Review: Star Trek: Bridge Crew
Give the single-player a miss, it's all about multiplayer.
You can’t have failed to miss one of the biggest virtual reality (VR) releases this year, coming from Ubisoft in the form of Star Trek: Bridge Crew. The name alone has ensured a massive amount of hype for the title after its E3 2016 debut featuring actors from the recent movies and TV shows. The title puts you on the bridge of the USS Aegis, to boldly go into the stars on missions with other players, saving lives and encountering hostile enemies.
The videogame puts you in one of four roles, Captain, Helm, Tactical or Engineering, each with its own particular job to do, ensuring the success of each mission. To begin with you’ll sit round a table and select what role each of the four players will take. Generally this will involve the host taking the Captains position and the rest for you – either discussing democratically – or very quickly selecting which of the other roles you want to take, (this can vary depending on whether you play with friends or strangers).
What becomes quickly apparent is that Captain, Helm and Tactical are the three choice positions to grab. While all four are just as important for smooth running of the ship and its mission, in terms of gameplay those three offer the most entertainment. Those at the helm directly control the ship, and its flight path, so hostile encounters can turn into a sort of dog fight, alongside engaging impulse thrusters and warp. While tactical can scan ships to look for weaknesses to disable, life signs to transport, and the all important weapon systems – firing off a volley of proton torpedoes is always fun. Engineering on the other hand keeps everything running by distributing power to various systems or repairing them. It might be a crucial role – the helm can’t initiate warp without engineering activating it – the role is always the last to be chosen as it tends to be the most boring of the four.
For a videogame where you’re essentially sat at a desk pressing buttons the entire time Star Trek: Bridge Crew is still a very engaging experience. Completing missions with fellow players offers a really rewarding challenge as it’s only through concise teamwork that missions can be completed, building up a camaraderie that’s very difficult to achieve in other multiplayer titles – or just none existent. It’s an experience that thrives on player interaction and developer Red Storm Entertainment has delivered a formula that works exceptionally well.
So far Star Trek: Bridge Crew hasn’t suffered the same problems as other multiplayer focused titles – a lack of players – likely due to so many players looking forward to seeing the title release. The studio has made the wise choice of including a single-player option, where you can choose a role – always the Captain – and the rest are AI controlled. But this is the weakest mode to play, feeling hollow and uninspiring. Yes, it’s exactly the same as multiplayer, and you can switch between the different roles if you so chose but there’s no spark to the experience. Ideally you should look at it as a practice simulator – there is a training mode to teach you what does what – helping you fine tune those skills in each role so you don’t suddenly balls things up in the actual multiplayer.
While Star Trek: Bridge Crew definitely appeals to the core fan base – Ubisoft has added the original USS Enterprise in there as well – non Star Trek fans of the franchise will also find something to like about the title, especially with a few mates playing. The production values are top notch making Star Trek: Bridge Crew one of those rare VR experiences that feels like a AAA title, and likely part of most VR gamers’ collections.