You’ll probably never play Star Trek Bridge Crew. At least, not how it’s really meant to be enjoyed. That’s not because this is a poor game, or that it lacks features or fan service – it’s just too rarefied an experience. While you can crew both the USS Aegis and the Enterprise with fewer than four human crew members, it really isn’t the same experience. And while you’ll be able to find randoms or players from LFG groups to boldly go with, Bridge Crew is infinitely better when played with friends. So that’s four of you, with VR headsets, and a copy of the game, and the will and time to role-play Star Trek. Even we, a website that writes about games, VR, and Star Trek really struggled to put in the necessary playing time and overcome the technical hurdles to squeeze the best out of this wonderful game.
It’s a crying shame really, because Bridge Crew is absolutely magic when played right. You and your friends crew the USS Aegis sent on a critical mission to explore The Trench, a piece of uncharted space, in the hopes of finding a new home world for the scattered population of Vulcans, who lost their planet in the recent movie reboot. Each story mission is broken into smaller chunks, allowing you to hit objectives before either warping to a new part of space, or Impulse travelling shorter distances. It’s extremely well paced, although there are occasional spikes in difficulty mission to mission.
So, what do you actually do? Each player assumes various roles on the bridge of the Aegis (and the Enterprise, but I’ll get to that later). There’s a Captain, who issues orders and can assume control over various smaller functions; Helm, who steers the ship and Warps when required; Engineering, who allocates the various power resources of the vessel and makes repairs; and finally Tactical, who scans and shoots stuff. At first glance certain roles appear more glamorous and involved than others (who the hell wants to work Engineering when you can’t even steer or shoot?) but each of the positions get missions that put them right at the forefront of the action. One stage that scuppered our team of misfits for ages required the Aegis to flee from Klingon attacks after being damaged by an energy anomaly. Suddenly Helm and Tactical seemed like background noise, as the Engineer’s role – keeping the ship operational, and making frantic repairs – came to the fore. “Just keep us alive” became the Captain’s repeated command.
Bridge Crew, however, is way more than the sum of its parts. You never feel like four people simply pressing buttons to make stuff explode – each mission forces you to work as a proper team, and the division of responsibilities is smartly done. Co-operation and teamwork is often lauded as necessary for most online games, but Bridge Crew makes it both essential and effortless through solid communication channels and intuitive controls. Oh, it’s heaps of fun. While it’s a beautiful thing to behold when all four crew mates are working in perfect harmony, rescuing allies with ease while blasting Klingon attackers into smithereens, the moments I recall most fondly from my sessions are the ones where we messed up. Maybe it was because the Captain (naming no names, Leon) lost control of the situation. Or the Helm (yeah, ok, me) steered into an asteroid by accident. Or we blew up something we shouldn’t have blown up (looking at you again, Leon). Bridge Crew makes perfect cooperation feel like the norm, and the points where communication breaks down feel like the hilarious, quirky exceptions that add flavour to your overall experience. Even in failure, each session feels like a roaring success.