Star Trek: Bridge Commander
by Vanor Orion

I'm just gonna go ahead and get this out of the way now: This is gonna be a long one. A long-winded one, with lots of dorky words that you won't understand. And it's not gonna get immediately to the point cuz I'm gonna talk about some shit that isn't immediately imperative to what I'm typing about. Which is now.

Now I'm not a PC gaming enthusiast, but several years ago when I was taking computer class in my senior year of high school (which was supposed to have been Library Assistant you fuckwad cheapskate killjoy administrators) I got to play several games in our after-school computer-gaming get-togethers. A lot of them were FPSs like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Serious Sam or Rainbow Six (whatever the fuck kind of game that was). But then one day, we installed a new game to test out on our computers: Star Trek: Bridge Commander.

Now, I'm a big Sci-Fi dork. I love stuff in space, or in the future, or anything like that. I definitely prefer it to fucking elves and hobbits and wizards. Sure you got magic and hordes of conjured hellspawns at your beck and whim, but all my wussy ass has to do is push a button and transport your ass into deep space and see how your lungs like chewing on vacuum until they turn inside-out, your eyeballs freeze and your heart explodes. It's the worst death imaginable, and I'm pretty sure that some of you would know who I'm para-phrasing right now so I'll shut up.

Now, that's not to say I just love anything that's science fiction for the sake of it being science fiction. I'm rather discriminating, and sadly I haven't seen much in the way of good sci-fi in years. If I was forced to choose the one I love the most, it's most certainly Babylon 5. It wins hands-down. But that's not to say I hate Star Trek. I love Star Trek. I love First Wave. SG-1's tongue-in-cheekiness? Love it. I love Lexx (which is more of a spoof or whatever, but it's still in space, and it's also fucking hilarious). I even love Earth: Final Conflict. Star Wars hasn't aged so well for me, especially when you consider that the made-for-TV B5 prequel kicked the shit out of Episode 1 in every conceivable manner in terms of quality, it shouldn't come as a surprise. But the X-Wing books are probably better than the first three original films combined, and maybe the only ones I can recommend reading (at least the first four). Fuck, I even like the ones by Aaron Allston, okay? Look, no one fucks with Wedge and Tycho, all right? They're awesome; especially that time when Wedge blew up a star destroyer's bridge by firing proton torps into it at point blank range whilst upside down. And the captain was staring at him through the viewport in shock when it happened. Nobody fucks with Wedge, not even god damn Final Fantasy, ya hear?!

"God, I miss this show."

Look, I'm just trying to say, I love space and shit. I'm not some damned Trekkie or asshole who goes to movies dressed like a god damn stormtrooper or Jedi Master. Fuck, I've never even considered going to conventions because my own fellow fans creep the shit out of me (not all of them, I know, some of you are normal). Probably the same reason why I don't go to gaming conventions. I just love the stuff I love, and I love learning about it, and if it's good enough, I keep up with it. Which makes me sad that they've never gotten JMS to ever write a fucking theatrical film in the B5 universe. That would probably have to involve a thinking, cognative audience to truly appreciate, and judging by what's popular on TV today, I'd wager that the amount of smart people in the world are outnumbered by the dumb.

Beh, that's enough of my Cranky Kong "Back in my day" shit. What I'm trying to emphasize here, is that I love space stuff. I especially love spaceships, and I love Star Trek spaceships most of all. Don't get me wrong, I love Starfuries, but let's face it: They were the fucking red-shirts and Ensign Rickies in B5. The moment that a pilot strapped himself in to ride fire, you knew he had a one-in-three chance of being reduced to superheated slag along with the ship. But B5 was more realistic. Star Trek had technobabble bullshit means of plot contrivance and convenience to solve almost any problem that popped up (the ultimate achilles' heel of that show). But the starships were badass simply for that alone. In Balance of Terror the Romulans fucking nuked the Enterprise and it did nothing. There was that awesome battle with the Borg Cube in First Contact. There was the Dominion War in DS9. There was Seven of Nine on I mean fuck, you even had Sam Beckett taking on a full-time job commanding the Enterprise while still finding time in his busy schedule to do some leaping every now and again.

"Don't worry, you two still kick ass."

So, now that you have been made aware of my predisposition to all things sci-fi, imagine the moment I booted Bridge Commander up on the school's computer, and started playing? The general rule of thumb for license games is that they usually suck. But Bridge Commander is a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge fucking exception. Needless to say, it didn't take long to realize that I was in gaming/fanboy nirvana.

