This week Star Trek: Bridge Crew got a big expansion called The Next Generation DLC. As a diehard TNG fan, I love it. The base game did a good job simulating the duties associated with serving on a starship in the Trek universe, and The Next Generation DLC adds a few improvements.
The Next Generation DLC adds two new mission types, Patrol and Resistance, two species, Romulans and Borg, and an entirely new role called Operations. While a previous update made it possible to play Bridge Crew on PS4 without PSVR, virtual reality is still the best way to experience the game. Being able to look over your shoulder at other crewmates (who can now be Data-style androids!) or a control panel that just burst into flames is one of the things that takes Bridge Crew beyond a decent Star Trek game into the territory of something something that’s unique to VR. The Next Generation DLC makes this even more apparent with a convincing recreation of the Enterprise-D where half the fun is just looking down at the familiar colours and fonts of your command station while the ambient noise of warp engines and ship sensors fills the room. Unlike the original Enterprise available in the game, the D strikes a nice balance between something that’s authentic and iconic but also still easy on the eyes.
So far I’ve played a couple of Patrols, a new activity similar to the base game’s “Ongoing Missions.” In patrol missions you hop-scotch across space investigating anomalies, transporting research data, and running into alien ships (The Next Generation DLC adds Romulans to the mix). It’s a nice, low-key way to log some hours on-board the new ship while still running into the occasional red alert-worthy situation. I didn’t encounter any of the weird plots TNG is known for, like helping giant spaceship aliens give birth or negotiating with a crystalline structure that becomes sentient through holodeck characters. While the game, design-wise, certainly seems to have room for these kinds of non-linear puzzles, it sticks mostly to the mundane Starfleet tasks like transporting scientists.
Still, there’s plenty of danger to be found during these missions, and role-playing a crew of four with random people online is surprisingly fun, especially when shit goes wrong. On more than one occasion phantom energy bursts almost destroyed the ship, setting parts of the bridge on fire because whoever was running Tactical wasn’t properly modulating the shields (another additional feature that adds some more tactical depth to the game). Meanwhile whoever is running Operations, the expansion’s replacement for the Engineering position, is responsible for allocating 10 virtual crew members on different decks to things like main engineering or the transporter room, sort of like managing the crew in FTL: Faster Than Light. These crew members can also die when the ship takes damage, and it’s surprisingly chilling hearing a stranger report over a mic which people on which decks just bit the dust.
At one point during our patrol we ran into a Borg cube. Panic set in as we were hailed and told resistance was futile. Fortunately we were able to manoeuvre behind a nearby asteroid for long enough to power the warp coils and get out of the star system, but our encounter with the Borg turned what could have been a boring patrol into a near death experience that helped me appreciate the times when things were more routine.
Should you decide to take the Borg head on, there’s also a new Resistance mode where your crew has to collect alien artefacts that will help you destroy the pale-skinned cyborgs. Red Storm designer Hunter Janes said in a post over at the PlayStation blog that players can also come up with their own Hail Mary strategies for taking out the Borg cube, like letting the warp core breach while on the edge of an anomaly to really make some fireworks. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a crew coordinated enough to try to pull something like that off. Still, the possibility offers something to strive for.
Anyone who felt that original game was too sparse probably won’t be won over by The Next Generation DLC, but it’s perfect fan service for the kind of person who would go out of their way to play a virtual reality game where you spend most of your time pushing buttons on a virtual computer screen.