Star Trek: Bridge Crew a Sci-Fi-Themed First Person Virtual Reality Simulator for the Oculus Quest, was released on Thursday, May 24th 2018. This means that this review is not very late, but it is no longer timely. In fact, if you search around for reviews of the title you will find that they seem to have been written just days before this article.
I want to especially take a moment to reach out to VR enthusiasts who read this blog; specifically, those VR enthusiasts who really enjoy the Sci-Fi genre and/or those who love Star Trek. I implore you, do not purchase this game on release, but buy it as a discount (at most) some time down the line. It is way more fun as a co-op experience than as a solo one, and unfortunately multiplayer is limited to only three people total per game at present.
Again for those interested in future content, there will probably be another review of Bridge Crew either before or after they add “The Romulan War” DLC and especially if they add “Starfleet Academy” – keep an eye out!
Are you still here? Great! Let’s get into this thing then:
/// STORYLINE ///
One of the major problems with this game is that its story falls flat on its face. The premise of the title is as follows:
“You and your crew take on one of the Star Trek universe’s most beloved heroes, Captain Kirk himself, as well as his iconic command crew to complete missions and combat foes through a sector of space called The Trench.” -Ubisoft ( Source )
Unfortunately, there is little love put into any aspect of the story that makes you feel like you’re partaking in anything more than a series of disjointed missions. Nothing feels like it fits together; nothing feels relevant or interesting enough to be worth playing through. In many cases, NPCs repeat themselves trying to convince you how important whatever their specific group/mission is, but it just doesn’t work. The thing is, I actually want to care about what’s happening in the game – but the story makes that impossible.
I have seen discussions pop up around trying to explain away some of these issues because this is a “first release” title and that they are working on additional content… But really? This should have been polished up before release. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re going to pre-release something, it had better be finished or have everything included that was meant to be there originally.
As time goes on, maybe more & more content will get updated into Star Trek: Bridge Crew. New missions and new stories will add depth and connective tissue to all of the half-baked ideas present now. They may even make this game worth playing at some point in the future; but as it stands, as is, I would not recommend purchasing this title today (nor at any price above a significant discount).
/// GAMEPLAY ///
Star Trek: Bridge Crew puts you and 2-3 other players into the virtual reality world where you must work together to operate your own starship – The USS Aegis. Unfortunately, they don’t teach you how to play before throwing you headfirst into the deep end of the pool… So here’s a quick primer:
Each “station” on your bridge has a very specific set of controls and can do only one thing at a time: Helm & Navigation use WASD and Q & E to control respectively, Engineering uses the arrow keys to distribute power, Tactical uses the mouse buttons to fire your weapons… etc. On normal difficulty, you have a set amount of “action points” with which you can do things like changing course or firing phasers – if you don’t use them all up before they regenerate then whatever you wanted to do won’t happen.
Speaking for myself: this is entirely too complex for a VR title that is meant to be accessible by players new to the medium. As it stands, even after spending time learning how everything works I still feel uncomfortable playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew because there’s just so many things going on at once. Trying to figure out which station does what while someone is asking you to do something or you’re hearing “we have incoming” over the comms is just plain too much for anyone – it’s just not designed well.
The new “Oculus Touch” controller doesn’t help this situation either: the button that lets you communicate with your crewmates is fine, but playing tactical & firing weapons uses a different button than what feels like should be much simpler: the trigger on the hand-grip of each controller. It leads to far more mistakes and I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve accidentally blown up my own ships or missed shooting down torpedoes because I was holding down one button when I needed to press another… This could be so easily fixed if they moved it to the same button that’s used to communicate!
If you don’t have friends who want to play with you, Star Trek: Bridge Crew has a series of “AI” NPCs for you to partner up with so long as you meet their required level. These companions are okay at least, if not quite as dumb as I expected them to be. The bigger problem is that they can only do one thing at a time and really just add an extra layer of busywork when it comes down to actually getting anything done in this game – especially if there happens to be something going on that your AI companion is supposed to be partaking in but isn’t doing because they aren’t good enough at playing the game… but I digress. In addition to all of this, there are a few other “core” gameplay mechanics that also kind of suck. For instance, the weapons system is something you need to learn how to use… But it doesn’t come up until halfway through your first mission! And once it does you only have enough time to really mess around with it during your first away mission before having to fight your first real battle – which leaves you either knowing how everything works or dead.
If I had questions about any of these arcade-style missions they were quickly answered by players online who already know what they’re doing because playing an “Oculus Touch” game by yourself just isn’t that fun or rewarding. At least not for very long – and even then the best I could hope for was to get a decent score at the end.
If you do manage to play with friends or “bot” companions, however, Star Trek: Bridge Crew can be pretty fun… but only if you find your crewmates not busy doing their own thing. There are zero options for team-building in this meta-game… I suppose that’s fine because the game is supposed to be about working together as a team, but it still would have been nice if they could’ve compromised somehow and included some kind of clan system where you’re able to chat & give orders outside of missions.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew does one thing really well though – it looks great! It’s got photogrammetry down pat, the graphics are nice… everything looks very authentic and it’s a joy to look at. But the only time you’ll be looking is when you’re watching your ship explode or during one of those really rare moments where Star Trek: Bridge Crew truly shines as a VR title – something that actually takes advantage of what virtual reality brings to the table, rather than just being “inspired” by it.
If you’ve got 4 friends who have been dying to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew then definitely pick this up. If everyone has microphones and can communicate well then I think this game might work for a few playthroughs until people get tired of all the busy work they need to do in order to accomplish anything worth bragging about… Which doesn’t take very long. Of course, if there’s keyboards & mice available the problems listed here could be diminished along with the already short gameplay time – but that never seemed to be a reasonable option for my friends or me.
In Conclusion: As much as Star Trek: Bridge Crew looks great, it’s overall a shallow and disappointing VR title… even if you have 4 friends playing with you. It works in small doses when you’re able to coordinate a lot of tasks together quickly to battle against enemies or spaceships going out of control… But this usually means that one person is doing all the work while everyone else just watches, which isn’t fun at all unless there are enough people involved (at least 4) such that each individual can do their part as needed to help out.
For those who don’t have a big group of friends to play with, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is going to be a much more tedious and disappointing experience that likely won’t last long once you see what it really has to offer. Which isn’t a lot by the way – combat gets old pretty quickly & just feels like playing an arcade game or watching someone else play one at that. There’s no real thrill here, no sense of epic adventure… Just turn-based missions where everyone who isn’t doing anything can just watch for all the fun action they’re missing out on.
I give Star Trek: Bridge Crew 2 out of 5 stars (Average).