Star Trek: Bridge Commander, puts you (yeah you, godammit) in command of the USS Dauntless after the sudden explosion of a nearby star kills your captain, fucks up the entire sector of space, and critically damages your Galaxy-class starship. The closest one can define BC playing like, is the combination of Combat Flight Simulator and Star Fox, with the best of both of those games being mixed in with the Star Trek license until you got some fucking awesome ryshcate that's liable to leave you in a euphoric transience that's downright orgasmic. Yes, I just likened a Star Trek game to sex, and I don't give a shit.

It's just that Bridge Commander does such a damn fucking dead-on knockdown job of immersing the player in the Star Trek universe that you actually wind up feeling as though you're the captain of your own starship. This is in part thanks to the fact that the developers went out of their way to treat this game like it was a part of the Star Trek universe. Whether it's part of the canon or not?ah fuck who cares about that?! What I am saying though is that they went out of their way to make you feel as you really were a part of Star Trek, and make this game a part of Star Trek. They half-assed nothing in that regard.

When you start the game out on Story Mode, it's been a month since the "Vesuvi Incident" that killed your captain. The Dauntless has just now completed its repairs, and is ready for active service once more. You were Number 1, but that was before the exploding star turned your captain into particles of Number 2 floating among the stellar winds, so now you're head-honcho. Before you disembark, your new Number 1 arrives on the bridge along with Captain Picard to serve as the game's tutorial as you transit from drydock back to the Vesuvi System. And yes, they got Patrick Stewart to do his voice. Not only he, but also Brent Spiner and many other regulars from the varying shows lend their talents to the game, which goes a hell of a long way to really put the player in the Star Trek universe. The dialogue is excellent, and is what you'd come to expect from an episode of any of the series?right down to the technobabble. The fact that the devs put this much effort into the writing and presentation is truly admirable when it could have been far easier to cut corners, and would have cheapened the experience gravely. Even the bits with Picard acting as your tutorial are handled deftly, without being obtrusive to the player, since you can ignore him if you already know what you're doing.

"Make it so, mother fucker!"

Now, there are two ways you can play this game.:

One involves you micro-managing all the Starship's operations from a 1st-person perspective sitting at your captain's chair and telling all your bridge staff what to do. Everything is confined to the bridge, and you never have to leave your seat to do anything. You use the mouse to look around the bridge, click on your various officers, and they'll have a list of commands unique to their posting that you can input. This is all handled intuitively so that the officers that you usually use the most are directly in front of you and in easy reach, whereas the less needed ones are located in other parts of the bridge.

First is the tactical officer, who looks a lot like The Rock. You give him orders and he'll work in tandem with the helms(wo)man to take out any enemy threats without you having to lift so much as a finger to get the job done if you so desire. You can also micro manage the manner in which he attacks by telling him to use only phasers, or to go all out with your arsenal, or attacking an enemy ship to disable rather than destroy it.

Your helms(wo)man handles certain things like warping to other star sytems in the story mode, intercepting long-range targets at high velocity, setting nav points, and hailing other ships. She's kinda like a combination of Uhura and Sulu, only not black or secretly gay and sounds supsicously like Regina from Dino Crisis.

You got your science officer who is there for story progression purposes, but also keeps you appraised of the enemy's status during combat. You also got Brex, the chief engineer, who handles your power allocation from the warp core and your repair teams should the ship take damage. He's also probably the most amusing person in your crew because most of his dialogue is laced with plenty of smartass quips.

Then there's your new first officer, Larson. She handles things such as reminding you what your current mission objectives are in story mode, going into red, yellow, or green alert, and since you're the silent protagonist, she's also your mouthpiece. She also comes off as a total bitch and within 20 minutes into the game you wanna strangle her. Then again, she is new, so maybe she eventually settles in and loosens up...probably not. To quote Dr. McCoy, "I'd give real money if she'd shut up." (God rest your soul, DeForest Kelly.)

For a more hands-on approach, hitting the space key takes you to an exterior view of your ship, and this mode allows you to pilot it directly, along with firing your weapons. So you shift from a simulation mode to more of a 3D shooter, though, there's much more to the combat than simply blasting something till it explodes, though the explosions are spectacular.

There are two distinct parameters for each ship in the game. One is its hull rating, the other is its shield rating (if it has shields). The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the ship is, the higher the hull rating is, and the more damage it can take from enemy fire before the ship is destroyed. If a ship or object has shields, then it's represented by arcs on your ship's HUD. All ships have 6 shield arcs: Fore, aft, port, starboard, ventral, dorsal. Each shield arc has its own rating. The higher the shield rating, the more damage they can absorb before the arc succumbs. Though, if enough firepower is consistently applied to the same arc, you'll get what is called "bleedthrough" damage, which is some (but not all) of the weapon's firepower reaching through to damage the hull, if only slightly.

