It’s nice to see MicroProse rising from the ashes begin to gain momentum. It’s nice not because this is the same MicroProse that made X-COM , Civilization and the first simulators of military equipment – after all, almost nothing remained of that company founded three decades ago (one of its fans revived the studio, former employee of another famous team – Bohemia Interactive ). In addition, modern MicroProse is mainly engaged in publishing, not development. The main thing is not the past, but the present and the future: the company has a very interesting line of projects that warms the soul of every lover of “serious” toys.
The first summer release of MicroProse – a weird, complex, but amazing HighFleet – raised the bar high. Next in line was Carrier Command 2 , a sequel to the 1988 strategy game with original gameplay.
End justifies the means
Among the progenitors of the second part of “Aircraft Carrier Commander” is not only Carrier Command for the ancient Atari, Amiga and ZX Spectrum. Other similar games came out: you can recall both Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising 2001, and Carrier Command: Gaea Mission 2012 (by the way, from the already mentioned Bohemia Interactive ) – there is something to rely on, but not enough to take shape in a separate subgenre, despite common key mechanics.
The main idea of CC2 is the very fusion of strategy and simulator, and the main character, despite the presence of a standard protagonist, whom the player controls from a first-person view, is a huge aircraft carrier under our command. It can accommodate military equipment, both ground and air. The ship itself, among other things, has a solid set of weapons: cannons, missiles, rapid-fire air defense turrets and torpedo tubes.
This is how our aircraft carrier looks from a reconnaissance UAV.
The main character arrives at the Telos colony, which has been attacked by a terrorist attack. The villains seized the aircraft carrier and launched a large-scale campaign to capture an archipelago of fifty islands, control over which will allow them to destroy all life on the planet and put an end to the plans for its colonization. The command of the United Earth Coalition gives our hero, who urgently flew to Telos, carte blanche: here, they say, the same aircraft carrier as the terrorists – destroy them by any available means, without limiting yourself in means.
In addition to the terrorists themselves, opponents will also be the automated defense systems that are on every island – they guard factories that allow them to develop their logistics network and supply the aircraft carrier strike group with ammunition and equipment. Our aircraft carrier is on one edge of the map, the enemy is on the other, there are a bunch of neutral islands between them, and in the end there should be only one winner.
This is the plot of the campaign, which, however, is not the only CC2 mode . You can customize the custom game for yourself, specifying the number of islands, the strength of their protection and the presence of additional rivals. The same settings are available in multiplayer: you can try the co-op mode or split into several teams – up to 16 people on the server.
In a short tutorial that precedes the campaign, we are introduced to the basics of original army management. The nuance is that, despite a solid fleet of equipment under our leadership, it is necessary to act here not as in a usual strategy (highlighted with a frame, clicked on the enemy), but as in simulators – to monitor the indicators of the sensors yourself and click toggle switches and buttons, moving along the captain’s bridge from one combat post to another. A kind of Sea of Thieves in a sci-fi setting.
Almost all of the buttons and screens in the cockpit are interactive.
At first, it is exciting: turn on the engine by pressing a key, turn the steering wheel and throttle stick, switch map modes, observe the enemy through the periscope and work at the UAV operator’s station – all this plunges into the atmosphere. It turns out a schematic, but quite reliable simulator of an aircraft carrier commander – as the name of the game says.
No less attention is paid to other combat units. Again, these are not faceless units that, obeying commands, burn up in the fire of endless battles, barely leaving their home plant. Firstly, there are not so many of them here – a maximum of eight ground and the same number of air. Secondly, each unit is a bright individuality, and the player himself gives it this individuality, collecting these unmanned aerial vehicles from several modules. The number of chassis types for each type of equipment is quite modest – only four, but in bulk modules of equipment and weapons that can be placed on these chassis: there are missiles of all kinds of guidance, guns of different calibers, MLRS, observation cameras, virus bots necessary to capture the islands …
… And strategy
The island, after the capture, transfers its production facilities to our disposal: on one of them you can make special modules, on the other – ammunition, on the third – cargo barges … These barges, in turn, transport payloads both between the islands and directly to the aircraft carrier. You have to build a whole logistic system for the optimal supply of your army – and it “eats” with appetite: some shells have to be transported in hundreds, not to mention spare parts for equipment.
