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Game Info:

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
Published and Developed by Thom Robertson
Released: Sept 16, 2013
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Reviewed on Windows PC, Android Tablet
Available on: Windows PC, iOS, Android
Genre: Simulator
Number of Players: 2+

Artemis is, for all intents and purposes, the Star Trek simulator Trekkies have been waiting for.  Of course it doesn't reference Star Trek in any way, and is not licensed by Paramount, but one could be forgiven for thinking it was intended to be Star Trek specific.  It is a multiplayer game, intended for six players but can be played with fewer.  Each player has his or her own computer and takes a specific position on the bridge of the starship.  There is a Captain, Weapons Officer, Helmsman, Science Officer, Engineer and Communications Officer.  Each position has its own display, controls and options with the exception being the Captain.  The Captain gets only a viewer and must act by giving orders to the various crew members.

The game can be played on a LAN or, if the players know how, it can be configured to run over a distributed network so your various crewmembers could be anywhere in the world.  To do this, you will need some kind of voice chat client, as none is built into the game.  In our testing, we used Google Hangout.  While it is possible for a single player to play in a sort of practice mode, it is still necessary to connect to a separate machine running Artemis in order to do this.  PCs and Android devices can be joined together in the same game session.

The game is played best with six players, although it is possible for some to pull double duty if there aren't six people available.  Of course the more tasks one takes on the more difficult it is to keep up and the game is extremely difficult when played with only two players.  Three players can get by if the various bridge positions are distributed wisely.  For example, the Communications Officer doesn't have much to do during battle, so that position is easily merged with some other position like Weapons, which only has tasks to perform when in a combat engagement.

There is no story per se, in that the ship is essentially placed in a sandbox representing a contested region of space.  Communications from various ships, starbases and merchants can trigger missions but all of it is at the Captain's discretion.  In some scenarios, there are hostile ships on the other side of a nearby Neutral Zone, and straying into that Zone will trigger a war.  Of course, even if the players do not stray into the Neutral Zone, the enemy will eventually...

Anyone who is a fan of Star Trek is going to know exactly how to play this game.  The controls are simple and intuitive.  There is an online help guide, but it will be largely unecessary to those who are fluent in Trek, or even speculative science fiction in general.  When starting the game, a variety of starship classes are available to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  The ship can even be renamed, so if you want to command a starship called Enterprise, have at it.

The controls can be a bit awkward.  Clicking the mouse to steer the ship feels clunky and there's no way to smoothly move the ship except the joystick, which has its own issues.  There is no in-game mechanism for configuring the joystick buttons but an .ini file can be edited to achieve that customization.  A touch screen interface works here as well as the mouse, so if the player's screen has that capability it is a useful option.  In our tests, the Weapons Officer used an Android tablet touch screen as her interface and preferred it to using a mouse.  As the helmsman, the joystick was more of a nuisance than an actual help because the player still needs to use the mouse to use the various controls on the display.  

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
Highlights:

Strong Points: Good variety of actvities for each player, gameplay is faithful to the speculative sci-fi genre
Weak Points: Graphics issues, occasional stability problems
Moral Warnings: The game is a space combat simulator, so things are going to get blown up

The Captain:

The Captain has no direct control over anything.  All of the Captain's wishes are implemented by the appropriate crewmember.  This is where that Trek fluency comes in handy.  The Captain will issue orders such as "Set a course for station DS3, Warp 2" or "Engineering, transfer all energy to the warp drive!  Helm!  Get us out of here, maximum warp!"  

The Helm:

The Helmsman essentially steers the ship, navigates the map and can control the captain's display.  Speed can be set using either sublight or warp engines, controlled separately.  The display is a simple wireframe top-down view of the ship and nearby features (like asteroids, mines, other ships and starbases) which has four levels of zoom.  It is the helmsman who initiates docking with space stations and can also control ship's deflector shields. (Although we typically left that responsibility to the Weapons Officer)

The Weapons Officer:

It is the responsibility of the Weapons Officer to target enemy ships, fire weapons, bring the ship to Red Alert, and manage shields.  Weapon systems include beam weapons and a variety of torpedoes, such as EMP and nuclear.  As ammunition is expended, it can be replenished at starbases in exchange for missions being performed, or as ordered by the Captain.  Certain weapons can also be sacrificed to provide a quick boost to the ship's energy reserve in an emergency.

The Engineer:

The Engineer manages how much of the ship's energy reserve is routed to the various systems like the engines, shields and weapons.  There isn't enough to power everything fully, so resource management is key.  As always, priorities are set by the Captain but the Engineer makes it work.  The Engineer also assigns damage control teams to react to damage the ship takes in battle.

The Communications Officer:

It is the job of the Communications Officer to make requests of other ships and space stations, to taunt enemies, to inform starbases that the ship is coming to dock, and to request supplies.

The Science Officer:

The Science Officer can scan other map features to determine what they are.  Enemy ships can be identified and further scans can reveal enemy ships' shield frequencies, allowing the weapons officer to fine tune the beam weapons to penetrate better.  The Science Officer can also scan to determine how severely damaged other ships are.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 54%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 3/10
Sound - 4/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 92%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

The game's graphics are reasonable if a bit crude, with the most intensive graphics showing on the external view of the ship.  All control panels display wireframe graphics.  Some graphics issues were noticed on the Windows PC version, with the external view cutting out entirely at times.  This didn't crash the game and it was still possible to return to the normal control panel.  The sound effects are also a bit crude and basic, but adequate to the task.

There were some difficulties initially getting all the computers to connect to each other over the distributed network, although these were resolved in time.  The game is generally stable although it did crash a few times during testing.  This all happened on one particular machine however, so it may not have been the game's fault but rather an issue with that particular computer.  (It was an HP Pavillion G7 laptop with integrated graphics.)    

The game is a space combat simulator, so things are going to get blown up.  While the action can be intense, the violence isn't really.  Mostly what's being shot at are enemy starships, so there's no visible blood, dead bodies, etc.  An occasional life form living in space may find its way into the players crosshairs, but it isn't a requirement to win the scenario.  Because the game is completely sandbox in nature, there is nothing stopping the players from ignoring orders, breaking peace treaties or attacking friendly vessels.  The game neither encourages nor discourages this during gameplay, but a level is only successfully completed when all enemy threats are destroyed.  The game itself contains no coarse language, although that certainly won't stop the players from using it.  There's also no occult or sexuality of any kind in this game, unless you regard aliens as occult.

In short, if you let your kids watch Star Trek, this game is no problem at all.

The game itself is still a bit rough around the edges but is a very impressive accomplishment for one developer.  The real fun in Artemis is in the interaction between the players, and the feeling of at last commanding a starship for those fans of Trek and other speculative science fiction media.  Artemis is the base, and the players find the fun.  It really does feel like being in an episode of Star Trek.  The following exchange actually took place in one of our test games (I played as the Helm.):

"Captain, forward shields are down!  Aft shields collapsing!"

"Helm!  Get us out of here!  Maximum Warp!"

"Warp Drive not responding, Captain!"

"Engineering, get damage control teams on the warp drive immediately!"

"Aye sir!"

Believe it or not, we survived that battle...

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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