Trek Bridge Commander
Review by Mike Phillips
"Captain's personal log. Stardate 54303.1: Our new first
officer is working out nicely, quite capable though mildly lacking
in experience. The commander will gain that with time. My ship has
been assigned to the Vesuvi system to investigate the unusual solar
activity hampering colonization in the Maelstrom. I hope to learn
more at the Vesuvi Four terraforming, the sole Federation outpost
in this region of space. We are also on alert for any Cardassian
activity. Despite Starfleet's claims, I doubt we've seen the last
of them here ..."
If that prologue raises an eyebrow, you may have just found a game
as valuable as gold pressed latinum. Billed as a space sim/adventure,
STBC is the first game that actually gives you a true feeling
of being the captain of a starship.
Mr. Holland's Opus
Lawrence Holland may not be a household name to adventure gamers,
but the gentleman does have a few miles on his tires or, more appropriate,
a few light years under his belt. Among his notable credits, he
happened to design the X-Wing series of games for LucasArts.
Should that arouse any interest for an adventure gamer? Of course
not; however, in STBC a certain DC Fontana is responsible
for the dialog. Surely that name is familiarDorothy has penned,
as well as directed, a few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Point being, this game was designed by a professional, written
by a professional, nothing could possibly go wrong ... right?
He's Dead, Jim
If you happen to be squeamish over the absence of a save-anywhere
feature, be aware that STBC unfortunately doesn't have one.
The game auto-saves between missions. Unless your surname is Kirk,
Janeway, or Picard, expect to repeat several sequences countless
times until you perform the correct actions. At times the game is
rigidly linear, and to make matters worse you can't skip the cutscenes
after a failed effort. Pumping the backspace key gets you through
one line of dialog at a time, but that becomes annoying as Tribbles
upon your fifth attempt at a mission.
Set Phasers to Kill
Yet another complaintyour first officer Saffi Larson is a,
well, let's just say she's annoying. Imagine that creep in your
office who likes to take note of every smoke or bathroom break that
you take, can recall every personal call or email that you make
or receive, and knows if you arrive a minute late or leave a nanosecond
early. Saffi is far worse. One wrong move on your part and Commander
Larson has already hailed Starfleet reporting your negligence. She
wants your command, plain and simple. Too bad there isn't an option
to load her into the captain's yacht for a trip to the nearest sun.
I've already seen gamers replacing her head with the most unholy
of images that your worst nightmares couldn't conjure up.
That Is Most Illogical, Captain
The graphics are puzzling, to say the least. At times they are
nothing short of amazing; a few seconds later, they can be as horrid-looking
as a Klingon entrée. The bridges of the two ships in STBC
are both in a serious need of a visit from Martha Stewart; it's
obvious the artists didn't spend much time with that aspect. The
character models are spot-onyou literally feel like Jean-Luc
Picard is sitting next to you early on in the game. Then his mouth
moves ... Lip-synch has the look of old Cyberflix games such as
Dust or Titanic. Yet in battle scenes, one couldn't
ask for anything better. A bit strange, but I imagine the designers
had a few budgetary decisions to make. So be it.
Another concern: unpatched, the game leaks memory. Let me correct
thatit eats memory! A few reboots can cure that, but it is
a problem if you want to play for hours on end.
More Is Good ... All Is Better
That about covers the somewhat minor gripes. Now for what the game
does well. I may bring the FFC server to its knees describing all
The voice acting, which includes that of Patrick Stewart and Brent
Spiner, is top-shelf, naturally, as in most Trek games. It's wonderful
to see actors taking games seriously, as it adds so much to the
end product. The music is also up to Trek standards, fully orchestrated
and on a grand scale.
STBC absorbs one in the Trek universe unlike any game in
its lineage. You are the captain; the options are nearly
infinite in the game. Want to play it as an adventure game? The
option is there. Bridge Mode is the default viewpoint, which happens
to be of the first-person flavor. It works quite well; it gives
you the feeling that you are indeed part of the game. Simple touches
like camera movements do wonders here; as you walk onto the bridge
and descend the stairs, the camera replicates these steps very effectively.
Your character is a faceless, nameless entity, further supplementing
the "you are there" feeling. The mouse is all that's needed
in this incarnationsimply delegate authority to your officers
on the bridge and bark out orders. Decide which alert status you
should be under, how much power to expend on weapons, shields, engines,
or sensors, the usual decisions seen made by those who boldly go
where no one has gone before. Should you fire on that Romulan ship
or trust their offer of peace and drop your shields? This is where
the game is the antithesis of linearitysome of your actions
affect what happens later in the game. Check your twitch-reflexes
in the transporter room, as they aren't needed. The combat is more
tactical in nature, as it should be. A starship is more akin to
a battleship than a type of fighter; unlike in many past Trek games,
these lumbering vessels move somewhat slowly, giving you time to
plan your attack.
Or you can forego Bridge Mode and just go crazy with the game.
Ever had an ambition to be a weapons officer? The option is thereyou
can manually target specific systems on an enemy ship and figure
out the quickest way to disable or destroy them. Should you fire
phasers, and on what spread? Should you opt for the photon torpedoes
in lieu of those limited yet deadly quantum torps? Don't forget
about those experimental phased torps!
How about "driving" the shipwant to be the navigator?
You can do that as well. Are your port shields weak? Then naturally
you want to make an attack run with your starboard side exposed
to the enemy. Is your hull damage severe enough to turn tail and
You control as much or as little as you desire, with three difficulty
settings, First Officer, Captain, and Admiral. Personally, I believe
the Admiral setting is there for gamers who have suicidal tendencies.
She Canna Take Much More, Cap'n
If you tire of the somewhat short single player game, there's more.
Quick Battle Mode is there if you just want to sharpen your skills
or play a quick game. It's fully customizable; it's your choice
as to how many foes you wish to face, or how much support you desire,
and of what variety for either.
Want more? Multiplayer, perhaps? There are a few variations of
Deathmatch and Defend the Starbase (capture the flag) that work
great out of the box if that happens to be your thing.
Why not throw in voice-command technology to sweeten the deal?
Totally Games did just that! This aspect may not interest the average
adventure gamer yet, butface realityit won't be long
before point-and-click will be replaced by saying "go forward,"
"turn right," etc.
Is the Vessel Cloaked?
I'd surmise at this point everyone is screaming, "Is this
an adventure game or not?" My answer is, "Who shot JFK?
Is the artist formerly known as Prince male or female? Did Gilligan
ever know Maryann in the biblical sense?" More of life's mysteries,
perhaps. With genre lines thoroughly blurred of late, this game
really can't be pigeonholed into a specific category. At times it
is an adventure game, then it's a flight simulation, at another
turn a space shooter. Whatever it is, it's a great game that any
Trek fan can't pass by. Gamers from all genres should give it a
go; it offers something for everyone and rarely disappoints.
Make it So, Number One
A grade, and I hate this part: for me personally I'd go for a
and a feather rather than a full .
It comes close, but that status has to be reserved for the knock-your-socks-off
winners. This title didn't quite hit it out of the park.
Release Date: February 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
3D hardware accelerator with 16 MB VRAM (100% DirectX compliant
3D video card is required)
Pentium II 300 MHz processor (Pentium II 450 MHz processor recommended)
or Athlon processor
64 MB RAM
650 MB of uncompressed hard disk space for game files; plus an additional
100 MB for Windows swap file
DirectX 8.0a or higher (included)
DirectX compatible 16 MB video card
DirectX 8.0a or higher compatible sound card
4X CD-ROM drive
Microsoft-compatible mouse, keyboard