Teamwork – the notion of working together to achieve a common goal – is a touchstone of Star Trek and a key component of the upcoming Star Trek: Bridge Crew, the first virtual reality Star Trek game from Ubisoft and developer Red Storm Entertainment. I got a chance to try the game and spoke to one of the developers.
I was able to play a few weeks ago at Mission: New York and was completely blown away by its immersive nature and breakneck pace. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to realizing my childhood dream of standing on the bridge of a starship. If the designers can offer enough mission variety this game has the potential to be something special.
The action takes place in the Kelvin timeline aboard the U.S.S. Aegis, a new starship tasked with exploring uncharted areas of Federation space in hopes of finding a new home for the Vulcans, who lost their world in Star Trek (2009).
The Aegis bridge is very similar to the Enterprise bridge seen in the last three films, and gives you clear line-of-sight to your other colleagues, which is key in a game like this. There are four different roles to play: captain, helm, tactical, and engineering. All of them have unique challenges and control schemes and all require the players to do their jobs efficiently and work well together in order to succeed.
The game was running on Oculus Rift and required a headset as well as two motion controllers, which act as your virtual hands. It was surreal to put it on the headset, look down, and see myself wearing a Starfleet uniform. Looking around the bridge, I could see the other players also trying to get their bearings. When the captain (one of the game’s developers) spoke to me, he looked right at me, just like you would in reality. All of this occurs in real time and the effect is very powerful. I bought into the idea that I was on a starship very quickly.
I was assigned to engineering, and my primary tasks were to redistribute power based on current mission needs, run the transporter, and make sure the warp coils were charged in case we needed to get going in a hurry. Sounds boring, you say? Not at all. The game is designed to keep you on your toes and forces you to pay attention to what others are doing, in case your particular skills are required at a moment’s notice.
During our mission, we ran afoul of some Klingons while responding to a distress call. While tactical was busy fending off the attack, I was required to beam all the survivors aboard, make sure enough energy was allocated for weapons and shields, and be ready to prime the plasma coils for warp, which takes time. As the helm maneuvered us into transporter range, I had to coordinate with the captain and tactical to allow the shields to drop just long enough to bring survivors aboard. While all of this was happening, the ship was being buffeted from Klingon attack, with NPC crew members being flung about, cracks forming on the bulkheads and sparks shooting from consoles. Luckily, there was just enough juice left in the coils, and we were able to make a getaway.
The entire experience was an adrenaline rush and it took me a good ten minutes to come down from it. It may not be a holodeck, but it’s pretty damn good.
While the demo I played had everyone sitting in the same room together, the game is designed to be played online. If you don’t have enough people for a full crew, the game will substitute NPC characters so that you can play anytime the mood strikes.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew will be released for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on November 29, with the PlayStation VR version arriving a week later. All are priced at $59.99. Ubisoft released a trailer a few months back, which features LeVar Burton, Karl Urban, and Jeri Ryan playing the game and relating their experience:
The cost of buying into this can be prohibitive. Oculus Rift requires a very powerful PC to run on in addition to the headset and controller, which costs $600. The HTC Vive also requires a high-end rig and is even pricier at $800. The upcoming PlayStation VR system, which must be used in concert with a separate PlayStation 4 console, is the cheapest option, with the launch bundle priced at $500.