Star Trek: Bridge Com­man­der

NATHAN LAWRENCE boldly goes...

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There’s been a lot of chat­ter about the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of vir­tual re­al­ity, given the req­ui­site en­try-level price point. After all, on PC at least, you’re not just fork­ing out for an Ocu­lus Rift or HTC Vive head­set; you also need the req­ui­site high-end PC to run the new­fan­gled tech. PlayS­ta­tion VR is a lit­tle more for­giv­ing in this re­spect, even if you still need to pur­chase a PlayS­ta­tion 4 Cam­era and Move con­trollers atop the VR head­set (and, ob­vi­ously, the con­sole).

But if you want to play Star Trek Bridge Crew, you’ll want four lots of VR to get the most out of it. Sure, there’s the op­tion for solo play in this mul­ti­plat­form VR ex­pe­ri­ence, but the real fun is found in four-player co­op­er­a­tive mul­ti­player. There’s no word on cross-plat­form play, ei­ther, which sug­gests that you’ll need to know three other play­ers that have the same VR al­le­giance to play the full co-op ex­pe­ri­ence. If you do, though, it’s a hell of a VR treat.

And that’s com­ing from the per­spec­tive of a ca­sual Star Trek fan who re­ally only got into the se­ries after the J.J. Abrams 2009 soft re­boot. Bridge Crew is ac­tu­ally set in the post-Abrams Kelvin Time­line, as play­ers are placed in com­mand of the U.S.S. Aegis, a new Starfleet ves­sel tasked with find­ing a new home world for the en­dan­gered Vul­can pop­u­lace in a re­gion of space called The Trench. This part of space is also one in which the Klin­gon Em­pire is ac­tive.

This was the back­drop for my 15-minute hands-on demo with the Rift ver­sion of Bridge Crew, com­plete with the new Touch con­trollers. Like a Wi­imote, the Touch con­trollers have handy wrist straps, which means you can loop them around your hands be­fore don­ning the head­set, so you don’t have to blindly grope for them once the VR head­set is on. It also helps that the light­weight Touch re­motes are de­signed in such a way that left- and right-hand con­trollers are ob­vi­ous (un­like the iden­ti­cally de­signed Move con­trollers). and Vive

After a short role-spe­cific training video, the demo started ap­pro­pri­ately in a shut­tle on its way to the Aegis. On the right was Earth. To the left was the beau­ti­fully ren­dered Aegis ship we were about to pi­lot. Above was the vast­ness of space, and look­ing down at my avatar, I could see that de­vel­oper Red Storm En­ter­tain­ment has re­mained faith­ful to the re­veal­ing short-dress uni­form is­sued by Starfleet Academy to fe­male crew mem­bers.

After a proper tour of the ex­ter­nal view of Aegis, the view shifted to where our four-per­son team would spend the rest of the demo: on the bridge of the star­ship. True to the ingame fan­tasy, our de­vel­oper Cap­tain sat be­hind us, while we re­main­ing three sat in a straight line, re­flec­tive of our in-game po­si­tions.

To the left of me was the En­gi­neer, whose job it was to route power and work the trans­porter. To my right was the Helm po­si­tion, and he was in charge of flying the ship, as well as oc­ca­sional mo­ments of phaser fire. My role was in the Tac­ti­cal po­si­tion, and it was up to me to high­light ob­jects of in­ter­est on a tar­get­ing panel, op­er­ate the shields and, of course, launch tor­pe­does and fire phasers. As any­one who’s fa­mil­iar with a Star Trek bridge will know, the Cap­tain is in charge of main­tain­ing the syn­ergy of roles by is­su­ing ap­pro­pri­ate or­ders.

As the chief tac­ti­cal of­fi­cer, there wasn’t a whole lot to do at home base. I was able to tap my tar­get­ing panel to high­light as­ter­oids for weapons test­ing. Phasers have to be en­abled and op­er­ate on a cooldown sys­tem, while two tor­pedo bays must be first ac­ti­vated and take time to load. Once loaded, though, I made short work of a cou­ple of as­ter­oids be­fore the Cap­tain or­dered the Helm to line up our HUD course tra­jec­tory then slide the ap­pro­pri­ate han­dle for­ward for warp speed.

