In a room that mimicked the layout of the USS Aegis, I turned to my most knowledgeable crewmate — one of the devs — and asked if my lack of Stak Trek knowledge would be detrimental during our hands-on session with Star Trek: Bridge Crew. He assured me it wouldn’t, because the game had been crafted to serve those who mix up their Picards with their Palpatines, just as much as lifelong fans. Honestly, while the Star Trek tie-in will be a selling point, this could be any Space-based game, really.
Bridge Crew is all about communicating well enough with your squad that your gravity-defying vessel doesn’t end up as history’s most technically advanced coffin. You have to scan anomalies, shoot down enemy fleets,and steer the ship away from impending danger, all while wearing a VR headset and holding two controllers.
And like all good virtual reality affairs, the aim is to, first and foremost, make you feel like you’re inside the the Star Trek universe, and it does that superbly. Even as someone who’s never been taken by the media juggernaut, I can appreciate the care taken with the interiors of both the new USS Aegis, and the original Starship Enterprise. Every button, lever, and screen feels like it’s been placed with meticulous precision in order to make you, and your final frontiering buddies, feel part of it all.
All four playable crewmates vary in importance, and, by extension, fun. Your wheelman is at the helm and takes you from A to B; the Tactical Officer is the scanner-cum-gunman; the Engineer makes sure the ship isn’t about to blow up from damage; and the Captain commands from their throne, communicating objectives to the team. It naturally took a few goes for my crew and I to iron out the kinks in our approach, but by the end we were taking down alien spacecrafts like a well-oiled machine.
While everyone definitely has their part to play, there’s no doubt plonking yourself down on either the Tactical or Helm chair is the best bet; they’re more involved than the others. Using your Move controllers to interact with the giant touchscreen, adjusting speed and trajectory, or firing lasers at enemy ships is so easy to pick up thanks to the intuitive UI. On the other hand, Engineer feels a little redundant at the best of times when the job is just watching to see shields are operable, and being the Captain means your direct involvement is minimal. However, being Captain highlights Bridge Crew’s other important element: communication.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew requires you to be chatty. The Captain is the only one who truly knows what the current goal is, and it’s their job to relay that information to the team. They can do that in their regular tongue, or if they fancy, Trek talk. The game actually lends itself to those who want to live out their dreams and roleplay the whole thing. During my few hours with it I even obliged my captain with an ‘Aye, aye!’ once or twice — granted, my language might have been more colourful than what came out of Kate Mulgrew’s mouth in Voyager, but I still threw myself into it. It sort of urges you to drop inhibitions and embrace the silliness of it all, no matter what your role is on the ship. You can even go rogue, if you like.
With communication comes miscommunication, or even selective hearing. If you disagree with one of your Captain’s orders, you can outright disregard it. I mean, it’s probably not the smartest tactic, but can be a bit of a laugh. And just from a couple of hours with it, playing with others (particularly others you know) is clearly where Bridge Crew is going to shine. With the right mix of vocal mates online, you may be able to replicate something similar to the scenario I was in (four PSVRs in the same room), and have an absolute ball.
If you adore the Star Trek universe, you’ll no doubt love being able to hop aboard the ship that Shatner made famous, and live out your childhood fantasies with friends. Having not played the single-player mode, I can’t say whether that same feeling can be captured when going it alone. But if you have three loved ones who happen to each own the same VR headset as you, there’s a bit of fun to be had with Star Trek: Bridge Crew, if only for a couple of hours.