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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (381)

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Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3.5/5
King's Quest: The Compl... 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Metro Exodus 3.5/5
Evoland Legendary Editi... 4.5/5
Evoland 2 4.5/5
Burokku Girls 2/5
Finding Paradise 4.5/5
To the Moon 4/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 2.5/5
Valley 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
The Fall of Gods 3.5/5
Even the Ocean 3.5/5
Asterix & Obelix XXL 2:... 3/5
Valkyria Chronicles 4 5/5
Ninja Gaiden ( Shadow W... 1/5
Super Mario Land 2.5/5
The Messenger 3.5/5
Super Mario Land 2: 6 G... 2/5
Super Mario Maker 2 3/5
Pillars of Eternity II:... 4/5
Sundered 3/5
Iconoclasts 3/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5

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Star Trek: Bridge Crew   PC (Steam) 

Hello, Computer?    3.5/5 stars

Way back at E3 2016, Ubisoft pulled a promotional stunt that was guaranteed to balance Trekkies to the edges of their seats: The company showed-off a somewhat-misleading local-coop, VR-driven gameplay session in a new licensed ‘Star Trek’ game featuring beloved member of previous ‘Star Trek’ television casts, including Levar “Geordi LaForge” Burton and Jeri “Seven of Nine” Ryan. These ‘Trek’ actors were playing “Star Trek: Bridge Crew” (“Bridge Crew”), which looked, at the time, to be a fully modern reimagining of the type of gameplay embodied in the 1994 SNES game, “Star Trek Starfleet Academy: Starship Bridge Simulator,” which was one of my favorite ‘bad’ SNES games from back in the day.

The idea of piloting an accurate ‘Star Trek’-style starship through ‘Star Trek’-inspired missions in the company of my friends, however, was a truly awe-inspiring proposition. The only down-side was the fact that “Bridge Crew” was a VR game and, in 2016 as it still is in 2020, VR is an expensive and somewhat dicey proposition. Fortunately for me and Nick (and the other two non-Trekkie members of the MJ Crew), Ubisoft would go on to patch “Bridge Crew” for non-VR play. Unfortunately, in doing so, Ubisoft was simultaneously signaling the end of their support for the game, as “Bridge Crew,” despite its overwhelming potential, petered out and faded away without much fanfare.

Presentation
“Bridge Crew” isn’t going to win any awards for its presentation in any category. Visually, it’s merely acceptable, largely because Ubisoft chose to develop the game in the Unity Engine. Unity is well-known as the engine for corner-cutting and budget titles, and “Bridge Crew” very much looks like one. Characters look dead-eyed and puppety, while the physics of starships and other objects moving through space just look off. The textures and polygons themselves look clean enough, but the only parts of the game that feel like they live up to both Ubisoft’s “AAA” aspirations and the standards of a game that initially required an expensive VR headset to play are the user interface and the skyboxes that represent the various regions of space in which the game takes place.

Audio is inoffensive at best. There’s some voice acting for NPCs who hail the players’ ship, but none of these are famous or even fan-favorite ‘Trek’ characters, but simple nobodies voiced by other nobodies. “Bridge Crew” features in-game voice-chat which cannot be disabled, and the game tries to ‘match the flap’ by moving player’s avatars’ lips in time with their speech, which is somewhat cool, but ultimately looks half-assed and interferes with the ability to use a third-party chat client like Steam chat or Discord while playing (even worse, the in-game chat cuts out during loading screens…). The soundtrack is mostly non-existent, but features some light ‘Trek’ rehashing, while the sound effects a long-time ‘Trek’ fan would expect to hear on the bridge of a starship are delightfully authentic.

Technically, “Bridge Crew” is an Ubisoft game, so it has, naturally, been Ubi’d nearly to death. No matter where a player purchases the PC version of the game, it requires the Uplay client as a launcher/DRM. Even worse, “Bridge Crew” is one of those Uplay games that must be connected to the Internet at all times in order to even work. This need for a persistent online connection kind of made sense when the game first released: Playing with a team of four players connecting online is the preferred way to experience the game, but players flying solo were able to give voice commands to their AI crew members. This voice feature was powered by IBM’s Watson AI, who lives in the Cloud. Unfortunately, due to perpetual licensing fees charged by IBM and flagging game sales, Ubisoft stripped voice commands from the single-player game in order to save money… but didn’t bother stripping out the need for a persistent Internet connection or microphone in order to play solo. Really, the only positive update the game has received post-launch is the ability to play outside of VR using a standard Xinput controller.

Story
“Bridge Crew” takes place in the so-called ‘Nu-Trek’ universe of the Paramount movies starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Our story picks up after the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot movie in which the planet Vulcan is destroyed by vengeful Romulans from the future, creating a fractured timeline.

Unfortunately, “Bridge Crew” doesn’t really do anything to address the more interesting aspects of the ‘Nu-Trek’ universe’s alternate history of future events, but merely places the player and up to three friends in the shoes of a bunch of green and untested Starfleet Academy graduates aboard a prototype ship called the U.S.S. Aegis. The Aegis’ mission? To explore a region of space called The Trench in search of any suitable M-Class planets that might serve as a new home for the survivors of the Vulcan genocide. Oh, and did Starfleet forget to mention that The Trench is really close to Klingon space? Yeah, the Klingon’s aren’t happy about a bunch of boring logic-nerds moving in across the street.

