As far as traditional game genres go, real-time strategy has never been one of the more accessible styles.
Similarly, Bohemia Interactive has a reputation for its realistic, uncompromising PC military-shooter franchise Arma. And so it's interesting to hear senior designer Martin Melicharek describe Carrier Command: Gaea Mission as an action game first and foremost, but "with strategy elements".
It's hard to agree with this based on what was showcased – at its core lies what seems to be a fairly complex strategy infrastructure. But the apparent beauty of Gaea Mission is that players can completely ignore this aspect if they so desire. For them, if they really want it to, Melicharek's description can hold true. Similarly, it appears, RTS purists can play it strictly in their chosen style.
Veteran gamers will no doubt remember that Carrier Command isn't a new IP, first appearing on various computer platforms in the late '80s. Back then it was considered a unique blend of real-time strategy and vehicle simulation, and Melicharek explains that Gaea Mission is "a re-imagination in a modern engine."
As in the original, the player ultimately commands a futuristic battleship-type vessel, which acts as a hub for exploration, issuing orders, unit creation and deployment. With this, they'll square off against a similarly equipped enemy vessel in a territorial battle.
Set on the Earth-like planet-moon Taurus – mankind's first extra-solar colony – the war zone of Gaea Mission lies in a 33-island archipelago, and tactical command of these islands is crucial to the player's success. After capturing islands, the player can assign them to defensive, resource-gathering and manufacturing purposes to aid in their conquest of the archipelago.
Interestingly, the terrain throughout the rather large battleground varies between six different environments: wastelands, marshlands, volcanic, mountainous, arctic and 'temperate'.
The gameplay is generally conducted via a tactical, top-down, undetailed view of the battlefield. From here, the player can micro-manage the entire operation, secure and utilise resources, assign waypoints to units and so on. A small display in the top-right corner of the screen shows the first-person, real-time perspective of the player's currently selected unit. At the press of a button, that perspective expands to fill the entire screen, affording the player full command of that unit. Owing to preference, players can largely ignore the action or strategy aspects at their leisure.
Among the units on offer are: the MANTA (Multi-role Aircraft for Nautical Tactical Assault), which can be deployed with one of three armour variants for certain purposes; the WALRUS (Water And Land-Roaming Utility Shuttle), a six-wheeled, amphibious vehicle that also comes in three flavours; and defensive and scout drones.
While this free-roam strategy component comprised the entirety of the original Carrier Command game, Gaea Mission introduces a story-driven campaign. The campaign draws its lore from the an existing sci-fi property – the Gaea Universe – to which the original game has no connection.
Unique to the campaign is the inclusion of infantry, with the occasional first-person shooter mission. This aspect made up only a small part of this particular demonstration, but given Bohemia Interactive's chops, it should be in safe hands.
The versatility of Gaea Mission allows strategy purists and gung-ho action fiends to find something to love within the very same game. But its underlying complexities appear to establish it as no mere action game.
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is scheduled for release on PC and Xbox 360 on September 27.