Each unit can be controlled both by setting waypoints and directly from the first person view. This opens up a fairly wide scope for strategic planning, but leaves the opportunity to take control of any unit into your own hands and fight as if in a simulator. The latter, however, is more likely a necessity, given the not the best path-finding algorithm for your charges (for which, by the way, Gaea Mission was also severely scolded ).
You can go into the cargo hangar and watch the dispatch of your units on a mission.
As a result, the line between strategy and simulator is completely lost here, and the prospects of multiplayer hacks for several teams of three or four people seem so attractive that I want to agitate all my friends to try the new game as soon as possible.
Wait and catch up
However, I started thinking about finding comrades for multiplayer even during the first attempt to start the campaign – this passage was too measured, to say the least. Most of the time is waiting: waiting for the amphibious bots to reach the island in order to capture it, waiting for a barge with a load of equipment, you have to wait even for the aiming of main battery guns! Battles between bots are very leisurely due to low damage from cannons and a large supply of health, and they cannot be called exciting: monotonous shooting for several minutes with a minimum of movement. Carrier Command 2 – for the patient.
Or is she just boring? At first, it seemed to me that a single person would not have enough working hands on the bridge: set the speed and course of the aircraft carrier, make sure that it does not crash into the coast, give orders to ground units, sit at the UAV’s wheel yourself – when to do everything? As a result, it turned out that there is enough time with a margin – you start looking for something to do yourself. This is certainly not the Sea of Thieves , where entertainment is enough at every turn, and during long swims you can entertain yourself with music and fishing.
The periscope in the control room allows you to look very far.
This is not only the fault of the “simulator”, which initially, on the contrary, attracted attention – realistic distances require realistic time spent to overcome them. But if the ten-minute voyage of the barge with the cargo can still be tolerated, then the passivity of the opponents is already seriously upsetting. This is especially noticeable in the campaign, where there are as many as 64 islands. The enemy starts on the opposite edge of the archipelago, and in order to meet him for the first time in battle, you will have to spend a lot of time. Yes, it is still necessary to fight with neutral forces during the seizure of the islands, but you will not find a special intensity of passions in such battles.
But what about multiplayer? Yes, the same – in any case, if you manage the entire company with one aircraft carrier, fighting against AI. As you know, co-op will make any game fun, but CC2 seems to be an exception. The possibilities for team interaction are not bad here, but everything is spoiled by the notorious slowness. Of course, you can configure the server for a faster meeting with the enemy – for example, add the number of opposing teams and reduce the archipelago to a dozen islands. But then a solid layer of gameplay disappears, which consists in building a competent supply chain and committing sabotage against enemy barges. And, given the very modest starting supply of equipment, you will have to fight with a limited set of units – and what is the interest in that?
In a team of four, everyone is busy with their own business.
We can consider the chances of success in the PvP mode – everything can be fine here if CC2 retains an audience sufficient to smoothly search for opponents. But the network code leaves much to be desired: constant lags, desynchronization, stuck in textures – we still have to work and work on polishing.
The sketchy graphics are both a homage to the 1988 original and a result of the use of the work of Stormworks: Build and Rescue, the last game from the studio Geometa.
I was looking forward to CC2 ( I also look forward to future releases of MicroProse ) – I love serious toys, and the slowness of the gameplay never scared me, rather the opposite. But, unfortunately, hopes were not justified – at least for the time being. Developers from Geometa managed to achieve synergy between strategy and simulator , but the entertainment elements of the gameplay leave much to be desired – the game is boring even in co-op. Carrier Command 2 will not hurt a bit (but, as they say, a lot) of fun and dynamics, but for now this is a thing for those with solid reserves of patience and free time.
Pros: an organic mixture of simulator and strategy.
Cons: the gameplay lacks dynamics; bad networking code.