Ubisoft’s long-awaited Star Trek: Bridge Crew, the co-op space sim that puts you at the bridge of your very own Federation vessel, is nearly here (coming out May 30th), but we’ve had our mitts all over a pre-release copy for a few days now. Wherever you may fall on the spectrum of Trek fandom, Bridge Crew promises more than just a genuine Trek experience with its exciting gameplay and social component that is sure to immerse.


Star Trek: Bridge Crew Details:

Official Site

Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Available On: Home (Oculus Touch), Steam (HTC Vive, Oculus Touch), PlayStation VR 
Reviewed On: Oculus Touch, HTC Vive
Release Date: May 30, 2017


Gameplay

Stepping back a bit from my affection of the many iterations of Star Trek universes—explored in the recent re-boot films and older TV series spanning back to Star Trek (1966), aka “The Original Series” (ToS)what I experienced in the last few days with Bridge Crew was a profound realization that I am not a Federation captain, not yet anyway.

Piloting the fictional vessel, dubbed the U.S.S. Aegis, on an exploratory mission to the uncharted sector ‘The Trench’ in efforts to find a new planet for the Vulcan race after the Romulans destroyed their home-world, I quickly found out that when the Klingon Empire is breathing down your neck and real people are counting on you to make the right decision, that I still need a lot more time with Bridge Crew before I can put on the well-deserved swagger of a Kirk, Picard, or Janeway. That’s not to say you can’t have your ‘captain-y moments’ in the beginning campaign with your friends though, but when the goings get tough, role-playing that Starfleet swagger quickly deflates in front of the very real barrier of 2 Klingon warships and 4 scouts coming in for the kill.

And even though the game promises only 5 ‘episodes’ that range from 20-30 minutes of gameplay a piece, the difficulty level spikes significantly around the last two missions, so be prepared for the likelihood of an entire play session getting scrapped because you didn’t get a critical instrument back on-line while taking heavy fire. Despite some hypothetically quick mission times, you can easily invest several hours alone trying to beat the last two campaign missions.

flying high at Helm, image captured by Road to VR

I found the campaign mode, which can be completed with or without a fully-manned, live crew (AI can fill in the gaps), to be much more difficult as a lone player. Because AI can’t really take on detailed orders like, “avoid that gravitic mine while running away from that anomaly while shooting at the upcoming Bird-of-Prey,” you sometimes have to jump into the AI’s position to get what you want out it. You can also issue crew-wide orders to the AI from your captain’s chair that make some things a bit quicker, like aligning warp vectors and repairing critical ship functions, but that’s not really what Star Trek: Bridge Crew is all about.

When playing alone, I found that micromanaging a ship’s AI effectively photon-torpedoes the fun right out of the sky. Instead, the soul of the game is more about becoming an effective communicator with like-minded players and having those deeply surreal moments when your ego jumps into the shoes of a bridge officer commanding, responding, and caring about the world around you. Those are the deeply satisfying moments of the game, when you can cheer for victory and bond—even with perfect strangers.

at the Captain’s chair, image captured by Road to VR

Without going too deep into each station’s duties (you can a video of the full explanation here), the intensity of the enemy and the various objectives flying your way can quickly overwhelm any station. Besides requiring effective communication between players, the game hinges on your ability to keep systems repaired, and correctly balanced for the task at hand.

As a captain in the co-op mode, you keep an eye on mission objectives, and also the game’s three maps; a local map, an impulse map for farther objects of interest, and a warp map displaying far-flung locations. Only mission-relevant locations can be accessed during the campaign mode, so exploring is a bit ‘on rails’ as it were. Here it’s your job to efficiently order the crew according to their roles and keep an eye on everyone as they go about their individual jobs.

At engineering, you can overcharge engines, phasers, shields at the expense of all other systems, or lower your output entirely to maintain a low profile radar signature for moments of stealth, a requirement for some missions. Engineers can repair everything except your hull, meaning once your shields go down, you’ll be accruing permanent damage.

Repairing, rerouting and distributing power at Engineering, image captured by Road to VR

Tactical can fire torpedoes in limited supply, phasers that need charging, and subsystem intrusions that let you knock out the enemy’s engines, phasers, etc. Helm’s job is to maneuver the ship from point A-B, keep targets in sight, and be on point when it comes to aligning impulse and warp vectors for quick getaways.

Outside of campaign mode, Bridge Crew also offers ‘ongoing missions’, which serves up a selection of procedurally generated challenges available in both solo and co-op mode. These entail rescue, defend, attack, and exploratory missions. To add another level of difficulty, you can also fly the original Enterprise (NCC 1701) during ‘ongoing missions’, which is more powerful but less stealthy. To my surprise, the old Enterprise is fairly dead-on with screen accuracy, replete with a charming array of unlabeled flashing lights and buttons (you can toggle labels on if you need help).

