Hands-On With Star Trek: Bridge Crew and the Original Starship Enterprise

by David Jagneaux • April 4th, 2017

Before setting out to work on a VR project it’s important to hone in and focus on something specific as a core mission. Do you want to create something that’s simple and fun? Do you want to make people think, or feel something? Or maybe your goal is to recreate something specific with an authentic representation.

That last point — authenticity — is the goal behind Star Trek: Bridge Crew from Ubisoft and Red Storm and from everything I’ve seen thus far, they’ve absolutely succeeded. In the two videos below you might notice a slight echo — that’s just from us recording both in-game voice chat and spoken voices from the room. The actual game doesn’t have any echo problems.

The first time I played Star Trek: Bridge Crew at E3 last year I was blown away (it was named our favorite multiplayer game at the show) and it continued to impress us when we tried again at Gamescom later last year. Last week at a visit to Ubisoft’s San Francisco office we got the chance to play it once again, but this time with 3 of the 4 chairs filled by the Upload team and we flew both the new Aegis and the original Starship Enterprise.

Th great thing about Star Trek: Bridge Crew is that even though it’s an incredibly faithful adaptation of what it means to be on the bridge with your team, it doesn’t actually require any prior knowledge of the show. During the opening Starfleet Academy training I sat in the Tactical Officer’s chair, in charge of combat systems, defenses, and scanning operations, our Editor-in-Chief Tal Blevins was in the captain’s chair, and Upload’s Video Producer, Azad Balabanian steered the ship as the Helmsman. The fourth slot — Engineer – was filled by a member of the Red Storm development team.

My training covered all of the basics that any good Tactical Officer needs to know: how to arm and fire torpedoes, shooting phasers, activating shields, scanning ships, and other related tasks. The UI is much improved from the last time I saw the game with a more intuitive layout and clearly defined tasks for each area of the panel.

All of the crew on the Aegis has a large display in front of them that has various touchscreen sections. Our first mission was to visit a system and scan escape pods looking for signs of life then beam those survivors onto our ship. Just like the game itself it was simple in concept but became immediately more complicated and intense once things started rolling.

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In other cooperative games there are strictly defined systems in place that govern how and when players can interact and affect the game world. In the case of Star Trek: Bridge Crew though, it’s a much more flexible environment. When the Captain issues an order to open fire on the Klingons you don’t “lose points” for ignoring him, but may earn the disdain of your comrades when your ship explodes from losing a battle. Every member has to operate in unison to achieve victory and it’s insanely rewarding to successfully complete a mission together.

For example, in the heat of battle the Engineer may need to make sure the shields have power during a fight and the Tactical Officer has to make sure the shields are on to boost our defenses, as well as maintaining fire on enemy vessels. The Helmsman will maneuver the battlefield while the Captain keeps an eye on the objectives and keeps us on track. Even though there was no strict system in place that forced me to wait for my Captain’s orders I found myself inclined to wait and act only when instructed.

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While the main focus of Star Trek: Bridge Crew is the new Aegis ship, during our demonstration we also got the chance to go hands-on with the classic original U.S.S. Enterprise from the very first Star Trek show. The game’s campaign mode can only be played with the Aegis, but the randomized mission mode can be played using the newer ship or the Enterprise. For our second mission we fired up the original and took her for a spin.

At first you’d think changing ships wouldn’t result in a major difference in terms of actual gameplay, but it actually ended up feeling like a completely separate game for all intents and purposes. As the Tactical Officer my futuristic AR-esque panel was replaced by a slab with brightly colored buttons that looked more like pieces of candy than tools for deep space exploration. This is of course intentional as the Enterprise in Star Trek: Bridge Crew is designed to look exactly like it did in the original show — 60s cheesiness and all.

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Using my Oculus Touch controllers I could press a button to display hovering text over each option to show potential choices, which is a necessity given how complex the new interface is. Instead of sliders and diagrams to arm and fire torpedoes I’ve got individual buttons. Instead of monitoring how long is left to arm and charge weapon systems I just mash them repeatedly until they do what I want. It felt like I was sitting in a cardboard spaceship as a little kid, pretending to be an astronaut. The screens on my right show exaggerated lines and colors, as if it’s a fantastical pretend version of the future.

As a crew, we fond ourselves communicating far more in the original Enterprise than we did in the Aegis and everything just felt more frantic, chaotic, and fun. Information was much more scattered and difficult to decipher with fewer displayed systems and screens. Between myself and the Helmsman, for example, was a single large shared radar panel that the Captain also used.

