Talk about stressful waiting games… the horror started back in 1988 when the original Carrier Command came out. It was so damn good that the wait began for what surely must be a sequel. That didn’t happen! Then a decade and a half later, work on an independent tribute title was slowly creeping forward, the result of which still hasn’t eventuated.
Then tensions spilled over when it was announced last year that Bohemia Interactive (the Arma guys) had the rights for a new CC game. Too much to worry about! Would it be amazing or would they fruck it up?
Well it’s here and it’s amazing! Stress=evaporated. Replaced with unbridled joy. Happiness!
A ‘paid beta’?
A public beta has been underway for a month and we’ve been hitting it hard. It demos the nuts and bolts, with full carrier operations and units. The final game will have over 30 islands and a full storyline campaign, as well as the sandbox play. For a small cost you get the beta and ongoing updates, then a full copy once it’s released. Nice way to do it, Bohemia!
A group of islands is your playground. The idea is to take control of them all, in a staged campaign. You’re free to attack any island, anywhere, as long as your carrier has enough fuel. Each island, once captured, can be converted to be either a Resources Island, which sends its goods to a Production Island, being your second choice, or the captured island can be a Defence Island, brimming with automated guns, vehicles and signal jammers – but contributing nothing to your war machine.
A big sexy carrier is your tool. You drive it manually, or set waypoints for the AI to drive it. It has guns, which can also be manually fired, or will do their thing automatically if unattended. They’re short range point defence only, though you can purchase missiles for effective land attack. There’s also a lovely big laser weapon that’s handy for hitting stuff on land, and the penultimate enemy carrier battle.
So it’s a carrier sim?
It’s a sim of the carrier, the units aboard it, and your production and resource network. Onboard the carrier, your control room is where you assign production for your island network, everything from spare ammo to replacement units and upgraded armour are controlled here, with production going on in the background across your island network. Choosing when to send the delivery barge on its way is a balance between ‘must have stuff now!’ and ‘must wait til just one more fuel unit is built so I can sail to some important but too-far-away island.’
Combat is amazing. You can pilot the Mantas (flying) or Walruses (tanks), or let them go in independently via AI. Here it all gets fantastically complex and intense. Via a mini-map you can play it as a RTS, and picture-in-picture shows unit vision as you play General. At any time you can jump in and take control of any unit, which is handy at critical moments. Or do all the combat yourself, with posture orders for units in your squad.
But! There’s only four of each unit, so attrition is something to be desperately avoided. Every unit is precious! You can get replacements, of course, but in the heat of battle there’s no time for that.
Enemy islands, just like your own, are one of the three types. Resource and Production islands have few guns and unit bases, are somewhat of a pushover, but Defence are way tougher, and also have damned signal jammers that minimise your vehicle’s range and must be taken out first.
Then there’s the enemy carrier itself, which you generally won’t ever see until the endgame, for a mother of a final face off.
It’s fantastic! The tension, multiple levels of strategy that change in an instant, and the immersion all work like a finely balanced work of genius. Bohemia nailed it and with this unique genre comes a triumph that will reward players for many years.