How the iPad Made Me a Starship CaptainS

Since I was a child in the early 90s watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on TV, I have always dreamed of being the captain of my own starship with a crew at my command. Last weekend, I finally got my chance.

Late last year, thanks to a post on i09, I learned about Artemis. Artemis is a game for six players where a different player manages each of the five consoles on a starship bridge: helm, communications, weapons, engineering, and science. The sixth player does not have a station—this player doesn’t push any buttons or interact with the game directly in any way. Rather, he or she is the captain and it is this player’s job to issue orders.

From the moment I heard about Artemis, I desperately wanted to play it. The game is affordable at $40—even more so as you are allowed to share it with the other members of your crew, bringing the price down to $8 per person. The problem I had was finding a crew and a place to play.

Many people I knew were interested; but as Artemis can only be played on a local network (i.e., no online connections supported), my friends were less than enthusiastic about hauling around their laptops—even less so if they only had desktops. So it looked like my dream was dead before it had really begun.

How the iPad Made Me a Starship CaptainS

However, two weeks back I discovered something amazing: There was now an iOS version of Artemis (which cost only $2.99 to download). Suddenly, people were coming out of the woodwork with an iPad or two each. Setting it all up was no longer the hurdle it once was.

The crew, consisting of me, some friends, and fellow Kotaku East writer Toshi Nakamura, gathered in a small Japanese apartment to play. One of the best things about Artemis is that practically any computer can play it. So my eight-year-old laptop served as the server and output to a 42in TV that was the main viewscreen. The helm was also a laptop, but everyone else was playing on the iPad.

How the iPad Made Me a Starship CaptainS

Despite using a mix of PCs and iPads, the game worked great for the most part. Surprisingly, for most stations, the iPads worked even better with the touch controls than with the mouse on the laptop. And even though we were short a person (we had only five players, not six), we were still able to play with the science officer doubling up with communications. We ended up playing for almost six hours and everyone was able to try out each position (if they wanted)—and yes, I did enjoy playing captain the most.

It wasn't a perfect experience though. More than once we had iPad crashes—losing an important station at a pivotal moment. A few times the ship got stuck in some sort of glitch loop and would teleport back to its previous location endlessly.

Saddest of all, though, it was the missions where we had the most problems. Many of the fan-made missions replace system files and are thus unplayable on iOS devices. But even with the official missions we had problems. One time a mission had a ram scoop installed so that we wouldn't run out of power—but it never worked. Another mission had us head into a nebula only to glitch out the damage control teams and leave the ship dead in space.

How the iPad Made Me a Starship CaptainS

And while we successfully completed a mission or two, we ended up spending most of our time in invasion mode, fighting off random incoming waves of enemies across a randomly generated map. It was fun—a lot of fun actually—but I would have liked to have had a bit more plot in my Star Trek-like bridge experience.

In the end, while not without its flaws, Artemis is an amazing experience for any Star Trek fan. Having it on iOS really fixes the hassle of getting a game set up and even feels a bit more authentic playing with a pad in your hands than on a PC. If you can get a group together, you owe it to yourself as a fan to give Artemis a try.

Artemis is available on PC for $40 (per crew) at the official website and on iOS for $2.99 (per person) on iTunes. Update: It's also available on Android.

To contact the author of this post, write to BiggestinJapan@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @BiggestinJapan.