Star Trek: Bridge Crew

EDGE - - GAMES -

PSVR, Rift, Vive

As­tar­ship captain, we sup­pose, should be un­flap­pable and de­ci­sive, but at this rate, we’re headed for a court mar­tial. In our de­fence, the ‘an­swer hail’ and ‘red alert’ but­tons are in trou­blingly close prox­im­ity. Later, as the flames lick around our con­sole, a poor NPC lies dead and our hull in­tegrity drops to sin­gle fig­ures, we re­alise del­e­gat­ing isn’t quite as easy as Kirk and Pi­card made it seem. But as­sum­ing you’re pre­pared to ig­nore that one dog­fight where we for­got to raise the shields, a finer Tac­ti­cal of­fi­cer you’ll strug­gle to find. As long as you don’t look too hard.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a new en­try in that nascent genre of mul­ti­player games (pop­u­lated by the likes of Spaceteam and Keep Talk­ing And No­body Ex­plodes) where each par­tic­i­pant has an in­com­plete pic­ture, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion is nec­es­sary to fill in the gaps for one an­other. The Captain of the USS Aegis has an ar­ray of in­for­ma­tion at their fin­ger­tips and must de­cide how best to ap­proach each ob­jec­tive and guide his crew ac­cord­ingly. A Helmsper­son gets the glam­orous job of steer­ing the ship and warp­ing to new vec­tors; there’s some­thing par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing about grasp­ing that lever in your left hand and thrust­ing it for­ward to punch the en­gines to full throt­tle. In the Tac­ti­cal chair, you scan anom­alies and sig­nals, arm tor­pe­does, man­age shields and shoot down en­emy craft. And the En­gi­neer is the ship’s se­cret heart­beat, rerout­ing power to en­gines for quick get­aways or to phasers when more fire­power is re­quired – though if ev­ery­one else is do­ing their job prop­erly, it can also be one of the more re­lax­ing roles.

At times it feels more Thun­der­birds than Star Trek, as you find your­self con­duct­ing an act of slightly clumsy pup­petry, your body rigid but your avatar’s head and arms mov­ing along with your own. And yes, while there’s a beau­ti­ful ex­ter­nal view you can switch to, ul­ti­mately each job boils down to look­ing at dis­plays and push­ing vir­tual but­tons. Yet the ex­pe­ri­ence is con­sis­tently ab­sorb­ing. One mis­sion sees us nervily sneak­ing through Klin­gon pa­trols, our captain’s quick think­ing and helms­man’s ca­pa­bil­ity keep­ing us safe un­til a dar­ing ad­vance to trans­port sur­vivors from a stricken ship alerts a cloaked craft. One thrilling fire­fight (and a hasty warp) later, the Aegis is ablaze, but our mis­sion is a suc­cess. The col­lec­tive re­lief is pal­pa­ble.

Pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated mis­sions add ex­tra meat to an oth­er­wise thin cam­paign, but the hu­man el­e­ment means quests never play out the same way twice. Bridge Crew trans­forms an or­di­nar­ily iso­lat­ing tech­nol­ogy into some­thing ir­re­sistibly so­cial: it’s an anec­dote gen­er­a­tor par excellence, and a VR ex­pe­ri­ence that hand­ily over­comes its lim­i­ta­tions as a game.

Cross-plat­form com­pat­i­bil­ity means PSVR, Rift and Vive own­ers can all join one an­other, the only real dif­fer­ence be­ing that con­sole play­ers can’t point their avatar’s fin­ger so ac­cus­ingly at a team­mate not pulling their weight

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