Star Trek: Bridge Crew proves that Ubisoft has a real vision for both multiplayer and virtual reality, and marks an important time in the lifecycle of Playstation VR.
To start with the latter, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is the last true VR title from a big studio that has a confirmed release date for Playstation VR. At some point we’ll get Ace Combat 7, but after this it looks like we’ll have a few months where it will mainly be smaller titles. This makes the upcoming E3 show extremely important for Sony’s headset, because VR needs the kind of momentum that it’s been having over these past eight months or so. Luckily, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is another great example of how VR can work in ways that just don’t come together as well without the technology.
Designed to truly shine in online multiplayer, Star Trek: Bridge Crew is probably best enjoyed in single player at first to make sure you get all the basics before heading online. To this end, the game has an excellent tutorial in place that familiarizes you with each one of the four roles available to you – roles that together form your “bridge crew”. In the single player story portion of the game this crew will be aboard one of the modern incarnations of a Star Trek ship (similar to what you see in the recent movies), but when you start using the random mission generator you’ll also have access to the classic ships known from the TV series.
During single player game modes, you can assume control of all four roles by alternating between them – although being a captain does allow you the option to issue orders to your crewmates without having to switch to them and do things personally. This is also the role that changes the most in multiplayer, since you’ll have to resort to vocal commands to get your crew to work with you and with each other.
Besides the captain role, you also have engineering, tactical and helm. Engineering is responsible for damage repair and diverting (extra) power to engines and shields, tactical will analyze targets and control your weapons and shields, while the helm role assumes navigation duties. All of these roles can be controlled using the Dualshock gamepad, but Move support has also been implemented and it’s the more immersive and fun choice.
Although Bridge Crew has a single player campaign that is fun (though short) and teaches you the ropes in each of the four roles, it’s the multiplayer where another dimension is added. Just as in Ubisoft’s Werewolves Within, the social element makes the game twice as good and keeps you coming back. And just as in Werewolves Within, the game supports cross-platform play to ensure that the player base is as big as it can be. Star Trek: Bridge Crew has a very different dynamic to it though, since it’s all about cooperation and not letting each other down – it’s a mechanism that has worked wonders for the team-based shooter genre, but works especially well in this case.
Part of that is that, at least in virtual reality, you’re actually inside Star Trek and confined to a small space. Being on the bridge (tied to your chair), you can’t just go wander off and do your own thing, making for a high level of engagement. This isn’t constant though, because in some roles you’ll find that there’s parts of a mission where you simply don’t have too much to do while your teammates are busy getting out of a certain situation that doesn’t quite involve you. In my experience so far, it helps when you’re playing with people who are vocal about what’s going on – since it really helps you stay involved.
Like most VR games, the visuals aren’t spectacular, but they capture that Star Trek feeling perfectly – convincingly delivering an experience that makes you feel like you’re actually on a Star Trek bridge. That alone is probably enough to convince a Trekkie, but we were happy to see that there’s a proper and highly enjoyable game underneath all this as well. As with Werewolves Within, it’s a unique social experience and Ubisoft has really made their mark on VR with these two titles. Let’s hope E3 will be a sign of more to come!