We were on a res­cue mis­sion, re­spond­ing to a call from a derelict space sta­tion or­bit­ing above a star on the brink of a spec­tac­u­lar su­panova. The viewscreen of the Aegis has a lim­ited field of view, which means the crew is some­what re­liant on the Helm of­fi­cer to keep what’s im­por­tant out in space front and cen­tre. The other op­tion is to hold down a but­ton to en­ter space view.

Given that VR works best in first-per­son, this switch to what’s essen­tially a third-per­son per­spec­tive of the ship is ini­tially jar­ring, but it also pro­vides a fan­tas­tic view of the top of the Aegis and the im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings. It’s eas­ier to en­vis­age it as the space equiv­a­lent of a jet air­liner's tail cam­era to main­tain the first-per­son il­lu­sion. Out in space, the dy­ing star pro­vided a vi­brant back­drop to the dam­aged space sta­tion and the wreck­age that floated around it.

Among this wreck­age were es­cape pods, and as the Tac­ti­cal of­fi­cer, it was my job to se­lect es­cape pods on my tar­get­ing panel for the chief engi­neer­ing of­fi­cer to scan for signs of life. As our En­gi­neer scanned, Helm pi­loted us closer to the pod, be­fore the Cap­tain gave a sim­ple or­der, “En­er­gise!” to cue our En­gi­neer to beam the sur­vivors aboard. That’s when the Klin­gon warbird ap­peared.

“Fire some tor­pe­does so he backs off a lit­tle bit,” said Cap­tain Reck­less. While a sound and au­thor­i­ta­tive the­ory, the prob­lem is that lock­ing on to a tar­get and fir­ing at it doesn’t ex­actly un­leash a warn­ing shot across the bow. As or­dered, I launched the tor­pe­does and, as ex­pected, they both hit. Un­der­stand­ably, the Klin­gon ship re­turned fire.

“Whoa! Shields up!” I yelled, tak­ing mat­ters into my own hands. It was the wrong move.

“Tac­ti­cal, this is go­ing to sound crazy, but let’s put shields down be­cause we need to trans­port these sur­vivors aboard, and we can only trans­port if the shields are down,” ex­plained the ever-pa­tient Cap­tain.

I low­ered the shields, which meant the next salvo of mis­siles from the Klin­gon warbird tore through our hull like a bul­let through balistics jelly. Snap­ping to space view, I mar­velled at the burn­ing holes be­fore re­turn­ing to the bridge to con­tinue the bat­tle. Up close, I was able to un­leash both phasers and tor­pe­does at the Klin­gon ship, but when it pulled away, I lost the op­tion for phasers.

With all sur­vivors aboard, the Cap­tain gave the sim­plest of or­ders. “Fire ev­ery­thing!” Tor­pe­does were launched, but phasers were out of range for Tac­ti­cal and Helm roles. “Engi­neer­ing, can we have more power to phasers, please?” This or­der was missed by our En­gi­neer, but it didn’t mat­ter for too long be­cause Helm had us on the tail of the Klin­gon warbird, which spun to fire an­other salvo.

“Phasers are up!” I yelled.

“Fire phasers!” shouted the Cap­tain.

Helm and I obliged him and the Klin­gon warbird was soon an­other piece of space wreck­age in the area. Our cel­e­bra­tion was short-lived as the star erupted and we failed our mis­sion, just as Helm had plot­ted a course for home and our En­gi­neer had charged warp coils. So close.

Helms­man’s log. Star­date 43125.8. Ini­tially, I blamed our En­gi­neer and Helm play­ers for our de­struc­tion, but it ap­pears my early, and un­ordered, rais­ing of the shield de­layed our safe de­par­ture. It’s clear that tight team­work un­der a Cap­tain’s strict or­ders is re­quired for suc­cess in Star Trek Bridge Crew, but our fail­ure wasn’t enough to dampen the ex­pe­ri­ence. I’m keen to get back out into space when Bridge Crew launches, and re­gard­less of where you rank on the Trekkie fan­dom scale, you should be, too.

I LOW­ERED THE SHIELDS, WHICH MEANT THE NEXT SALVO OF MIS­SILES FROM THE KLIN­GON WARBIRD TORE THROUGH OUR HULL LIKE A BUL­LET THROUGH BALISTICS JELLY

"I'm just say­ing the dress could be a bit longer, is all. You wouldn't like it if Com­mand made men wear stub­bies." Su­panova im­mi­nent – bet­ter go in for a closer look

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