For almost a decade, the Star Trek gaming license was handed out to anyone willing to shell out the exorbitant fees to Paramount. Unfortunately, the games produced were below par on most accounts and did not live up to the creativity, ingenuity, and originality that made Star Trek such a phenomenon. Just a couple of years ago, it seems that game designers and publishers alike were able to finally get their act together and produce several game titles that were not only worthy of the Trek moniker, but also extremely entertaining to play (Elite Force, Klingon Academy, Armada, and The Fallen to name a few). We can thank the gaming gods that the trend towards high quality Star Trek wasn't just short lived ideology. Instead, game designers have actively tapped into rich history and canon of StarTrek, as well as the gaming fans of the sci-fi drama, in order to produce more titles worthy of the name Star Trek. This process is most evident in the latest release to carry the Trek name, Bridge Commander. This latest release from Activision Games not only stays true to the overall theme of its namesake, but also incorporates some of the best ship-to-ship action and combat that is available on the market to date.
Developed by Totally Games and published by Activision, Star Trek: Bridge Commander plays as a mix between a space simulation game and a role-playing adventure. Players assume the role of a Starfleet Officer, taking command of a Galaxy class Starship (think of the Enterprise from TNG) after a massive solar eruption destroys a Federation colony, killing the ship's Captain in the process. Now as a newly promoted Captain, players must investigate the budding mystery surrounding the incident and uncover the plot that threatens the entire Federation. During the course of the game, players will have the chance to take part in explore many of the core elements that are familiar to Star Trek, including combat, rescue, scientific discovery, and of course combat.
As a whole, Bridge Commander contains some of the most intrinsic and extensive Star Trek features in a title to date. A total Trek experience seems to be the goal (and the promise) of the games designers, and without a doubt, Bridge Commander achieves this aim by providing players a sincere and authentic level of game play that matches some of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes to date. From the beginning to the end of the game, players truly are immersed into an episode of Trek, right down from the writing, the voiceovers, and even the high paced action. The added twist is that instead of just watching an episode on TV, players get to change to actually interact with their surroundings, playing the part of the ship's captain.
As the name suggests, most of the action on Bridge Commander takes place on the bridge of a Federation Starship. From this point, players control the action and follow the story line that surrounds the game by issuing orders to the bridge staff. These AI controlled members of your crew control the helm (ship control and navigation), tactical (weapons and combat procedures), engineering (power allocation and repairs) science (sensors and other data output), and your 1st officer (general help controls, ship alerts functions, objective status). Each station contains its own set of controls (fashioned in ST:TNG style) that can left to the control of the AI, or usurped by the player at any time, especially during critical functions like combat. The game progresses not unlike a ST:TNG episode through 25 separate missions where players are guided by Starfleet and their crewmembers alike in order to complete the task or tasks at hand. These missions include many Trek based themes, including exploration, diplomacy, search and rescue, and of course combat.
There should be no doubt at all that Bridge Commander is a genuine Star Trek game. Every aspect of the game from computer modeling, character design, writing, bridge and ship designs are completely permeated with the essence of Star Trek. What was most surprising was the ship combat system that was effectively engineered by the game developers at Totally Games. Each ship in the game possesses the same qualities and attributes of their TV show counterparts, including speed, weapons, and even race based combat tactics. Weapons control also allows players to pinpoint specific sub-systems onboard enemy vessels (as well as vice versa) that allows key ship systems to be targeted in order to disable a craft more effectively (i.e., engines, power supply, cloak). Weapons can also be controlled via the staff AI position (allowing for a more Trek-like battle condition) or players can take manual control of the system for a more tailored approach to combat. Taking manual control of the ship proved a daunting task, however, and effective battle techniques and control took quite a bit of time to master. Playing in manual also takes away from BC's battle sim experience from the captain's point of view, which essentially gives you realistic Trek combat damage conditions: bridge shaking, exploding consoles, electrical fires, smoke, and crewmembers flying from their seats.
Overall, Star Trek: Bridge Commander turned
out to be quite a pleasurable game and extremely worthy of the Trek moniker.
Fans of the hit TV and Movie series will no doubt relish in the extremely well
written and executed storyline that players are immersed into with the single
player version of the game. The realism that the bridge simulation gives to
plays is unmatched to date, and the interaction between yourself and the bridge
crew gives the true feeling of being in an episode of Star Trek: The Next
Generation. For those wanting slightly more from their Star Trek experience than
just exploration or role-playing, the combat system on both the single and
multiplayer version should be enough added excitement to keep fans of carnage
coming back for more.