|Platforms||PSVR (reviewed), Vive, Rift|
|Developer||Red Storm Entertainment|
|Release Date||May 30, 2017|
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a co-operative bridge simulator set exclusively in virtual reality. Up to four players must team up to crew the bridge of the U.S.S. Aegis, which is exploring an area of space known as “The Trench” in search of a new homeworld for the Vulcan’s following the events of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Players take on four different roles and must actively work together to succeed at missions.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a phenomenal virtual reality experience. The ways in which players can interact with one another thanks to inhabiting a VR space cannot be understated. Ubisoft have set their VR stall out creating social experiences and in that regard they’ve succeeded beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. Getting to sit on the bridge of a Star Trek starship is one of the coolest experiences of my gaming life. Crewing the U.S.S. Aegis was such an authentic Star Trek experience that I might have wept were it not for the lump of coal in my chest where my heart should be.
From the briefing room filled with trinkets and easter eggs to Star Trek to the bridge itself, Bridge Crew is easy to recommend on the strength of its authenticity alone. The ship interior looks great and everything down to the smallest details in the sound effects feels right. The original Enterprise bridge, which can be used as part of the ongoing voyages mode, is also absolutely amazing to experience (if almost impossible to get to grips with, thanks to all the consoles resembling a collection of wine gums stuck to a piece of perspex).
Being in this physical space with other people is what makes this a tremendous experience. Whether looking down on everything from the captain’s chair or manning one of the other three stations. Turning to interact with crewmates is an impressively physical experience. You can chat, gesticulate, point and generally feel like you’re really conversing with your mates (or strangers) on the bridge of a starship. It’s an incredible social experience. Though I could have done with a more robust set of character customisation options, as what’s offered here is a bit lacking.
As for the game itself, you take on one of the bridge roles on the starship Aegis. The Captain makes decisions, organises the crew and is the only person who has access to all the information and objectives. Tactical scans and runs the weapons and defensive systems. Helm flies the ship. Engineering supports by balancing power between systems, with the option to reroute power if necessary, and also repairs damage. Each station offers a different type of experience. Captains and engineers are more passive, while helm and tactical offer a more active role.
No one station can function without the others. Helm needs Engineering to charge the warp coils to fly long distances, for example. Tactical needs Helm to keep enemy ships in weapons range. Engineering needs the others to make use of the power they’re providing. The captain needs everyone to carry out their orders and successfully complete missions. No one cog is more important than any other. Every mission would be a failure if just one position went unmanned.
It’s an impressively designed balancing act that functions seamlessly in practice. Tutorials exist to take prospective crew members through what all the buttons do on their respective stations. Once everyone knows how to operate their consoles, the rest comes naturally. Whether you’re versed in the language of Star Trek or not, Bridge Crew will be easy to play. While it might seem daunting to non-Trek fans they’re well catered for by an intuitive, well explained system of gameplay mechanics.
Playing with friends is the ultimate way to experience Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Get some mates together in VR and you’ll have a blast. Guaranteed. Teamwork and communication are key and slipping into your role is effortless. As is roleplaying, which happens so naturally you won’t even notice yourself saying “aye, captain” or “I’m giving her all she’s got!” If you aren’t rolling with three of your friends, however, playing with strangers is an absolute delight.
Bridge Crew has one of the best multiplayer communities I’ve ever come across in an online game. In the spirit of the game itself, everyone involved works together really well. Roleplaying happens naturally even between strangers and I’ve had absolutely zero trouble with any random players. I started out with just Tom and Russell to call upon when it came time to play. Now I have a small group of potential shipmates, made up almost entirely of people I’ve met through simply joining random crews.
It has to be said, however, that single-player is the game’s weak link. Whereas playing the game with others is an exceptional multiplayer experience, the changes necessary to make this work as a single-player experience are lacking. Alone, Bridge Crew is a game of micromanagement. You sit in the captain’s chair micromanaging AI controlled NPC’s via a series of menu’s, jumping into specific positions if the need arises. This robs the game of its otherwise authentic bridge simulation experience.
It’s functional, but not all that fun. It doesn’t help that the AI is limited in what it can and can’t manage. If you’re attempting a rescue mission stealthily, for example, you can’t order Ensign Rao (your AI helmsman) to fly towards your target but avoid a Klingon patrol. It’s one or the other, meaning you’ll need to assume direct control to effectively complete some objectives. Ensign Rao is also a fairly awful pilot who will occasionally steer the Aegis into an asteroid for fun.
Bridge Crew’s missions are sadly limited. There are no away missions and nothing that can’t be accomplished by four bridge officers. What is offered here is brilliant for multiplayer fun, but it’s not the all encompassing Star Trek game we’ve waited decades for. What is here is compelling and built for replayability, though. The campaign is short, with just six missions making up Bridge Crew’s story. It’s actually the game’s ongoing voyages mode where you’ll spend the majority of your time.
Ongoing voyages is a random mission generator. You select from one of four mission types (defence, research, recover and rescue) and are launched into a game with randomised objectives based on your choice. While objectives are broadly similar within each mission type, there’s a decent amount of variety involved. Defence missions will always see you thrust into battle, but what happens will be different. One such mission saw us warping around a system to rescue three different starships, another had us defend a single stricken ship from waves of Klingon patrols.
What isn’t randomised is The Trench itself. It’s made up of a set series of star systems and locations within those star systems. It’s possible to become familiar with these places. There’s a great variety to them – you’ll find yourself warping between planets, asteroid fields, black holes, starship graveyards and many more. They all look absolutely fantastic to boot, building into Star Trek’s inherent sense of wonder and awe at exploring strange new worlds.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a Trek fan’s dream – the chance to gather your friends and man the bridge of a starship together. Even non-Trek fans will be able to extract a lot of enjoyment out of the game, thanks to its intuitive gameplay mechanics and helpful tutorials. Playing this game with friends is guaranteed to be a great time. Even playing with strangers is a great time thanks to the game’s brilliant online community. It’s a shame that single-player doesn’t hold up as well, though.
While the game’s campaign is sadly short, the random mission generator combined with the unpredictability of playing with other people is good for a lot of replayability. There are plenty of things I wish I could do in Bridge Crew, but what’s here is compelling and addictive. It’s quite honestly my favourite VR game to date, an absurdly authentic Star Trek experience and one of my new go to multiplayer games period.
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