Star Trek: Bridge Crew in VR is not a game for the socially anxious

As far as online multiplayer games go, Star Trek Bridge Crew is about as cooperative as they come. 

The game sees you play as a team of four crew members piloting one of the franchises’ starships. One player is the helm officer, tasked with steering the ship, and another is the tactical officer, responsible for the ship’s weapons. Finally you’ve got the engineer, who balances power between the various systems, and the captain, who has access to all the tactical information and is responsible for giving instructions to the rest of the crew. 

Even the most basic tasks require two or more players to work together. Warping to another system, for example, requires the captain to set a destination, before the helmsman prepares to warp, while the engineer helps to charge the warp drive. 

Get friendly, fast

Cooperation in multiplayer games is nothing new, but what’s interesting about Bridge Crew is the fact that the game doesn’t give you any means to communicate beyond using your voice. 

Where Team Fortress 2 allows you to simply press a button to tell your team you need a medic, Bridge Crew gives you no such shortcut. When the helmsman needs more power from the engineer, there’s no button they can press to alert them, they just have to suck it up and ask them directly. 

Star Trek: Bridge Crew is the first game where I’ve felt the need to introduce myself at the beginning of the match to save someone the embarrassment of trying to pronounce my ridiculous username. 

When I had a chance to play the game prior to its release, I was able to play with three other TechRadar staff members. We weren’t afraid to admit when we had no idea what we should be doing, and we all knew each other’s names and positions to be able to easily instruct each other what to do. 

It was a completely different experience playing the game online with strangers. I could barely remember the names of the people I was playing with to be able to tell them what to do, and the embarrassment I experienced when I didn’t know what I needed to do was intense. 

By the end of my session I was sweating, and this was only partially because of how clammy the HTC Vive headset is.

It’s normal to learn a game as you play, but it’s rare for me to feel this embarrassed when I feel like I’m letting my team down. With only four players, no overlapping roles, and an always-on voice chat, Star Trek: Bridge Crew leaves you no place to hide from your ineptness. 

Imagine playing a live-action escape the room game with a group of total strangers and you’ll have imagined something close to the feeling of playing Bridge Crew online with strangers. 

Beyond the multiplayer

Beyond the uniqueness of the multiplayer, and the odd feeling of shyness I got from playing online, I can’t shake the feeling that at its core, Bridge Crew is quite a dull game. 

There’s simply not enough for each player to be doing at any one point in time. The engineer can route power to the relevant sub-systems, but then they’re pretty much left to twiddle their thumbs while they wait for the tactical officer and engineer to play their parts. 

The captain is left with the most hands-off role of all as they keep an eye on the mission’s objectives, and the overall health of the ship, while everyone else gets the fun task of controlling their various systems. 

Playing the game in single-player reveals just how shallow the core gameplay is. With only one player, the game gives you the option of either giving your AI companions instructions or jumping into their bodies to control them directly. 

It’s not a fun experience. Removing the joy of coordinating a team of real players reveals how simple the core gameplay mechanics are. It’s like piloting an incredibly slow space tank where you have to swap characters to move from moving to shooting. 

If you’ve got three friends who are equipped with VR headsets then the game is as fun as you and your friends make it. From coordinating strategies, to just having fun gesticulating at each other in VR, Bridge Crew is like a virtual reality playground set in a nerd’s paradise. 

But if you’re buying the game in the hope of playing with strangers, then you’re going to have to leave any shyness or social anxiety at the door. There’s nowhere to hide in Star Trek: Bridge Crew, and you’ll have to be prepared to work not just as a team, but as friends, if you want to have a good time. 

Jon Porter

Jon Porter is the ex-Home Technology Writer for TechRadar. He has also previously written for Practical Photoshop, Trusted Reviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes and Plant Services Magazine, and you can now find him writing for The Verge.