Hands-on: ‘Star Trek: Bridge Crew’ is All Action

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Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Ubisoft’s latest foray into VR, is poised to throw you into a number of command roles aboard the U.S.S. Aegis (NX-1787), a newly created star ship built on the aesthetic of J.J. Abrams directed franchise reboot. If you’re into role play, get out your Vulcan ears boys and girls, because Star Trek: Bridge Crew is ripe with possibilities.

The Road to VR team piled into the Nvidia booth at E3 to try out an alpha build of the newly revealed online multiplayer space sim. Given an Oculus Rift, a pair of Touch controllers and the choice between three positions aboard the bridge; tactical, helmsman, or engineering – explained to us initially with the question: “Do you want to shoot, steer, or…uh…. do engineering?” we were left to decide amongst ourselves. Being a long-time fan of the franchise, I wanted to finally sit in the captain’s chair and condescend to everyone aboard the ship with Shatner-esque swagger. No dice. For this particular build, command is still an unspecified role filled by our gracious Ubisoft-employed captain. Once we divvied up the duties, we sat through a short explanation of our respective command consoles.

HQ star trek bridge crew e3 2016 (2)

As a tactical officer, it was my job was to raise and lower shields, target and scan objects, and shoot the ever-living shit out of whatever after locking on with my photon torpedoes and phasers.

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Familiarizing ourselves with the controls, our captain first took us through a research and rescue scenario of some escape pods that we happened upon (always a good sign). Scanning the teeny vessels, we learned there were life signs aboard. “Tactical, lower shields. Engineering, beam them up on my mark. Energize,” our captain ordered us. “There’s another pod on the starboard side, Helmsman. That’s the right side,” he clarified.

Collecting all the stranded passengers, we were ordered to warp the hell out of there, effectively ending our humanitarian mission. Reducing to impulse speed, we happened upon a Klingon battlecruiser. Without a single measly hail, we were fired upon.

HQ star trek bridge crew e3 2016 (3)

What came next was a flurry of orders. “Tactical, shields up! Lock on and fire at will! Helmsman, keep them in sight! Engineering, reroute power to phasers!”

And then another Klingon cruiser dropped out warp. No good. We were outgunned and already suffering serious hull damage, evidenced by a few exploding console panels and some pretty alarming fire seeping into the ship’s bridge.

HQ star trek bridge crew e3 2016 (1)

Road to VR‘s Frank He took the helm of the U.S.S. Aegis, remarking about the real world effects of the virtual responsibility of steering the crew to safety:

I thought the game was very fun, utilizing social elements in combination with game mechanics that required teamwork. At the end of the session, I was even sweating a bit as I felt the pressure and responsibility of being the person who flies us out of sticky situations and making sure everyone had good sight of what they were doing. The Tactical Officer for example needs a good angle of any enemies they’re targeting so I had to keep the ship aligned to any enemy ships circling around us. One thing I could imagine that would improve the experience would be if you had a good armrest on the real life chair you’re sitting on, as the touch panels in the game are interacted with by holding your hands slightly in the air sometimes, and as the Helmsman who steers the ship with quite an analog sort of touch interface, accuracy can be tricky sometimes without something to brace your hand on. Even better might be if you placed a real life table in the same position as the touch panel for true haptic feedback!

Star Trek: Bridge Crew is headed to Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR in fall 2016, although Ubisoft hasn’t officially confirmed cross compatibility yet. Integration of Touch felt very well done, and the game made sure that your hands didn’t clip through control panels and that sliding the UI was smooth and simple. In fact, the only physical buttons you needed on Touch were the trigger for activating console sliders and the ‘X’ button to toggle a more cinematic view from outside the ship.

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On top of a campaign mode, the game also promises to deliver a procedurally generated missions for both co-op and solo play, a mission style that uses bots to fill the roles of the other crew members.

