This is a Star Trek fan’s dream and for anyone else a voyage into the unknown as you take on missions aboard the Starship Aegis (or Enterprise) in this simulation game with a twist. However, is Star Trek Bridge Crew any good and worth the price of entry?
Ubisoft announced Star Trek Bridge Crew last year with much delight from VR fans and bemusement from those not quite convinced of VR yet. Let’s just put this out there right away. Star Trek Bridge Crew is a VR game only for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR. So if you want to sit behind your monitor or TV and play then you’re out of luck, now here’s why. Star Trek Bridge Crew is very much a social game that relies on the strength of VR immersion to carry it through. To be frank, as a 2D game it’s not really going to hold much appeal aside from die hard fans who will lap up anything Star Trek. The core gameplay has players assume the role of either Captain, Helm, Engineer or Tactical where each role plays a part in the grand scheme of operating the ship. As a solo player you can dive into the Captain’s chair and issue orders through button presses or voice commands to your AI controlled team mates or if you’re feeling multifaceted can hot-swap roles on the fly. However, with the use of either control method the interface just works and feels like you’ve got a responsive team at your disposal. The voice commands work surprisingly well which means once you’ve worked out its limitations can reel off commands like a pro and mostly the AI will do as asked even if their responses are somewhat robotic. This is perhaps one area where improvement could be made by having more random responses just to add a bit more personality here.
During the single player game you can dive into a number of missions which involve all manner of investigations, rescue, stealth and combat roles. There are even free-play type missions you can jump into as many times as you like. Whilst these are great introductions to the core game they can be quite tough and lengthy for a VR experience. That said, this isn’t a game with any movement per se which means VR sickness isn’t a problem rather one’s head getting hot from wearing a HMD for long periods at a time.
At its heart you’re inside the Aegis with all the lights and consoles right there before you. With motion controls you touch each button and grab or slide each interface to get the desired results which really makes you feel like you’re doing something. In 2D this is simply not going to work as well and at the least will lose a lot of its charm, so it’s quite easy to understand why developers Red Storm has kept this experience VR only.
As mentioned earlier, this is quite a basic game at heart despite its difficulty. As a solo player you have really got to manage your team well, considering the AI won’t act independently of your command even if it makes sense to do so – another area where this game could improve. So the idea here is to complete missions without being blown to pieces by your enemies. Which is easier said than done when playing solo. Therefore, the real crux of the game is in its multiplayer where you can team up with three other human players and fulfill each role (arguing amongst yourselves as to who is who). Naturally, the human element makes for a far more realistic representation where the Captain relies on each players judgement to see you through the mission. So, when there are repairs to be done to the shields after a close call dogfight, rather than wait for the command, you’d expect a human Engineer to be on the case immediately. As a solo captain events can just get too much on top before you’re simply blown to smithereens. There’s also the element of player interactions offering a much more jovial atmosphere depending on the players and this can lighten the mood and add some genuinely funny exchanges which you won’t get from Spock or any of the AI team mates. Whether you’re playing all serious like or in a relaxed manner, this is a massive appeal here.
As for the VR aspects, there’s much to like here as you and fellow players are fully engrossed in their roles with pleasant looking visuals and excellent sound effects. It’s a nice touch being able to switch back to the original TV series Enterprise complete with all the sound effects and controls intact – although it has to be said is a much tougher ship to manage until you become familiar with the layout. Whilst the gameplay is quite simple, being immersed on deck is excellent although it’s a shame there’s nothing more you can do inside the ship such as visiting other areas or even being able to move freely on the bridge. Star Trek Bridge Crew captures the essence of being at the helm of the ship and with exterior views to toggle for greater sense of scale makes for a welcome experience. However, there’s so much more to Star Trek than just flying in space, warping and getting into dogfights. Frankly no matter how accomplished the game is at recreating the captain’s chair, one can’t help but feel what if? What about landing on planets, making discoveries and going the whole hog with such rich source material. Mass Effect Andromeda proves that it’s possible to encompass lots of elements rolled into one and whilst it naturally has a bigger budget, the mind can only imagine what would an all encompassing Star Trek game be like in VR?
Fantasies aside, is Star Trek Bridge Crew worthwhile? For trekkies, it’s a no-brainer of course but for anyone who is not so invested it’s quite a hard sell. The novelty outside of playing with friends could wear off pretty quickly and with repetitive actions makes for a game to play in short doses. It’s also not as energetic as other VR experiences so this is plus and negative depending on who you are. Star Trek Bridge Crew is an interesting gateway into a world of possibilities and yet at this juncture doesn’t fully scratch the Star Trek itch due to a lack of depth. Whilst its a fun excursion for solo players the real meat lies in its multiplayer to carry it through. However, a lack of actions and being left in the same positions each time makes for a game that’s not going to be universally appealing. If a game needed a demo then this is very much one of those. It’s most likely very divisive outside of the fans who will no doubt be having the time of their lives.