Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Desktop Version) Review

Screenshot from Star Trek: Bridge Crew
A shot of the ship flying by a planet? That can mean only one thing: it's captain's log recording time

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Release Date: 30 May 2017
  • Time played: ~7 hours

What is it

Red Storm Entertainment has actually been around for a while: it was formed in 1996 by Tom Clancy, Doug Littlejohns and Steve Reid as a company to focus on making games for the Tom Clancy franchise. The company was eventually bought by Ubisoft and has remained a subsidiary of the French publisher ever since. Red Storm Entertainment's breakthrough game was 1998's tactical shooter Rainbow Six and they were also responsible for the critically acclaimed Ghost Recon released in 2001. In the past decade, Red Storm Entertainment co-developed 2012's Far Cry 3, 2014's Far Cry 4 and 2016's Tom Clancy's The Division.

In 2017, Red Storm Entertainment and Ubisoft released Star Trek: Bridge Crew, a virtual reality game where you get to command your own starship in the Star Trek (2009) universe. You can also play the game with three other human players and they adopt the roles of Helm Officer, Tactical Officer and Chief Engineer. Early videos of the game made it look like a lot of fun and what was even better for Trekkies was a trailer showing LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban playing the game together.

So how did the game fare with the critics and the players? The game received "generally favourable reviews" on Metacritic with a Metascore of 78; it fared similarly with the Metacritic users as well, garnering a User Score of 7.6. On Steam, the game currently has a "Mostly Positive" rating based off 1,161 reviews being rated positive.

How I got it

UPlay was running a Lunar Sale earlier this year and since I wanted to also use some 20% off discount codes, I decided to get a couple of games on the sale: The Settlers – History Collection and Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Now, I originally wanted to try out Star Trek: Bridge Crew when it first came out, however it would only work for players that owned VR headsets and that excluded me. However, they eventually updated the game so us mere mortals without VR could also join in on the fun.

I've always found the idea of playing a co-operative game of Star Trek with friends appealing and that's why I now own the game.

Screenshot from Star Trek: Bridge Crew
If you're as good as me, you too can have parts of the bridge catching fire!

What I like:

Battles can be exhilarating

Switching to red alert, barking out orders to raise shields, the tactical officer firing phasers and photon torpedoes and the chief engineer trying to scramble repair crews to various sections of the ship while trying to reroute power at the same time, all while sparks are flying around the bridge, it makes for a pretty authentic Star Trek battle experience.

Authentic audio

All the beeps and bleeps of the bridge, the sound of photon torpedoes firing and the transporter beaming people aboard all sound authentic and further enhances the immersion.

Kobayashi Maru

Yes, the game has the Kobayashi Maru scenario in it… although I don't think there's any opportunity to cheat as Captain Kirk did…

Good help is hard to find

While it's possible to know the basics of each role as a captain, helm officer, tactical officer and chief engineer, it's actually a challenge to master them especially when time is of the essence. Personally, I think this is generally a good thing since it means there's an opportunity for players to find their niche or area of expertise and truly feel like a valued member of the team.

Screenshot from Star Trek: Bridge Crew
This is what usually happens to your ship if you place too much faith in your AI crew

What I dislike:

Good help is hard to find

However, this is also the game's downside, if you're ever just wanting to play the game solo, because the AI is pretty atrocious, especially the helm officer: you'll often find the AI helm officer piloting your ship into debris or asteroids as it tries to chase down enemy vessels. It's also incredibly difficult to get the helm officer to navigate around mines and enemy patrols when you're attempting to be stealthy, so the only solution is to take over the helm officer's role temporarily although this leaves you vulnerable in other areas as you're no longer the captain.

Basically, the game is probably a lot easier with human players who know what they're doing, and I guess, in a way, that's the way it should be. However, this also means that if you really want to experience this game as intended, you need like-minded friends playing with you – oh and playing the VR version also probably helps.

Minimal customisation

Avatar customisation options are quite limited in this game: you can only pick between Humans and Vulcans and there are only four sliders to change your facial appearance.

Lip synching is off

One thing I find annoying about this game is that the lip synching doesn't seem to work very well. Sure, it's difficult to get lip synching done well for actual voice but when you have lip synching for pre-recorded NPC voices, you'd expect no issues.

Always-on VOIP

There doesn't seem to be any option to use "push-to-talk" in this game or muting the voice so you can use a third-party chat like Discord. Instead, you have to play with always-on VOIP which is especially bad when I wanted to play with Lanna since we play in the same room (meaning whenever I talked, I could hear her avatar broadcasting what I just said)!

No licensed music

While the music in the game sounds similar to themes used in Star Trek media, you'll never actually hear any official licensed music; there's no TNG theme, TOS theme or Star Trek (2009) theme to be heard. I've also yet to encounter any prominent characters from the TV shows or the films yet, so while the game is good at emulating that Star Trek feel, it seems a bit disconnected from the universe.

Fiddly to get it working

It took a lot of stuffing around to get the game working since when I first purchased it, I was shocked to discover that it didn't appear in my library! It turns out that you receive a key that you have to use on the Oculus app (because the game was originally VR-only until a patch enabled the game for non-VR Desktop play). However, I didn't realise I still needed the Oculus app in order to run the game. So, after installing the Oculus app (which takes 10GB of hard disk space and has to be installed on the same disk the operating system is on), creating an Oculus user account, redeeming the key, installing the game through Oculus, linking the Oculus account to UPlay and remembering to run the game in Desktop mode (it defaults to VR mode), I finally got to try out the game. One could almost say, it was a bit of a trek to get the game running...

Score – 7/10 (Good)

While I'd probably recommend this game if I had a VR setup, playing the game without one isn't too bad. The game does have some flaws such as minimal options when it comes to avatar customisation, poor lip synching, the forcing of VOIP to be always-on, the lack of licensed music as well as it being pretty fiddly to setup if buying from the UPlay store, but it also seems to capture the feeling of being a Starfleet captain quite well and if you can happen to rope three Trekkie mates to play the game regularly, then it would definitely be a worthwhile addition to your collection.

Is the game worth $59.95 AUD?: No. There aren't many missions and playing with AI just isn't fun. If you can get some regular Trekkie friends to play with who also happen to have VR, it could be worth the full price tag. Otherwise, wait for a sale.

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[ LINK: Official Star Trek: Bridge Crew Website ]