Now combat in the game plays out like a 3D shooter of sorts, though it involves quite a lot of strategy. On top of shields and hull rating, each ship also has a number of subsystems integrated throughout its hull. These subsystems all do different things. Some vital to the operation of your ship, and some only necessary in story mode, or not very necessary at all in other circumstances. And the layout for the subsystems differs on each ship, especially between different races. But subsystems are what add a whole other dimension to combat in BC.

Your weapons, shields, sensors, engines, bridge, power generation, warp capability, and many other vital functions are all physically represented on your ship as a subsystem. As opposed to simply blasting a ship until its hull integrity folds, you can target individual subsystems to cripple a ship's capability. If you wish to hinder your opposition's mobility, you can target their engines, and disable them, or destroy them outright. Each ship has a certain number of repair teams that will automatically begin repairing subsystems as they start to take damage. If only one subsystem is damaged, then they'll all work simultaneously to fix it in short order.

The key to victory in this game is to destroy your opponent's ability to operate, while at the same time keeping your own combat efficiency up. Everything is hotkeyed to your keyboard. All of your officers' commands are hotkeyed, and can even be brought up during 3D combat where you manually operate the ship. The most vital of these is Brex's engineering menu. Along with being able to queue up which of your subsystems need repair next (and view which ones have been destroyed), you can also view your ship's power output. For most ships you have a warp core, though there are a few noteable exceptions in the game (such as the Romulan's Warbird running on an artificial singularity). Your power output is measured as one long bar on the engineering menu. The largest portion of the bar is taken up by the ship's primary means of power generation, usually the warp core. The warp core also happens to be represented as a subsystem, so if this system takes damage, your overall power output will begin to decrease.

Directly underneath your power output are four seperate bars: Weapons, Engines, Sensors, Shields. Each are color-coded to show how much they each draw from your ship's power supply. Your engines and sensors don't draw much power, but your shields and weapons draw vast amounts of energy. Each bar has a slider to adjust the amount of power they draw from the warp core, and how effectively they operate. Shields regenerate their arcs at a higher rate when their power output is maxed, as do weapons. Sensors get stronger readings over longer ranges with maximum power output, and your maximum top speed and mobility increase with maximum engine output.

And all of these can be critically hindered by attacking the warp core. As your core is damaged, your overall power generation drops, and eventually your aforementioned systems will suffer reduced efficiency. This is a vital part of combat in that you have to maintain your power supply (by making sure your resources aren't overtaxing it), and making sure it doesn't drop from taking damage.

But that's what makes this game so engrossing: You can literally tackle any opponent in any fight in any number of ways, all of which are valid. If you want to just pulverize the ship with reckless abandon, then you can do that. If you want to rip out the ship's fangs, then you can knock out its weapons. If you wanna stop the ship dead in its tracks, you can take out the engines. If you wanna blind your opponent, you can take out their sesnors (and Federations ships can't fire phasers without sensors). If an enemy is being extra pesky, you can hold them still with a tractor beam and wail on them mercilessly. If you wanna instantly destroy a ship with minimal effort, then you can take out it's warp core or bridge for instant destruction.

And speaking of destruction, that's one area of the game that can factor in heavily during gameplay: Your ships' models are destructible and can deform as they take damage. You can literally blow a hole through a ship, and damage or instantly destroy any subsystems in those areas. Naturally, you can turn this feature on or off in the game's settings. But it can have a huge effect on the tide of battle. And it's just fucking cool. You can watch a ship get chewed away by your phasers and have holes blown through it by photon torpedoes. Or you can cringe as you collide with another vessel during combat, which will gouge out huge portions of the hull. And after a particularly grueling battle, not only will you feel like you just got by with the skin of your teeth, your ship will usually look much the same way.

"Captain, I don't think our insurance covers this."

While short, the story mode is great, and pits you against those dastardly Cardassians (don't they ever learn). The presentation is nothing short of brilliant and actually fits in with the actual Star Trek timeline, taking place not long after the end of the Dominion War. I won't ruin the plot, but you will eventually encounter a brand new species of lifeform that is initially hostile to you, but you can actually choose to befriend later on in the game to take on the real villains. It's really damn cool though cuz you'll ride fire alongside Romulan Warbirds, Klingon Birds of Prey, and other Starfleet vessels.

