Artemis Bridge Simulator Offers Arch Entertainment

Pun aside, this game is not about building bridges.  It is about being on bridges.  Spaceship bridges.  While it can be legitimately panned for its exceedingly high computer requirements (it isn’t demanding about system specs, it demands many systems), this game is a multiplayer gem of excellent quality.  I played it for the first time this weekend, and now…

Now I want to play it again and again and again.  It really is that much fun.  Though I first heard of it a year or a few ago, I had never really anticipated how much I would enjoy the game.  I knew that I wanted to play it, since the idea of helping to run a spaceship as we darted between various points in our local sector and boldly went where several computers had gone before seemed pretty cool.  But I hadn’t realized just how much fun it would be.

I do suggest that you play the game with a certain type of friend (or maybe that you not play with a certain type of friend).  You’ll want to be with people who do not spew fury and distemper whenever someone else on the crew screws up, because there will be plenty of mistakes as you start out.  You and your friends will want to be able to laugh in the face of danger, even as danger destroys your ship.  Or maybe because danger is currently destroying your ship.  What could be funnier than knowing that your shields are down, your energy is running low, the warp core is overheating, and you’re not making it home this time, and it’s all because you each made a few small mistakes that seemed fairly reasonable at the time?

The bubbling chaos which consumes your bridge as you warp around the sector trying to solve problems and mitigate damage is a delightful experience, and as much fun as failing may be, watching success grow out of that chaos is even more rewarding.  It will take some practice (and is generally helped by having a good captain), but that moment when your plans actually start to come together and the various crew members each really do their job is absolutely wonderful.  And you must all work together and share information with each other; no single console on the bridge has enough information or control over the ship to operate their own position most effectively.  As your crew slowly gets into the swing of things, you’ll hear various crew members giving brief bursts of information to each other as the captain coordinates the whole show.  And it’s glorious.

There are many things which you will not know to share with each other at first: you won’t realize that the detailed readouts actually mean something and that someone else can use that information to be more effective at their job.  Little things like having Science scan your enemy a second time to report enemy shield weaknesses to Weapons, or having Weapons coordinate with Communications to ensure that a surrender request goes out to every damaged enemy ship, as fast as possible.  Or having Weapons cannibalize some of your torpedos to feed Engineering the extra energy needed to maintain your shields.  But you’ll learn how to do these things, and soon enough you’ll have a working crew.

I’m less impressed by the game’s AI.  I have yet to see any enemy ship avoid a mine, for example, whether that was in a stationary minefield or recently dropped by our ship.  Nor does increasing the difficulty seem to make your enemies any more cunning.  It does make them considerably tougher and more dangerous though, and you can set the difficulty as you see fit (all the way up to 11) in order to give yourself a challenge.  So while I’d love to see the AI improved, the game is still a great deal of fun as it is.

It presently runs on windows machines, Android, and iOS devices (not OS X), and it requires at least three machines for just 2 people to play.  If you want to get all fancy and have a multimonitor set-up and are willing to run both client and server on one machine you might be able to use just two machines, but you’ll want the computer running your game server to have a nice big display that everyone can look at.  Despite the fact that it is technically possible to play on a space phone of the i- or Android varieties, I really can’t recommend it.  The text and visuals are overly compressed and don’t necessarily display correctly.  I imagine that playing on a tablet would be far more fun, and having a touchscreen interface would give you an appropriately Star Trek feel.

The game really thrives when you have the maximum number of players, enough that every station can be manned and you can have a dedicated captain.  But that requires a large number of devices: one machine to run the game server, and one for each other position (Helms, Weapons, Engineering, Science, & Communications).  It’s even better if your captain can have their own display as well, though they might be able to do without one.  That means you’ll want 6 or 7 machines in total, and a decently robust network to handle them all.  On the plus side, the game developers understand this requirement and are perfectly willing to let you share one copy of the game across 6 computers.

In conclusion, this is an excellent game.  If you can meet the moderately steep equipment requirements, I wholeheartedly recommend playing Artemis.  It has to be one of the best co-op multiplayer games I’ve seen recently, and I’m already looking forward to playing it again.

What are you waiting for?  Go check it out!

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