QUICK DISCLAIMER: Ignore my hours of playtime as reported by Steam. I have played a few times and most of the time I am running the EXE outside of Steam. I probably have several hours of game time now.
This game is a little buggy, a little uneven, and does not feel like it's yet been fully realized. Having said that, I can still fully and wholeheartedly recommend it, but with a few caveats that I will get to later. The bottom line is: this game is so much fun! Seriously, if you are into, or were ever into Star Trek then you owe it to yourself to get it. Artemis is a simulation of what it might be like to be part of the bridge crew on a starship like the Enterprise.
Here's how it works: You run one instance of the game as a server and then each player (up to six for a full bridge crew) runs another instance and those clients connect to the server. Each player picks one or more stations to manage (captain, helm, tactical, engineering, science, and communications) and each station gets its own interface needed to perform its functions to run the ship. So the helm gets a control layout to be able to fly the ship, engineering gets controls to manage power to various systems and mitigate damage, and the tactical officer gets to fire the weapons. The captain ties it all together, making decisions and issuing orders to other crew members. The captain has his own view which is a map with some basic information, or s/he can simply use the main view screen which is provided by the server.
The developer clearly intended originally that this game would be played by people all in the same room and the simulation lends itself well to LARPing and role-playing. An ideal setup would be all six players in the same room using their own machines and whichever machine is running the server (any one of the machines could run the server and one of the clients--you DO NOT need a separate machine and/or copy of the game to play) would be connected to a big screen tv to show the main screen. Thankfully, the latest version of the game allows for playing over the internet. My gaming group uses Skype for voice chat since the game provides no native voice chat. It works fine for us.
The server is what runs the actual simulation and it allows for setting up various scenarios in the game and tweaking all sorts of parameters to increase or decrease difficulty. The are various sorts of ally and enemy ships to encounter and bases to dock with and defend. The game has modes for multiple ships with their own crews that can go head-to-head or do missions cooperatively. One server can support up to 36 players (six bridges with each having their own crews of up to 6 players).
Each role has different things to do to keep the ship running smoothly. Admittedly, some stations are more fun to play than others. Also, some stations feel very heavy on the micro-managing and others feel like there's not much to do; many people complain about the communications station for being sort of thin in this area. I actually don't mind playing Communications Officer You can hail friendly or enemy ships, monitor distress calls from friendly bases or ships being attacked, demand that enemy ships surrender, taunt enemy ships into attacking, direct friendly ships away from deadly areas of space, order friendly ships to attack, prepare bases for docking to improve refuel and rearm performance. And most importantly, you have the button to set off the red alert klaxon. As Communications Officer, you may also get side quests from friendly forces which usually take the form of, "Dock with this base to download this data, then take it to this friendly ship and then come back and dock with use to get more energy/coolant/weapons/etc."
So once again, I do recommend this game if you have at least two friends to play with. You DO NOT need six people to play this game. At the very least, you need helm, tactical, and engineering, but personally, I like playing with five or six people. Also, as I said before, the game has no native voice chat if you are going to playing over the internet. Something else to be aware of is that the game does nothing for you in terms of matchmaking or anything like that. You'll need to have each player connect to the server via IP address and you'll need to set up port forwarding on TCP 2010 to be able to have any of the clients be able to connect. One other gotcha to to be aware that when you play over the internet, you won't be able to use the IP address of the server that is reported in the game. That IP will only work when playing over a LAN. You'll need your internet-facing IP address to hand out to the players for connecting to the server.
I bought the six pack and gave the five other copies to my gaming group. I've had fun playing this game over the internet as well as all in the same room. It's a lot of fun especially if you have a madcap gang to play with like I do.
I just hope the developer continues to work on this game. It's good already but it feels like it could go a lot farther.