Thus the player and their crew of three friends, either real people (preferred) or AI (very much not preferred) will follow Starfleet’s mission statement of exploring new worlds, seeking out new life and/or civilizations, and going boldly… but not for very long.

The biggest flaw in “Bridge Crew’s” narrative is how short and unremarkable it is. There are a pathetic SIX missions in the game’s story mode, with a bonus Kobiyashi Maru ‘No-Win Scenario’ exercise for hardcore James T. Kirk fans. The base game also comes with four procedurally-generated ‘continuing mission’ archetypes that players are expected to run over and over in order to see the small handful of variants each archetype presents.

Let’s just lay this out on the table: SIX missions isn’t even enough to fill a season of a ‘Star Trek’ TV show. Even factoring in a single run through each of the RNG-powered missions only brings the total to 10, which is still short of a modern TV season, let alone the bloated seasonal episode counts we used to get when ‘Star Trek’ was in its heyday. Worst of all, the six missions that make up the campaign don’t really go anywhere, with no exciting revelations, bits of lore, or new discoveries. It’s like Ubisoft’s writing team was intentionally handcuffed by Paramount and/or CBS to keep this licensed ‘Trek’ game as neutral and status-quo as possible.

DLC isn’t going to magically save the day and make the game longer either. There was only one DLC released, called “The Next Generation,” which seemed to promise more missions in the extremely beloved Patrick Steward vehicle that dragged ‘Trek’ out of obscurity in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. But instead of getting more story and characters – you know, the MAIN THINGS people like about ‘Star Trek’ – Ubisoft just gave us a new ship (the Enterprise – D) and two more poorly-designed, procedurally-generated missions (and a few more bugs and glitches).

There is no reason for “Bridge Crew” to be as short and lacking in quality narrative content as it is. A predatory micro-transaction-driven mobile game called “Star Trek: Timelines” manages to poop-out a new story-driven event EVERY WEEKEND, yet “Bridge Crew” players are left contemplating a plate of stale crumbs in a situation that will obviously never get any better, since Uplay has stopped supporting the game at this point.

Because it’s so short, a typical player will likely get only around 10 hours of entertainment out of “Bridge Crew.” Players who love procedural generation or who can stomach replaying the same content over and over in a game that doesn’t reward grinding in any way might be able to stretch it further.

Gameplay
“Bridge Crew” is a team-based Starship Bridge Simulator that places up to four team members in the various iconic roles seen on the ‘Star Trek’ TV series’ and movies. These roles are Captain, Helm, Tactical, and Engineering.

I took on the role of Captain, and, as predicted, learned that the top man in the pecking order usually doesn’t have much to do and is largely symbolic. The Captain is responsible for communicating the team’s objectives and enabling teamwork between the other stations, but, ultimately, competent members in the other stations typically won’t need much micro-management.

Helm is responsible for driving the starship. This station pilots the ship locally and selects both impulse and warp destinations. During hostilities, Helm is responsible for keeping the ship pointed at enemy targets and avoiding collisions.

Tactical is a wide-ranging station that operates both scanning and weapons systems. Tactical is responsible for raising and lowering the ship’s deflector shields, arming/disarming photon torpedoes, targeting objects in space, scanning anomalies, searching both friendly and hostile ships for cargo, and (usually) beaming said cargo aboard.

Engineering is probably the most complicated station, as the Engineer must perpetually balance a total of 10 energy pips between three different subsystems, each of which can hold up to 5 pips (but no less than 1) at once. These systems are Phasers (the ship’s weapons), Shields, and Engines. Further complicating things, the Engineer can redirect additional power from these systems into each other via an overload mechanic, while also directing repair crews to systems that have been damaged by enemy fire or spatial anomalies (or Helm being drunk and driving straight into an asteroid). Unfortunately, the U.S.S. Aegis doesn’t seem to have very good forcefield generators, as any hull damage the ship received during a mission cannot be repaired or patched.

Working together as a well-oiled machine, these four stations must complete objectives sent to the ship by Starfleet Command. These objectives involve traveling to given destinations, scanning objects, fighting off enemy vessels, and, frequently, dealing with unexpected sub-objectives that pop-up en route.

While these objectives do feel very authentic to what television ‘Star Trek’ crews of the past might have experienced, they also tend to be a bit generic and unbalanced. Traveling around The Trench scanning things is never particularly exhilarating, but, on the other hand, combat missions tend to be rather lopsided, with roughly twice as many enemies as a single starship would be able to handle with competence. Thus, in spite of the authenticity of the bridge stations and the tasks each crew member must perform, gameplay can have a tendency to waver between ‘dull’ and ‘frustrating,’ which really comes to a head in the procedurally-generated missions.

Overall
“Star Trek: Bridge Crew” is emblematic of a licensed game (by Ubisoft, no less) failing to live up to its potential. While the core gameplay mechanics are solid and interesting, the narrative structure to prop up the gameplay simply isn’t there. Between the short campaign and poorly-balanced procedurally-generated ‘continuing missions,’ we only get a glimpse of what might have been. If Ubisoft had a team of writers (or even one guy writing fanfiction) pumping new missions into this game on a regular basis, it could have been great. As it is, it’s still a unique addition to the ‘Star Trek’ IP and a compelling VR tech demo, but little more.

Presentation: 3/5
Story:
Base Game: 3/5
The Next Generation DLC: 0.5/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 3.5/5

 

 


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