First impressions of Star Trek: Bridge Crew… three years late

The official trailer for Star Trek: Bridge Crew.

The Star Trek franchise seems to have drawn the short straw when it comes to successful video game adaptations, especially when compared to Star Wars. I can think of several good Star Trek games – my personal favourite is the Doom-esque Star Trek: Generations adaptation, which even today is one of my all-time favourite games – but I think I’m almost the only person who bought a copy. Even websites specialising in so-called abandonware don’t seem to know about that one! Other decent Star Trek games – such as Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, the Elite Force titles, and the Armada games – all performed adequately, but none really made a huge impression or hooked in new fans.

The 2010s offered very little by way of new Star Trek games. There was, of course, Star Trek Online – but as someone who generally dislikes massively-multiplayer titles I didn’t have a particularly good time with it. I’m glad it was a success and I hope it brought in some new fans, but that style of game simply isn’t my cup of tea. The only other game I’d played in the last few years was the bug-riddled mess that was 2013’s Star Trek. I persevered as long as I could with that title, but a few hours in I got to a point where a glitch prevented me from advancing any further.

Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force is one of the better Star Trek games.

The only other significant title released in the last few years was Star Trek: Bridge Crew – not to be confused with an earlier title, Star Trek: Bridge Commander. Released in 2017, Bridge Crew was a VR-only title, and as I don’t game in VR I never bothered to check in with it again. But apparently I should’ve, because a few months after it was released Bridge Crew got an update allowing for non-VR gameplay, something I only noticed when the title cropped up among my recommended titles during the ongoing Steam Summer Sale. Well I was dumbfounded! How could I have missed this? It was an immediate buy, as Bridge Crew must be one of only a handful of Star Trek games post-1990 that I haven’t played for myself!

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but aren’t modern games a chore to get running? After opening Steam and then selecting Bridge Crew, the game wanted to install a patch. Then it had to connect to Ubisoft’s Uplay service, which also required a separate patch, and just getting the game to open took several minutes. Not a problem unique to Bridge Crew by any means, but always bothersome!

Recognise this planet?

I think that the game’s opening sequence is different because I also bought The Next Generation DLC, but it was really quite cool to sit through a fairly accurate recreation of The Next Generation’s title sequence. The graphics, while not exactly cutting-edge elsewhere in Bridge Crew, did a great job bringing to life some of the planets and other space phenomena that should be familiar to any fan of The Next Generation, and I appreciated the effort that must’ve gone into it.

My first thought upon seeing that Bridge Crew had a non-VR mode – aside from “I must buy this game immediately” – was wondering how well it would port from VR to non-VR. As I’ve said on a number of occasions, my ability and desire to sit down and play games has waned a lot over the last decade or so, and I’ve heard bad things about some VR titles not playing at all well without a VR headset and controller.

The basic gameplay screen – as seen in the tutorial mission.

Bridge Crew is, as far I can tell, the first game I’ve played that started life in VR. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the controls certainly take a little bit of getting used to. I played with an Xbox One control pad, as I do for most games, but I believe mouse and keyboard is an option on PC as well.

In order to better explain the control scheme, we need to talk about what Bridge Crew is and what it isn’t. Your character can occupy one of four bridge stations: the engineering station, the helm, the tactical station, and the captain’s chair. Regardless of which you choose, your character is static; they sit (or stand) at their console and don’t move from their position. This isn’t a criticism at all, it’s part of how the game was designed. Each of the control pad’s two analogue sticks move one of your character’s hands, and the triggers are used to select an option on the console or to perform an action. For example, at the engineering station it’s possible to allocate the ship’s power to different systems, at the helm to plot a course and engage engines, and at tactical to pick a target and fire weapons.

This control scheme obviously works better in VR, where a player might be holding two motion-sensitive controllers and could look and move more quickly to select the various options. There’s probably also a greater degree of fine control over certain options – like acceleration and deceleration when in the helmsman position. However, after a bit of practice and more than a few cock-ups I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Customising your character also serves as a basic introduction to the game’s controls.

The game is also designed to be played with friends. Each of the four roles can be occupied by another player, which should – in theory, at least – speed things up when engaging in the game’s various missions. It is possible to play without anyone else – as Billy-no-mates here can attest – but as with VR, the game has really been designed to work best when four players are working together in co-op.

There’s something undeniably cool for a Trekkie to sit in the captain’s chair of a starship – even it it’s just virtually. And I was surprised at the level of detail involved in using some of the game’s systems, all of which are lifted from Star Trek films and television shows. Courses must be plotted and laid in, then the ship manoeuvred by the helmsman to align with the course. Power must be distributed between systems like shields and engines by the engineer, and in battle, the tactical officer must choose targets and fire weapons. Performing each of these tasks – while fairly simplistic in line with the game’s control scheme – actually feels like working on a starship.

The helm aboard the USS Enterprise from The Original Series.

Perhaps it’s because many of the actions are mundane – like moving a dial or slider to adjust power or change the ship’s trajectory – that the feeling of “realism” exists in Bridge Crew. There are three starships that the game recreates: one based on the Kelvin-timeline films (which is the game’s main setting), as well as the USS Enterprise from The Original Series, and The Next Generation’s Enterprise-D. Gameplay is similar on each vessel, but the different aesthetics are great, and both Enterprises are faithfully recreated. The gameplay itself may get repetitive over time, but at the moment I’m still having lots of fun with it.

I have encountered one glitch – a visual bug where, for some reason, much of the bridge disappeared. This happened when the ship sustained heavy damage; I haven’t played far enough into the game and its various missions to know whether this will be a reoccurring problem or not, but I thought it worth mentioning here.

A graphical glitch I encountered while playing Star Trek: Bridge Crew.

I’m going to spend some more time with Bridge Crew over the upcoming days and weeks. I absolutely adore its faithful recreation of the bridge of the Enterprise-D from the DLC, and sitting in the captain’s chair on that bridge is a longstanding fantasy of mine! I’ve been lucky to sit in a recreation of The Original Series’ bridge twice – the first time in 1996, when Star Trek: The Exhibition came to the UK, and for a second time two decades later in 2016 at another event with the same title in Blackpool, also in the UK. Despite the same name, these two events were completely different. I’ve never been able to take Captain Picard’s seat on the bridge of the Enterprise-D, though, and with The Next Generation being my introduction to the franchise, and the series that first hooked me in, I’ve always wanted to have that experience. Bridge Crew got me as close to that as I’m likely to get any time soon, so for that alone I really appreciate what it has to offer.

Commanding the Enterprise-D from the captain’s chair has long been a fantasy of mine!

It’s a shame I missed Bridge Crew first time around. But it’s nice to have a new Star Trek game to get stuck into. I’m always hopeful that the franchise will produce a fun game, and while Bridge Crew has its limitations, and is really designed to be played in a specific way, it still seems like a lot of fun right now.

When I’ve spent some more time with the game I’ll check back in, but I wanted to say something about it while it’s still on sale – 50% off on the Steam version on PC – in case anyone else who missed out wanted a chance to pick it up.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew is available now on PC and PlayStation 4. Star Trek: Bridge Crew is the copyright of Red Storm Entertainment and Ubisoft. The Star Trek franchise is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.