Conclusion

Born and raised a Star Trek fan, I’m the sort of curmudgeon who’s still on the fence about the new Star Trek films. On one hand, I’m glad to see interest come back to a series that I grew up with and love, but at the same time lament the fact that it has to be full of good-looking people doing actiony things. To me, Star Trek isn’t supposed to be an action-packed space epic, but rather a generational treatise on universal exploration.

This however doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of really stepping foot aboard the bridge of a Federation vessel, and assuming the role of a crew member in perpetual crisis. While we weren’t really afforded much else than a vertical slice of combat, I’m still holding out for the chance to do a little peaceful exploring and inter-species negotiations to further peace in Federation space. Either way it goes – be it a simple combat sim or a fully featured Star Trek experience – I still desperately want to be captain.

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  • dogtato

    Three cheers for not being an oculus or psvr exclusive! I’m so glad I don’t have to write this off as irrelevant like so many other titles

    • dextrovix

      Agreed! Mind you, we’ll still have uPlay *slow clap* ;)

  • Paul Zirkle

    What does VR add to this that isnt already accessible in Artemis? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Q2X32hZNk

    • victor

      What it adds? Are you kidding?
      For one thing you are not looking at a flat boring screen like these bozos but you are in fact INSIDE the star trek enterpise IN space, along WITH your friends. What more can you ask?
      For someone to ask a silly question like you have is probably due to the fact you have not actually tried proper VR(oculus/vive)
      It truly is the closest thing we have today to an actual holodeck!

      • Paul Zirkle

        A) I have, which is why I’m asking this. The ‘presence’ that VR offers is already present outside of VR in this game. Perhaps you’ve never actually tried proper Artemis.

        B) These bozos are looking at a flat boring screen just like those bozos are looking at a flat boring screen. One is IRL and one is LED, but both setups have a local console and a shared large display. Meanwhile, these bozos can drink and interact with each other, and no one is going to get sick or tired after 15 minutes (unless the chicken wings are bad).

        • Brandon Chupe

          Just wanted to chime in. Motion Sickness isn’t as big a deal with current VR hardware (Long as the game is done with the express intent of not making you motion sick… Which it should be, but sadly a lot of devs seem to forget.)

          I will, however, state that Artemis is pretty close to Star Trek as it is. Cool parts of this Star Trek game, depending on how the project goes, would be being able to play this with people across the continent as if you were next to each other as well as seeing the ship surround your peripheral vision. Don’t knock that last one. It really does provide quite a lot of additional presence.

          Looking away from the screen and seeing the bridge with all of its flashy blinky pseudo-useful lights and buttons… I’d say that’s worthwhile. Also don’t forget that using the motion-tracking controllers (not sure how well Oculus’s controllers do, but Vive’s are insanely accurate) would let you interact with all these fancy buttons in 3d rather than a 2d space.

          Basically… The suspension of disbelief doesn’t weigh as heavily on you in a VR version of this as it would with Artemis. This isn’t to say Artemis is not awesome, that game is endless amounts of fun.

          • yag

            Correction : it’s not “motion sickness” but VR sickness, and it has more to do with the kind of VR experience and the sensibility of the user, than hardware.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality_sickness

          • Hans Wurst

            The problem is about to get solved. There are already headphones in development which have electrodes in order to trick your mind in believing your body really moves!

          • yag

            If you talk about Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), I would hold my excitation. Samsung made indeed a prototype (Entrim 4D) but we still don’t know if it works well. And we still don’t know if sending electricity into you inner ear is safe on the long term…

        • victor

          Argue all you want, try VR and THEN get back to us !
          By the way I play for HOURS and NEVER get sick or tired. Motion sickness mainly only happens for games where your controller is controlling your walking. Absolute non-issue for sit-down games.
          I was completely obsessed when I first got my oculus a year ago and still am today.

        • Hans Wurst

          So I get it..you haven’t tried VR yet..

    • RavnosCC

      Let’s you play it from anywhere in the world, “together”, with your friends. And includes the Star Trek metaverse as a bonus.

  • John Horn

    OMG! And it’s coming to Vive! I think this game might be heaven.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    ON THE VIVE??? Yesssss!!!