Developer / Publisher – Red Storm Entertainment / Ubisoft Entertainment
Price – US $49.99 / EU €49.99 / UK £39.99 / AU $69.95
Release date – May 30th, 2017
Control Method – Dual Shock, 2 Move Controllers
Pro Patch – Yes
Digital only – No
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro
A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, a game like this would have been quickly lost to the annals of time. Thankfully, with VR now in it’s infant stages, we few get to experience new ways to play games. Ubisoft has been delivering some high-quality content for VR and along with that quality is a fair bit of experimentation. Their previous VR social experiment was last years ‘Werewolves Within’ which was a phenomenal twist on the social mystery games made possible with VR and forced us to deceive, lie and a cooperate with your fellow gamers. The deceit and lies are now gone as you traverse through an unexplored section of the Star Trek galaxy with only you and your crew members to rely on to see you to safety.
For those wondering, this is a stationary game so pull up a chair and get comfortable. In the single player you take control of the captain, who commands the rest of the crew through a series of interactive screens and menus. While the captain has minimal access to each of the 3 other positions’ options, at any time you can take over a position for more detailed controls at that station. Most of the single player game can be played from the comforts of the captain’s chair and a view of the bridge, but to learn all the subtleties needed to fully enjoy the game, it’s in your best interest to play with the other positions and learn their intricacies. Missions come in the form of transmitted orders or circumstantial situations which force you to react to the changes thrown your way.
Tactical, Engineering Helm and of course Captain are the 4 positions available and offer up their own set of challenges. The captain has the easiest job in some ways as it’s up to others to do his bidding, that said, being captain does carry the burden of responsibility and a failed mission is more often than not blamed on the man(or woman) in charge. Engineering involves power management/balancing like increasing shield power at the sacrifice of speed, as well as repairing ships functions. Helm is in charge of the ships control and is stressful in the middle of combat, but easy going enough when outside of combat. Tactical is responsible for weapons and few other scanning options. Every position has its own unique troubles when intense situations come up and offers a whole new way to play through the games 5 missions.
With both Move and DS4 control options, how you play is up to you, though each method has its own pro’s and con’s. The DS4 controller will require a fair bit of practice, mostly just to remember how to navigate through all the menu’s. Left and right hands are assigned the matching trigger buttons while the switching option utilize the face buttons. Looking at the 3 crew members and hitting ‘X’ brings up a sub menu for each crew member with a few more options. Taking over any position brings up a whole new set of menus for you to familiarize with and more detailed controls. Truthfully, it’s a lot to take in, but their would be no other way to accomplish the games controls and make this a proper simulation.
The Move controllers offer a similar experience but offer a much more “realistic” simulation with your hands being mapped to your real-life movements. I found this to be sort of a mess with myself constantly hitting the wrong buttons or with tracking issues forcing me to readjust often. It ended up being more frustration than it was worth and I stuck with the DS4 control scheme. I will say that mastering this control method for multiplayer is a goal of mine as the arm movements offer up some enjoyable, more realistic actions when talking to your allies as opposed to your hands being locked to the different panels before you.
The single player campaign thankfully eases you into the controls with some easy-going mission to start you off, as well as some pretty sweet fan service on that same mission. If you aren’t a fan of Star Trek, fret not as you don’t need to know anything to enjoy this game, just think of it more a futuristic submarine bridge simulator. The single player story unfolds into a standard plot with both familiar and unknown enemies, exploration and battles. The battles are more strategic than action packed as you are still stuck on the bridge watching the action unfold on the view screen before you and the panels around you. Each mission can be beaten in 30 min or so, though the last 2 missions ramp up the difficulty enough to warrant multiple playthroughs before successfully completing them. The other option is never-ending, procedurally generated mission mode that allows you to just pick and play a singular mission. It’s worth mentioning that while initially the AI is able to handle your commands, when the action intensifies I found them often not doing their job and costing me the mission, forcing a restart.
The exact same game options are available in multiplayer so it’s up to you to decide how want to play. Matchmaking has you and up to 3 others manning 1 of the 4 positions, though someone must be captain to start the game. After that it’s all about communication and mastering each positions controls and patience. Online is a different monster as the people you meet online are generally cool, but can also be much less so. On more than one occasion teammates became frustrated with each other because of a lack of knowledge when it came to gameplay. I suggest playing through the campaign and few stand-alone missions and familiarize yourself with the game, it’ll pay off with a lot more fun online.
The game looks great, and captures the Abrahams version of Star Trek, though in a new ship, the Aegis. The bridge is fully manned with the occasional crew interaction making this feel like an active ship full of trained officers. I found the space visuals to be a little washed out on the PSVR, nothing crazy but some things didn’t look that great. That said some of the cooler visuals like passing a Star at impulse speed and being in the middle of a hectic battle are still undeniably awesome. Just to mix up your POV, the option to view the exterior of the ship and take in the surrounding area affords you a different way to look at the space around you. Character models as well looked a little stiff and not to animated, but they do the job.
As a licensed product, sounds as well are awesome and ripped directly from the recent series of movies. Everything audible is super polished and feels very clean, like the Star Trek universe in general. Trekkie, symphonic music kicks in when the situation demands it, torpedoes being blasted or just firing phasers all carry that ‘oomph’ that immediately throw you into the universe.
A great option is also to play in the classic enterprise, which is awesome, but carries with it a few setbacks. The button layout has been completely changed up and most of us will be forced to play with the button label overlay on because none of the buttons are labelled and the whole interface is very unintuitive. It’s a recreation of the classic series, but it will take a lot of time to get used to, especially considering how much you need to learn in the first place. It still looks and sounds amazing and if there is classic Trekkie in you, you won’t be able to help yourself from playing in this mode just for nostalgias sake.
This is ultimately a great social experience that takes place in an established and familiar universe. If you’re are unfamiliar with Star Trek, don’t worry about it. You may miss a few canonical references, but that game is its own monster and if you love the idea of commanding your own space ship from the bridge, issuing orders and adapting to ever-changing situations than this is great. For Trek fans this is some of the best fan service you could ask for, never has a Trek game made me feel like I was in that universe and this nails that feeling.
What would I pay? $50US is great. Though the campaign length is light, it’s still fun and replayable, especially with other players. There is a lot to figure out, but once you master a positions controls, you’ll have an absolute blast.