cockpit, while fighting for control of an archipelago. Each island has a lot of defenses. You decide which one to attack, and how you go about securing the whole area.
It’s first-person in every sense. Your character runs around on the ship, should you feel the need to have a look around the vast carrier (take the stairs, or use the elevator - both work), and when you get to the bridge every command is issued from your own perspective, aided by the consoles and readouts.
Every switch on the console works, every monitor has the correct information, and they’re all interactable. If you want to set a direction, you sit at the navigation station and plot a course. Need to know what sort of ammo your drones are toting? Hit their command console and scroll through the payload information. Approaching a target? Hop into an electronic periscope to tag it for attack. It’s the most VR game I’ve seen that’s not yet been confirmed for VR. It can be played alone, or in multiplayer.
Multiplayer! Everyone shouting at each other, asking for info, plotting together. I watched as much of multiplayer Let’s Play video as I could and it looks like a lot of fun. I won’t directly link to it, as the nature of the game means it's very long, and I can’t guarantee that the ‘banter’ won’t get too uncomfortable (I had to stop watching to write this). But here's a single-player mission that's full of the sense of wonder that I had when I first spotted the game. There was a demo on during Steam’s Summer Games Fest that I’m upset about missing. Instead, I’ve installed developer Geometa’s previous game, Stormworks: Build and Rescue.
Tiny Combat Arena is another simple-looking sim that’s otherwise rich in information, this time putting you in a jet’s cockpit. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to Carrier Command 2’s overall structure. The war will go on around you, and you need to pick your objectives and set-up your equipment accordingly. You’re just in control of your own jet.
It’s bizarre seeing a game that looks like a memory but running at a high frame rate. Flat surfaces, blue skies, flatpack buildings, and dithered contrails somehow in HD. I know less about the loop of Tiny Combat Arena than CC2, but the developers promise that the simulation, though complex, is there for the player’s enjoyment:
“Tiny Combat Arena is all about the fun factor of flying, dogfighting, and close air support. Simulation elements are added to the game in service of creating engaging and deep gameplay, never just for the sake of realism. Simulation inspired mechanics, such as boosting a missile's range by launching from above your target, create a new range of tactics for you to explore.”
I’m keeping a lookout for both of these. Carrier Command 2 has a Summer 2021 release date, while Tiny Combat Arena plans to launch in September 2021.