Aboard the Enterprise, NCC-1701, image captured by Road to VR

In the end, Bridge Crew is more about ‘pew pew pew’ and less about peaceful exploration than I personally care for, but that’s probably better for everyone’s enjoyment in the long run.

Cross-play between Vive, Rift and PSVR was switched off in the pre-release version, but Ubisoft says it will be ready at launch.

Immersion

The look and feel of the game is nothing short of amazing, and fans are sure to appreciate the attention to detail. The ship’s interior, although taking after the J.J. Abrams re-boot films (love it or hate it), thankfully lacks the director’s penchant for lens flares and dramatic camera angles, instead putting you in a very real, very well-crafted ship’s bridge. As the ship accumulates damage, consoles predictably start exploding, sparks fly everywhere, the walls catch fire, and NPC redshirts even fall to the ground after they’re electrocuted to death. It all brings a sense of danger into the forefront as your immaculate ship is torn to pieces.

Space exteriors are graphically less involved however, and seem a little too cartoonish to be believed. Science buffs will undoubtedly shake their heads in anguish when they see the game’s lumpy-looking stars with equally lumpy-looking planets far too close to each other. That’s not a big concern, but it does detract a bit from the game’s wow-factor personally.

image courtesy Ubisoft

As for the interior, controls are logically represented and well-labeled for each station. Some buttons become unresponsive during and a bit after impulse and warp travel is concluded though, which isn’t exactly helpful when you’re trying to get a jump on your respective duty. This leaves you effectively tapping a button until the game decides you’re allowed to use it; a small annoyance, but you get used to it.

Avatar creation falls slightly flat because its done via a collection of very rough presets, letting you choose between man or woman, Human or Vulcan, and a number of ethnicities via a slider so you try to create something unique. You can also make them stockier, older, and cycle through a few hairstyles and colors. I never really found an avatar that fit me though.

image captured by Road to VR

While playing, the avatars didn’t really much matter though since you’re either looking at the backs of heads or directly at a console. In any case, your companions’ gestures and their voices, placed in 3D space thanks to positional audio, rounds out any misgivings the avatar creator might have.

Thankfully the game lets you play either with gamepad or hand controllers, which means anyone with a high-quality VR headset can join in. Players with hand controllers will notice that console screens actually act as barriers to your virtual hands, which is helpful when it comes to accurately hitting a button. While this technically screws with your body’s proprioception, or the ability to innately understand where your body parts are without looking, it didn’t really bother me after hours of play time.

Comfort

As a seated game, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is an exceedingly comfortable experience. With the bridge and consoles acting as physical anchors, and the ship’s slower turning radius and speed, you’re likely to have minimal problems if you’re usually averse to artificial locomotion-induced nausea.

The developers at Red Storm Entertainment are well-studied when it comes to VR game design, and offer plenty of near-field space debris and particles to give you the sense that you’re moving in space without the discomfort inherent to artificial locomotion.

Conclusion

The big question remains whether Star Trek: Bridge Crew will be a flash in the pan with an initial period of hype, or a long-lived success with a steady player-base. I can see myself logging on and playing through the campaign with buddies and maybe even making the procedural missions a weekly addition to my routine amongst friends (as long as everyone is having fun). Even playing with random people was a blast, but the fact remains that fresh content like new campaign missions, ship types, and greater multiplayer-driven game modes, are all needed to keep users interested and coming back to have what I would consider one of the most fun social gaming experiences I’ve had to date.


A special thanks goes out to social VR industry pro Shawn WhitingRoad to VR exec. editor Ben Lang, and a random English guy by the moniker ‘the_weird’ for helping with the review of this game.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
9

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  • Not having the Enterprise D bridge is a HUGE mistake imo. The Next Generation is easily the most popular of the Star Trek series, and the Enterprise D bridge is by far the one I think most people would genuinely want to spend more than a few minutes in (it’s actually a pleasurable environment to be in, rather than looking like some kind of sterile and soulless hospital operating room), so I absolutely would have included it in this game if that was even remotely an option.

    • bud

      Its such a precious storyline that every one feels so wonderfully captivated by it, people expressing such concerns and feeling of distress is truly a credit.

      Don’t worry Inceptional, you got to know that as much as you like the Enterprise D bridge you got fokes that are going to be involved with making this and future VR experiences, THAT LOVE to make you feel a part of the Star Trex experience.

      I don’t post here often but ill go ahead and say for my generation of 40 to 45 year olds, you guys are going to make us all melt inside and swell up giving us our dream of all time of being on the ships of star trex.

      Lets just support these guys as much as possible, I didn’t catch if this is a free to play or store game but what ever the cost ill support. up to £49.99.

      Thanks the team and people behind this, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      LOVE STAR TREK!!!!!

      • Bonxers

        I love Star Trek but have never heard of this “Trex” of which you speax.

        Is it related to the Borx?

