Star Trek: Bridge Crew is pretty much a dream come true for me and millions of Star Trek fans. Utilizing virtual reality to put you and three of your friends onto the bridge of a Federation starship, the game reads like a Star Trek fan’s wishlist. With so much going for it, the real worry was that it wouldn’t come together as it should. The final product delivers on a lot of the property’s promise, and is definitely worth most fans’ time and money. It just feels like it could have been ever bigger and better.
Set within the Kelvin Timeline, or Abrams-verse as most fans had come to call it, Star Trek: Bridge Crew puts you in charge of the USS Aegis. The ship is tasked with finding a new home for the recently planet-less Vulcans. Their search takes them into The Trench, which turns out to be a much more dangerous place than anyone expected. Klingons have taken up residence here, with some nefarious purpose behind their presence. Now the Auegis has to find out what is going on inside The Trench, and what the Klingons are doing there.
The campaign and story of Star Trek: Bridge Crew are a bit too short, as has become expected of most VR games. The initial training mission actually lasted way longer than any of those that followed it. Each offers something unique, whether performing a rescue mission, attacking Klingons, or trying to stay undetected as you interfere with enemy operations. You can either play through this by yourself, directing your AI crew with easy-to-use commands, or team up with some friends.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew tries to simulate the full Star Trek experience by having players take on a specific role on the bridge. The Helm steers the ship, Tactical manages weapons and attacks enemy vessels, Engineering controls power flow and directs repairs, and the Captain gives orders while being the central point of information for the crew. Each station is fun to control, though they’ll feel a bit useless at different times of each mission. If you aren’t doing much fighting then Tactical will just be left scanning ships and other objects, for example. When things really kick in though, everyone has their own task, and it truly becomes the Star Trek experience that fans had dreamed of.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a standout VR experience
Playing through the campaign solo works surprisingly well, though the game was obviously set up for multiplayer throughout. If you do play solo you are able to take over each station, but this becomes tiresome and tedious. Instead you’ll want to command your AI partners, which works quite well most of the time. Yes, your Helmsman may steer you into an asteroid, and yes the Tactical officer loves disarming torpedoes in the middle of Klingon space. Still, for such complex tasks the AI handles it all nicely.
But the real game comes together when you’re with your friends, and thanks to Vive, Oculus, and PSVR cross-play, finding more players is as easy as possible for a VR game. While replaying the campaign might get old, luckily that isn’t your only choice. In “Ongoing Voyages” you can choose from four different types of missions. Research, Rescue, Defense, and Recover all offer up something a bit different. The mission is then randomized, creating unique scenarios each time you play.
Of course, not everything is random, and so you will get the hang of these missions quickly, understanding what’s to come, and what is expected. It’s still something that will let you and your crew keep playing past the short campaign though, and it seems to have enough variety to keep the missions flowing. What this game mode lacks is any sort of control outside of the main objective.
This is Star Trek: Bridge Crew
What would work best is to let the player control the random elements, such as determining the size of the enemy force, or the amount of things you need to recover and in what timeframe. Instead of locking all of these things away behind a random wall, let the player dictate them and set up their own challenges. Once a crew gels together and learns their station, Star Trek: Bridge Crew doesn’t allow them to ramp up the challenge in any way outside the included Kobayashi Maru mission.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew’s greatest sin is that it feels like a base for a much better experience. That isn’t to say that it is not worth buying in its current form. I had a blast with the game, and once more players are available I will be playing it a lot. But it could have been more than this, and hopefully it will be with more support.
Ubisoft really hit the nostalgia sweet spot by including the Original Series Enterprise bridge as an option. You can only use this ship in the randomized Ongoing Voyages mode, but it was really cool seeing how accurate the stations were. Unfortunately that means tons of buttons with no labels, so crews will take a long time figuring out how to do the simplest thing on this bridge. It’s an interesting challenge, but I doubt most will play with it more than a few times.
Of course, other bridges would have been great. While TOS is the one that started it all, many would argue that including the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation would have been a better choice. The stations would have been easier to use and understand, and it likely would have been more nostalgic for the current VR gaming audience. Hopefully this, and possibly more ships, are coming in future updates, but for now it feels like a missed opportunity.
The bigger thing that’s missing is what I mentioned earlier though. The game takes control of a lot of things that it shouldn’t, and in order to reach its potential, that control needs to be given to the players. Let players create custom missions, or just set up different options for them to control. The missions in the game are great as is, but once players become familiar with them they will want more. It is also unfortunate that the Klingons are pretty much the only threat throughout the game. It’d be nice to see some variety, even if it’s just letting players change the design of enemy ships.
There are also other ways that Star Trek: Bridge Crew could improve that would turn it into the game that all those fans had dreamed of. For one, when dealing with enemies there’s pretty much just one option: shoot them until they explode. Sure, you can disrupt key systems, but aside from running away and coming back later, there’s no alteration to their behavior. You can’t implement any sort of diplomacy or even interact with other characters outside of them feeding you dialogue. And while the game already pushes multiplayer very well, how amazing would it be to just be able to load up one or two other ships and explore together? Maybe I’m asking too much of Star Trek: Bridge Crew, but being able to encounter other human-controlled ships would take things to a whole new level.
But Star Trek: Bridge Crew is great as it currently is. Everything about the game plays into the feeling of being in the Star Trek universe, and for fans who’ve been dying to experience that, this really is a dream come true. Everything from the terminology, the art style, the graphics, and the audio feeds this feeling. When you and your friends are taking on some Klingons, watching as phasers slam the saucer section of your ship and panels burst into sparks and flames, you will feel like you’re the Captain of a Federation starship, and you will love every second of it.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a standout VR experience. It not only delivers something that fans have wanted for decades, it does so in unique and interesting ways. Star Trek fans will love every second of it, and thanks to random missions, that time can stretch for quite a while. It’s just unfortunate that the game doesn’t offer more. More enemy types, more ships, more mission options, more of everything. The game is excellent in its current form, but with a little bit of tweaking it could be the system-selling VR game that we’ve all been waiting for.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew
- Available On: PS4, PC
- Published By: Ubisoft
- Developed By: Red Storm Entertainment
- Genre: Action-Adventure
- US Release Date: May 30th, 2017
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Delivering on the dream of a Star Trek VR experience, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a fantastic new game for anyone with a VR setup. You might want more, but what is available will put a smile on your face and keep it there for hours."