I spent an unusual amount of time in VR at Gamescom 2016, much of it very impressive, but one brief 10-minute demo really left my jaw on the floor: Star Trek: Bridge Crew.
The idea behind the demo was simple: you are part of a crew of four in charge of the U.S.S. Aegis, from which you go on a brief mission to another galaxy. At E3, we tried the game in the role of the engineer. For this demo, a Ubisoft spokesperson took the role of captain, two other journalists were assigned to Engineering and Tactical, and I took the Helm.
Each role has simple assignments. The engineer can allocate power to different systems aboard the ship, such as engines, shields, and weapons. The captain gives the orders, tactical mans the weapons, and the helm flies the ship. Each role requires the help of your teammates, which creates a unique multiplayer experience for virtual reality.
The demo used the unreleased Oculus Touch controllers, through which we were able to operate the touch screen at our station. The Touch controllers really shined here: operating the in-game touch screen felt so natural that I entirely forgot that they were in my hands.
I didn’t get a chance to try out the other roles, but playing the helmsman was exciting. After learning the controls, the captain ordered me to plot a course to another galaxy. The engineer ensured that the warp drive had enough power, and at the same time, I lined the ship up for the jump. The engineer informed the captain that the warp coils were spooled up, and then I was told to take us to warp. Beautiful visuals showed through the windshield that reflected through the bridge; combined with the feeling that you’re actually piloting this huge starship, and with everyone cheering, I got goosebumps.
Pressing a button on the Oculus Touch controller also showed me an external view of ship, which only led to more goosebumps. With the Aegis below me, a giant star in front, a field of asteroids, and all the stars of the galaxy in the distance, the demo evoked a feeling unlike anything I’ve experienced in VR.
When we arrived at our destination I had to fly the ship around some asteroids, after which two Klingon ships showed up. The captain ordered engineering to take power from the engines and route it to shields and weapons, and while tactical was attempting to shoot the Klingons, I did my best to give him a straight shot. Sadly, we were overwhelmed, so the captain requested that the warp coils get spooled up again so that we could warp to safety. I plotted a course home and sent us back into warp.
A Simple Demo, But A Complicated Game?
The role of helmsman isn’t complicated. I had controls for engine throttle, forward and reverse, as well as a directional pad. To plot a course to another galaxy all I had to do was switch to warp mode, click on the destination galaxy, line the ship up, and engage warp. As far as I could tell, the other roles were equally simple. During the demo, simplicity wasn’t an issue because we were all getting used to the game, but it did make me wonder whether an added degree of complexity would be necessary for more experienced players.
There’s also the question of additional ships in the final game as well as more roles. However, the Ubisoft spokesperson was mum on the subject. The developer did already announce that in addition to a main campaign, the game would also feature procedurally-generated missions. Let's keep our fingers crossed that these will have enough variation to prevent the game from becoming repetitive.
It's also worth noting that although the screenshots provided may not make it look as if the game has particularly advanced graphics, the thing to remember is that it is in VR. We've seen prettier VR games, but the level of immersion that VR delivers makes you forget all about the graphics; I hadn't noticed that the detail in the interior of the bridge was quite this archaic until I pulled up these screenshots.
Concerns aside, the (incredibly fun) demo showed that Star Trek: Bridge Crew has incredible potential to become a VR title that I could actually see myself spending countless hours on. Perhaps I should consider purchasing my own VR system prior to this game's release on November 29.
|Name||Star Trek: Bridge Crew|
|Developer||Red Storm Entertainment|
|Platforms||Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR|
|Release Date||November 29 2016|