        • bud

          edited, now go get a girl friend. :-)

    • Doctor Bambi

      Prime DLC territory, let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    • Master E

      Seriously, just assign the entire company to make the brain crushing VR game we want already! Go for it! VR is so awesome

  • HoriZon

    As long as it has some great DLC to keep us playing well beyond realese day.

  • Skippy76

    I was fortunate enough to be a beta tester for this game. Although i had fun during the 2 day test. I might have a hard time purchasing the game. The social/teamwork aspect of the game was excellent. The 2 available missions were okay. Out of the 4 available positions on the ship, the Capitain was the most boring. The only fun part was pressing the alarm button. Otherwise. It’s a useless job in this simulator.
    You get to choose between the original 70s starship which is very aweful or a modern ship which is much easier to manage.
    The gameplay was fun as long as you’re paired up with a decent team.
    This game will definitely please the typical Star Trek fan but for people like me.. It was an experience that will be quickly forgoten.

    • bud

      Have to imagine they are going to work on it as a labour of love for the foreseeable future and build up a massive following, why kill the goose that lays the golden egg with a half arse effort at a potentially huge following gaming base.

      did you hear about the VR game http://flagshipgame.com/
      look it up on you tube, it would have been the perfect game, it never reached its kick starter which is a shame of the decade.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Sadly, I have seen many games with serious potential fall by the wayside as developers move on to other projects, and never round-out a product or add to it. I hope this is not the case here, I think ST:BC could be a break out game for VR easily if they put the effort into it.

        • Master E

          Exactly, still feels like either they are seeing if people buy it and there’s worth it $ return and/or they just haven’t figured it out yet or had the time to create the depth of a game we expect from regular AAAs

    • Skippy76

      I forgot to mention that you are required to install the horrible Uplay bloatware from Ubisoft to play this game. Another turnoff for me.

      • Master E

        Aren’t you tired of everything we have to register for nowadays? At this point I don’t care anymore, just retina scan me or use my finger print. Too many passwords and sloware

  • polysix

    “one of the funnest”

    One of the MOST FUN.

    Saying “funnest” makes you sound inbred, even if it’s (now) technically ‘allowed’.

  • GameFace

    Star Trek: Bridge Crew!

  • John

    The game may be the most beautiful thing imaginable. The treatment of customers by UBI is a disgrace but only because the customers keep telling them it’s ok to abuse them as long as they get to play a game. It’s like an abusive marriage where the customer is being promised the world one minute and beat to a pulp the next.

    Ubisoft charged $80 CAD for pre-orders. Then dropped the price to $60 CAD and left it up the customers to figure out what they did and request they’re refund of the balance. They deliver nothing to pre-order customers that normal customers won’t get.
    They make the game available to the entire US market Only for Oculus users. Brand new customers in the US where able to buy the game and play it 2 days before release, all by accident of course. Anxious international players used VPN connections to get around the US only release til it was eventually shut down. They promised users a 12am release May 30th on their own forums and one hour before release notified them, whoops we meant only for PS4, Oculus which we accidentally released on the 28th can be released until 12 noon on the 30th. Somehow it doesn’t strike me as all that managed

    I worked for international software companies. Sure things slip, they always have and probably always will. UBI is offering a whole new spin. Abusing customers and taking the position that it’s all somehow someone else’s fault. Failed planning, mismanagement it’s all someone else’s fault. It’s too hard to give retroactive refunds to customers after a price drop and if they ask for the partial refund stall them for an entire day, escalating the request. And why in the world would you ever treat a preorder customer any better then everyone else. Oh and releasing to the US only first.

    But the customer love this treatment. It’s what they want and I’m betting there are more then a few UBI employees bent over laughing at how much abuse they can lay on their customers and watch them give thanks for it and come back for more.

    • Get Schwifty!

      I think most game companies are managed by opportunistic low life’s… you always hear about tactics like this more so from some than others, but almost all of them seem a bit sketch.

  • Master E

    So like most VR games as of late I can’t help but think…

    “Damn I wish developers had 4-5 years of mastered work behind this concept or game.”

    It’s very apparent to me that big names studio devs just haven’t had the 4-5 years needed for comparable non VR AAA titles to fall into our hands. They are still figuring out what it is people like, how they are going to operate, how to create min 120fps quality graphics.

    That being said, STBC is a great example of improvement in VR games… they are slowly getting better.

    I would love to see these guys just recreate a couple seasons of STNG as playable missions for a VR game. That would let us explore and perhaps run into the various episodes randomly through space, mixed in with some dev created missions.

    Even adding planetary exploration and beaming down with a team, where you can decide who to bring based on their skills i.e. Data, Ward, Dr. Crusher (for instance if it was a rescue mission and people were hurt)

    I can’t help think of the potential for VR and STBC is yet another game that gets closer, but is still just so far away from being the game changer people seek for this technology.

    I hope I live to see it… thers so much $ in VR now someone’s just gotta bite the bullet and go for broke here.