And those are the real stars of the show: The ships. Even for being as old as the game is, all the ships still look pretty badass. They put so much detail into each one. Although the scale isn't gonna match up, they each look as they should, and that's all that counts. Aside from the Story Mode, the game also has Multiplayer, and Quick Battle. I'm not an avid online gamer, so I stick mostly to Quick Battle. In Quick Battle you can literally set up any kind of fight you so desire (or however much your computer can handle). Not only can you fight whatever you want, you can also play as other ships (though your bridge will always remain as it is in story mode). The game already has an impressive array of space stations, starships, probes, asteroids, and other objects you can pit yourself against in battle. And I can't even begin to mention all the levels you can use as backdrops for your conflicts, including nebulae, which being inside of can eventually destroy your shields, and then your ship.

The first time I actually played this game was in multiplayer LAN in computer class. Me and my friend were squaring off against each other. I flew a Federation Nebula Class, and he was in a Klingon Bird of Prey. The game was so easy to pick up and play, even for a PC noob such as myself. And soon I was having a blast. I remember to this day how our first battle in the game wound up:

My good friend, Bryan, he inadvertantly rammed into my ship, but due to the Hull Rating differences, I survived while he was destroyed instantly. But despite surviving the impact, my ship was completely crippled. Almost all of my weapons had been destroyed, including my engines. I was doing an endless loop which left me completely vulnerable to attack. When Bryan finally respawned, he tried to finish me off, though that proved difficult because my loop made it hard to do a strafing run on me. Eventually I said, "Damn man, just kill me already?my men are reeling with nausea!" And he rammed me again and sent me to an honorable, vomit-tinged death.

And then there was our asshole teacher, who shall remain nameless. He wouldn't have been so insufferable if he hadn't always tried to cheat or always stack the odds in his favor in mulitplayer. He had a hacked ship in Bridge Commander, that was almost immune to our attacks. So my buddy Paul messaged everyone: "Switch to shuttles and ram him: BONZAI!!!" For some reason thinking back on that makes me think of semen trying to penetrate an ovum, considering the size difference between our shuttles and his death ship. Of course the guy was a sore loser about the fact that we kamikaze'd him and he died despite cheating. Ah, those were the days!

But that's not the end, oh no. That's just the beginning. Activision was behind the release of this game, and the devs directly responsible for its creation deserve a fucking medal, or at least a blowjob from Marina Sirtis. Scratch that?make it Jeri Ryan. Anyway, despite all the gameplay goodness to be had, it's expounded by the vast modding community, that to this day continues to breathe new life into this old title. You can literally mod almost anything into the game, or download almost anything into the game. It's fucking incredible. When it comes to computers, I'm the most inane, inept Neanderthal there is, but this game drove me to try and actually tinker with code. I didn't even learn anything from computer class! And I tried fervantly to d/l mods for the game, and was forced to rewrite code because one of them caused the game to crash when I fired torpedoes from an Ambassador Class ship.

"I'd get lost in your space anytime, sweetheart."

You can mod in the Defiant, Borg Cubes, visual and technical upgrades for existing ship models. Mods to update the graphical effects and damage models. Seriously, there are mods that can make this game look like it was only made a scant few years ago. It's simply amazing. But the true defining moment for me was being able to to download a fucking Shadow Battlecrab and wipe the floor with everything else. It was almost poetic. Playing such an awesome game, and getting to play as one of the most iconic and disturbing spaceships in the history of anything. I was actually kinda creeped out because the detail was so exact, they had even included the mental "screams" that they emit as they pass by.


This game hasn't been in production in years now, and the likelyhood that you can find it for sale is probably low. If you looked online, you'd probably pay tooth and nail for it. Fortunately, it's possible to download the full patched vesion of the game (ver. 1.1) from less reputeable sources. But whatever suits you. I highly recommend this game to anybody, not just fans of Star Trek. It's fun as hell, and is a very pick-up-and-play kind of game while at the same time retaining a huge level of depth, variety, and strategy that'll keep you playing till you've realized that literally hours have passed. Not to mention that since the game is as old as my PoS computer, you don't need a computer that needs liquid cooling inside of a fucking refridgerator to fully enjoy it.

So with that said, I'd give this game five Captain Siskos dropkicking a Cylon while Liam Kinkaid and Captain Sheridan curbstomp George Lucas in the background. But since this site probably doesn't have a graphic for that (and probably never will now), I'll just say it gets 5 out of 5 socks and leave it at that. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch Shoot'em Up a few times to counteract my nerdbinge hangover.


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