Getting behind one of the four desks open to you in the USS Aegis is an experience most Star Trek fans will not just appreciate – they’ll likely never forget it. Star Trek: Bridge Crew is the epitome of a VR-powered theme park ride. It bursts with wonder and invites excitement, but the fun is short-lived. No matter how many times you try to replicate that first time feeling, subsequent journeys into the unknown regions of space feel repetitive, boring and downright disappointing.
The first moments of Star Trek: Bridge Crew are surreal in two ways. The deck of the Aegis is gorgeous and faithfully detailed, with the familiar sound effects ringing out across the pristine white room. Each command desk – whether you’re at Engineering, Tactical, Helm or in the cosy Captain’s Chair – is detailed with some bright command panels and buttons to push. You can control the bridge crew with a standard DualShock 4, but the real experience kicks in with PS Move. Motion control lets you very literally feel like a part of the job you’re tasked to do, even if it looks ridiculously goofy.
It’s part of the fun during your first few missions onboard the Aegis. Nothing breaks the ice in a lobby full of strangers quite like the mad movements of one player’s arms, as they flail in the air for nothing more than a rapturous response from the rest of the crew. Is it immersion breaking? Sure, and it’s far removed from the more serious tone the game wants to impose on you. But it’s just too funny to ignore. An example of motion controlled limitations brings some levity to an otherwise dull game.
Bridge Crew loses its appeal not too long after these initially great moments. Each of the missions in the campaign follows a strict gameplay path. You’re either moving between points to rescue stranded crew, engaging in battles with Klingon warships that hardly differentiate themselves or avoiding combat entirely. The game doesn’t even really mix these objections up too often, meaning the style of play you pick up at the start is what you’re going to be forced to do for the rest of it. It grows stale really fast – especially when you consider just how mundane victory really is.
Star Trek as a franchise tries to emphasise just how much work there is to do on the deck of ships like the Enterprise, but the Aegis must be some exception. At the Tactical Desk you’ll be tasked with targeting enemies, launching escape pods and finding anomalies to scan or otherwise, you’re mashing phasers and rockets to turn anything you see into space dust. The helm controls the ship’s movement, as a simple (and satisfying) motion of your hand can steer in any direction you like. These two are the positions that do the most work given the types of missions the game offers, and hence are the most fun to play. The problem is that it’s only half the experience.
Engineering is in charge of directing power to the rest of the ship’s sub-systems, which sounds a lot more stressful than it really is. In reality, it’s a test to see how long looking at various progress bars can stay entertaining for. You’ll boost firepower or charge warp coils, but they’re simple button presses that then just do something automatically. The captain is equally dull, only being able to engage teleportation, answer hails (with no interaction) or just bark out orders to a crew that likely isn’t stressed with the limited options in front of them.
That makes full four-player games at least even more dull for at least two players, which means the primary vision for Bridge Crew stands fundamentally flawed. It is in fact, far more forgiving with just two people. Here you’re allowed to hop between two seats as you play, which adds just enough stress to actually make playing more enjoyable. It also alleviates the two dry crew positions, as they can be equally shared between each player. The entire game is also playable alone, but the unreliability of the AI to perform even the most simple tasks makes it more frustrating than a Kobayashi Maru scenario.
Sadly too, that’s pretty much as deep as it goes. Once you’re done with the relatively short and repetitive campaign, you’re free to tackle a more randomised mode of exploration. This essentially should’ve opened the doors to more dynamic play, but it just mixes up the game mission types I had grown tired of hours beforehand. Bridge Crew’s content is really thin, and might have benefitted more from a reduced price to combat the tediousness of its deep space action.
The game is also plagued by some truly nasty bugs, which is the last thing you want to deal with in VR. More than once I found tracking on at least one arm to completely fail after a few minutes of play, which admittedly lead to more humorous online scenarios. The game also hard-crashed a few times, but not before turning flipping gestures on the absurd and putting me through a VR induced fever dream. Communication is also a mess, with the UPlay hosted voice chat often cutting out for seconds at a time. In moments where communication is key, it’s just downright infuriating to have to restart a mission because I didn’t hear a call to put the shields back up.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew really does make you feel like part of a franchise you might hold dear to your heart, but it also really goes out of its way to turn that experience into a meandering mess. It would benefit from a layer of depth that makes each of its four gameplay styles just a bit more captivating to undertake, as well as a host of more content to help justify the price. As it stands, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is nothing more than a toy that’s bound to only bring you a few sessions worth of pleasure before boldly going where middling games have gone before.
Last Updated: June 6, 2017