Carrier Command

Carry on Commanding?

Somewhere, in an old magazine long since recycled, I read about  Carrier Command. I think. If I recall, there was a little bit of a retrospective of it, or an interview with a developer, that kind of thing. What any of the words said I have no idea, I just remember the screenshots. Well, no, not even the screenshots really, but the style of the screenshots - the look of the game... Something about aircraft carriers...

What I'm working towards here is that I know of Carrier Command, but I know very little of it, and so it's handy that the 1001 book is actually a bit more than a long list of titles. The description mentions the plot, where, in the distant future, a robotic aircraft carrier has been stolen by a terrorist group, and it'll take another robotic carrier, equipped with land and air drones all commanded by you the player, to see safety brought back to the region.

It sounds pretty darn good, with the potential to be a real cat-and-mouse-like game of strategy and action as you work your way towards your target, claiming islands as your own for use in gathering resources and providing defensive measures against your enemy.


What I found no mention of, however, was how utterly overwhelming the entire thing is - not just the concept of the game, but navigating the menus that perform all the functions you'll be asking your robotic task force to do.

In many games, you can pick up a controller and bumble your way through the first level, learning as you go. In Carrier Command, bumbling through the menus was a challenge, especially when you've not got an instruction manual at hand. Can you tell me what the icons mean? They make some sort of sense the more you know what screens and submenus they bring up, but at first glance, you've got limited hope. Especially with that weird one in the bottom left...

I stumbled into the controls for my robotic ship... somehow... and immediately proceeded to crash it into an island. I'm talking immediately, as in 'press forward a couple of times and 'bam', grounded'. I nope'd right out of the game and went to YouTube, where there are perhaps surprisingly few videos out there.

Fun Times

Carrier Command plays out in two modes, one focused on strategy, where you start off on the back foot (and, while you're losing yourself in the menus, your target is merrily moving on their own route towards you, not caring for how often you've played before) and have to play catch up for a bit, and the other focused on action, with a much more level playing field, but one that still requires you to know what you're doing and choose your actions carefully.

The aim of the game is to destroy the target carrier, the ACC Omega, which can apparently be done without too much fuss, depending on the methods you use but is still ultimately a task that requires to you to destroy an entire aircraft carrier.

You can hunt it down and hammer away at it with your own carriers weaponry, but you'll very likely need some resources in order to keep in the fight, and that means claiming some islands and establishing bases on each. You do this using one of your drones, a Walrus, and assign it to turn an island into either a raw material producing resource island, a resupplying factory island, or a dedicated defensive island. If the enemy already lays claim to an island, the Walrus can be equipped with a means to turn the island over to you as well.

Island taking sounds so very defensive, though, so for the action oriented gamer, your other drones are known as Mantas. They can be equipped with a variety of weapons and can be launched into the skies above the archipelago in order to rain destruction from above - but only so long as they are within range of your carrier, ensuring that you can't just sit in safety and turn Carrier Command into some kind of Air Combat game.

If you do get close to the enemy carrier, your carrier is also equipped with offensive and defensive measures, and at this range, it'll pay to know where you're shooting, as each carrier can get damaged in different ways. Aiming for the engines can slow the target down, and aiming for its weapon systems can impact their effectiveness and so on. To combat this, both carriers are equipped with auto repair capabilities but take too much damage to a specific area and not even that will help you out.

Final Word

All of this sounds interesting to me, it really does, but based on my first experience with playing it, and the speed at which I nope'd out of the game, trying to get back into Carrier Command for a proper go at it is a challenge that I don't see myself doing anytime soon.

You then learn that the games - mostly the strategy mode - can last for hours, and are left wondering whether or not that's simply too much time to dedicate towards losing. Because you probably will lose. Or at least I will. Trying the action mode would only really help me to see my robotic killer in a short space of time, rather than having to wait for it. The mode essentially starts you in the middle of the strategy mode, a shortcut to the action if you will, giving you a taste of the game you could be playing if and when you're ever skilled enough to manage it.

There could be a good chance that Carrier Command is exactly what you're looking for - an action strategy simulation game of sorts - in which case do get around to playing it. To stress the point, it sounds great, but in the form it's in, I simply couldn't get into it.

Maybe I was having an off-day, maybe I'm still too stupid to jump into games from this era, maybe I'm approaching Carrier Command all wrong, I don't know. I hope I'm a changed man by the time I get around to playing it again.

Fun Facts

I would try the 2012 remake, Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, but knowing it's developed by Bohemia Interactive - the guys behind the Arma series - I'm dreading controlling it even more. But, it could all be my imagination. I shouldn't jump to conclusions.

Carrier Command, developed by Realtime Games, first released in 1988.
Version played: DOS, 1988, via emulation.
Version watched: Amiga, 1988 (JimPlaysGames)