Star Trek: Bridge Crew – four-player VR game boldly goes where no game has gone before
Ubisoft virtual reality game sees players assume tactical, engineering, helm or captain roles to take on a variety of missions, with cross-platform play allowing Rift, Vive and PlayStation VR users to team up
Star Trek: Bridge Crew was one of the best virtual reality experiences at the E3 videogame conference in Los Angeles last year. The game has a simple premise: it puts four players on the bridge of a Federation starship called the USS Aegis. Each person takes control of a station and together they have to control the ship.
One player is the helm, who pilots the ship and takes it in and out of warp. Tactical scans objects while handling weapons and shields. Engineering plays the support role, routing power around the ship and handling the warp coils. Lastly, the captain is the leader co-ordinating all these stations.
The experience leverages the powerful way VR can close the distance between players and it allows people in different places to feel like they are in the same space together. The game takes place in the J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek universe, aka the Kelvin Timeline.
Since E3, developers Ubisoft have added intrusion and transportation abilities for the non-captain stations. Helm, tactical and engineering can beam up survivors from an escape pod. They can hack into another ship and take out engines, weapons or shields. This can be useful in stopping out-of-control ships or during an attack. The one caveat is that only one person has access to these actions at a time, so if tactical is in it, everyone else is locked out.
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This is done to make sure there’s communication on the Aegis because Bridge Crew (to be released on May 30 for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR) itself is a social game. The systems are tightly integrated across each station. The team can’t warp out unless the engineer activates the warp coils and the helm engages the thrusters. The ship can’t fire at an attacking vessel if the helm doesn’t get the ship in range and tactical locks on to the target.
At times, players will feel themselves get into the roles made famous in each iteration of the show. If the captain demands that the ship moves faster, it’s almost second nature to yell out, “I’m giving it all she’s got, Captain.” If teammates mess up, you can almost see the captain do a double facepalm. And there will certainly be times when players screw up during the games. Taking control of a starship is a difficult task.
From the missions the developer has shown, there will be some diversity in the adventures. In one scenario, we had to rescue escape pods. In another, we had to work together to stealthily fly the Aegis into an area filled with Klingon patrols. To keep the game fresh after players beat the campaign, the developer has also added in randomised missions, where players have a mix of different tasks.
One of the reasons that Bridge Crew may succeed in gaining traction for the VR medium is that Ubisoft is making the game crossplay, meaning it can be played together across different platforms. Using the game’s Uplay service, people on the Oculus can play with those on Vive or PlayStation VR. It opens the game to a wider user base that may already beStar Trekfans.
The developer used the PlayStation VR as the baseline and there’s almost no difference among the different versions other than higher fidelity visuals. With more people to engage with online, this could give Bridge Crew a chance to be the next big VR title.