The difference between flying the new, streamlined Aegis and the clunky, obtuse Enterprise is like the difference between driving a smooth, electric automatic car and an old, stubborn manual transmission pickup truck. They’re both vehicles that are designed to do the same general thing but feel completely different with unique quirks once you get behind the wheel. The Aegis was much easier to learn quickly, but with a good crew of friends, I could see the Enterprise becoming a favorite for repeated voyages. It just feels more authentic.

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It might be sporting a simple premise, but Star Trek: Bridge Crew is an absolutely dense and complex game. Between the four different positions, single player and cooperative multiplayer, full campaign mode, and randomized voyages with two totally different ships and multiple mission types, the game has a lot to offer.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew is set to release on May 30th for Oculus Rift with Touch, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR (PSVR) with full cross-platform multiplayer. If you’re itching to see more, check back at UploadVR because we’ll have a full gameplay video of our complete mission aboard the Starship Enterprise later this week.

What do you think of this voyage into the final frontier? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Jonny C

    I am not a massive Star Trek fan or multiplayer fan but this sounds excellent. Ubisoft may get a lot of stick in the flat game world and rightly so but they are definitely giving VR a good go. Great that another one of their VR games is cross platform play.

  • Bibelo

    When is the Battlestar Galactica game?

  • metanurb

    Noooo, where’s the LCARS interface?

    I can understand they need a practical GUI, but I’m sure they could incorporate a LCARS look and feel!

    Still, I’d love to get my hands on (and in!) this!

    • Rothgarr

      I’d love that as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if they add that later in an update, or make it some sort of later add-on purchase. I guess it all depends on how well-received the game is and how many people pick buy it.

      • Chris Orris

        The fact that the TOS buttons are replicated so faithfully, even at the cost of ease, suggests that an LCARS setup would be just as faithful. And hey, it’s Ubisoft, so DLC will almost definitely come later.

    • Chester Chesterton

      Hey, if this game does well enough Maybe we’ll get Bridge Crew 2: The Next Generation… then we’ll get the LCARS!

    • vulkman

      The LCARS interface is either 80 years away or in a completely different timeline, depending on who you ask.

  • Zack57

    I am in Heaven!!! All I wanted VR for was owning and flying spaceships! 😀 I do so sicne over 1K hours in Elite and now my faivorite Space Ship of all time comes to my basement! The NCC 1701 WOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Thanks Ubi!!!!!!!!!!!

    • davidemo89

      Check on steam PULSAR …

  • Chester Chesterton

    Oh man, so psyched for this! I think I’ve even got a friend sold on getting his own headset largely on the selling point that we’ll get to fly a Federation starship together =D

    • John Miller

      Family has four headsets between us all cant wait

      • Chester Chesterton

        Nice! Sounds like you’ll have your own generational ship

  • GAAAAAHHHH I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS!!!!

  • Ann D. Michel

    This looks amazingly fun! I can’t wait to see it after it’s release. You should be proud of this program.

  • Tony

    Please remake Bridge Commander VR 🙂

    • “remake”?
      It hasn’t even released yet…

      • Tony

        I meant that it would be pretty cool for Star Trek fans that old PC game Bridge Commander has VR remake. It is great game and it would be spectacular in VR.

        • vulkman

          I’d love to see that but it’s highly unlikely, given the fact that Paramount and CBS don’t give a shit about TNG anymore… I was REALLY surprised to hear Red Storm made the effort to add the TOS Enterprise into the game, but that’s probably just part of the whole 50 year celebration thing.

  • Becky

    This is stunning. Personally would prefer the TNG console but I am so enthralled with everything about this video. I had to calm down to be able to type full sentences.

    • spohlso

      I can’t imagine you’ll have to wait long for TNG DLC

  • TDUBS

    The hand animations are pretty poor. All vr games should take a lesson from Lone Echo’s hand and ik animations. Also, they could have made the game look a little nicer. I mean..look at eve vr etc.

  • Ombra Alberto

    We hope to have the multi-language support.

  • Matthew Caylor

    Not the same, but check out Artemis for a similar experience. Not VR, but a team based bridge simulation.

    • vulkman

      Tried that once. Really liked the concept, but there was just nothing to do except blow up randomly generated waves of ships. I really hope this one has as good a story as they say it does, something along the lines of Star Trek: Bridge Commander…

  • Get Schwifty!

    I am so looking forward to this, despite the arcade-y play it’s likely to have over time… but let’s not forget about the Sub sim on the way as well… I suspect people will discover that working as a team in a sub can be a lot of fun if you have never done a sub sim before.

  • vulkman

    It’s ASYMMETRIC! ASYMMETRIC, not ASYNCHRONOUS! “Asynchronous” means that the captain says “energise” and MAYBE two days later someone pushes the button. “Asymmetric” means that only the helmsman can steer the ship while only I can fire the photon torpedoes. Asynchronous multiplayer only works with turn-based games.