Star Trek Bridge Commander

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: ActiVision, go to the web site
Requires: 3D hardware accelerator with 16MB VRAM; US version of Windows 95 (OSR2), 98, ME, 2000 or XP; Pentium II/300MHz or AMD Athlon processor; 64MB RAM, 750MB disk space; 100% DirectX8 compatible sound card, video card and drivers; 4x CD-ROM drive, 100% Microsoft compatible mouse and keyboard.

MSRP: $49.99

Star Trek Bridge Commander is the first comprehensive space simulation set in the Next Generation universe and it puts you in command of your own Starfleet starship and crew. Are you ready to take the Con? Totally Games, the developer, claims to be taking us where no one has gone before. Now where have I heard that line before? Just kidding. Star Trek Bridge Commander has been designed to integrate all elements of starship internal & external controls/systems, navigation, battle and armaments and even some crew relationships.

The back story is relatively straightforward. While on duty in a remote area of space, a nearby sun suddenly erupts releasing a deadly blast that damages your ship, kills your Captain and threatens nearby colonists. You must take control of the ship and lead the crew in order to solve the mystery. The game mission is also clear - discover the cause of the devastating explosion and prevent it from happening again. During it all you'll battle the Cardassians, ally yourself with the Klingons, investigate the unpredictable Romulans and uncover a secret plot which threatens the Federation. There are more than 30 missions, most of which include variations on fundamental Star Trek elements such as defense, combat, diplomacy, exploration, rescue and scientific discovery. You also get to command a variety of ships in both Galaxy and Sovereign classes as well as the U.S.S. Enterprise-D and U.S.S. Enterprise-E.

You need to think about what you're doing when you take command. For example, at one point early on I routed sensor and shield power to the phaser array (for the extra power needed to blast through a bunch of space gas, rock and junk that was in my way). A few minutes later though, I found myself attempting to scan for enemy ships but got absolutely nothing but dull fuzz on my sensors. DUH-UH!! It helps to remember to re-route power BACK to the sensors. There are a lot of details to remember and the deeper into it you get, the more fun it is. Totally Games has spent a lot of time getting the details right. Can you keep your cool while bulkheads fail? Will you save your crew? Will you save the colonists and defend the Federation from a new threat?

Graphically, the game is interesting but certainly falls short of the latest in animation. The crew characters are somewhat wooden and most word/mouth motion looks too much like a marionette - up/down only with no cheek or lip movement. The best graphical work seems reserved for the giant viewscreen featured on all command bridges. That also means most of the action takes places in an area much smaller than the available space on your monitor. You're kept busy enough - even stressed to some degree - so that you won't notice the smaller action area however.

Audio is good to excellent. Patrick Stewart recorded a lot of dialog for this game and it has been carefully combined with the reasonably good AI. Exploratory, battle, sensor, general effects and scientific sound events are quite good and add lots of useful and effective atmosphere to the game play.

Cons: The usual gripes about lock-ups, video card driver hassles and a couple of noteworthy bugs. One bug in particular allows one character to speak at the same time as another (the pilot speaking over top of Picard in one case) resulting in a lot of difficulty understanding what's being said. The program could not detect and load our saved game on a PIII/550 Windows XP system. Good stability in Windows 98, but a couple of crashes out to the desktop in XP.

Pros: This is not a brainless shoot-em-up - you've got to think about what you're doing. Lots of story and technical contributions from D.C. Fontana and other well-known Star Trek collaborators. Star Trek Bridge Commander is also compatible with the latest voice-recognition command technology which lets you issue verbal commands to your crew in the game without the use of a keyboard or mouse. This is so cool we could not resist trying it out - it works and you have got to experience saying "ENGAGE" or "FIRE" and then watching and listening to the resulting action. Distributed and marketed by ActiVision. Lots of somewhat serious fun. Recommended.

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