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Review

Skyrim VR Is A Game Changer For PlayStation VR

Be the Dragonborn.

It’s one of the most celebrated games of all time yet, six years later, there are plenty who have had their fill of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Following on from a barrage of amazing (and occasionally smutty) PC mods, we had 2016’s Special Edition upgrade that was in turn shrunk back down to make a triumphant debut on the Nintendo Switch earlier this month. Cramming such a dense yet sprawling open-world RPG into one of those tiny cartridges is a marvel, though one arguably overshadowed by Skyrim VR.

Since Sony launched its PlayStation VR headset just over a year ago, I’ve always maintained that smaller-sized games work best. Although Farpoint, Arizona Sunshine, and Resident Evil VII rank among some of the best experiences I’ve had in VR, it’s usually the more bite-sized titles that have really drawn me in. Games like Superhot VR, Dino Frontier, and Job Simulator.

With that in mind, I was pretty hesitant coming into Skyrim. Strapping my headset on and watching the intro play out for the umpteenth time, I was worrying about its finicky menus and systems. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to loot chests or select specific items, wrestling with the Move controllers, let alone potentially staving off the gradual motion sickness.

None of those things came to pass, however. Bethesda doesn’t do slapdash ports and Skyrim VR is testament to that, capturing that same degree of depth and quality fans have come to expect. Nothing has been cut or dramatically scaled back – this is The Elder Scrolls in all its glory, completely reworked for Sony’s VR tech.

To that effect, those who are already familiar with Skyrim won’t take long to adjust. From alchemy and enchanting to Fus Ro Dah-ing a goat off a mountain, you can do anything here that you would in the vanilla version of the game.

The biggest change, of course, is an entire new level of immersion. Skyrim VR isn’t quite as pretty as its Special Edition counterpart, but it packs in an astounding amount of detail. What’s more impressive is Skyrim’s enormity – a breathtaking sense of scale that will have you rooted to spot, soaking in its many vistas.

Optimising the game for motion controls was never going to be easy. Sony PlayStation Move “wands” have been around for the best part of a decade now, but are still more than up to the task. The tracking is surprisingly fluid, whether swinging a warhammer, shooting a bow, or slinging a menagerie of spells. As someone who rarely dabbled in magic when playing the original, retracing my steps in Skyrim VR really brought out my inner spellcaster. Being able to aim both hands freely or channel them together, Super Saiyan style, feels truly empowering.

Actions such as crouching, picking up objects, and sheathing weapons are assigned to the controllers’ face buttons, as are the menus. It’s fiddly at first, but doesn’t take long to remember which button does what.

Movement can also take some getting used. You do have the option of free movement, but Skyrim VR uses the same slingshot technique we’ve seen in most first person VR games by default, allowing players to zip from point to point instead of moving freely. To someone who has yet to experience virtual reality it may seem daft, but it dramatically reduces the chances of getting motion sickness. That’s another thing that surprised me – as someone who’s been prone to headaches and bouts of nausea in the past, Skyrim VR never triggered a reaction despite playing for more than a hour at a time.

The only issue I had with motion controls was not being able to recalibrate in game. Most VR titles have a menu option to do so – either that or simple, two-second press of the start button will usually set you right. Instead, I had to manually switch off both controllers and reconnect them. Thankfully, this problem only occurred at the very beginning of each session as neither of the Move controllers ever lost sync during play.

Alternatively, you can opt for a DualShock 4 but – as with most VR games – it doesn’t offer any way near the same degree of immersion. The trade-off, of course, is that familiarity you get with wielding a gamepad and a control scheme you know like the back of your hand.

It’s not something I had really considered, but for some gamers, Skyrim VR may be their first foray into the game, the series, or perhaps the entire genre. I envy them. Although we often think of Skyrim as a deeply complex RPG, its crowning achievement has always been that unbeatable sense of discovery and that’s something that VR manages to improve.

Deep into yet another playthrough, I’m eager to explore Skyrim now than I have ever been before. Bethesda has proven yet again that there’s still more life in its fantasy flagship. More importantly, it’s proven that traditional games, no matter how big, can work in VR.

9 Comments
  1. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Great write up Jim! I picked up PSVR when Skyrim was first announced and also felt a little trepidation when the game finally released last week – had i bitten off more than i could chew?
    Nope, not in the slightest. In fact i’ve put 20 hours into it already – more than i put into the special edition in a month on PS4 – which i also abandoned as soon as the Skyrim VR announcement was made. That version felt a little bit tired despite the visual upgrade from the PS3 days. But the VR version makes it feel fresh all over again.

    And while some are complaining that it’s an old game and wasn’t built specifically for VR, it’s hitting the best middleground we could possibly have right now as we wait for VR technology and the supporting hardware to be ready to support a modern rpg of the same scale which has been built from the ground up for VR.

    I’ve only played with DS4 so far, all FOV blinders off and smooth turning on and haven’t had any motion sickness. I’m looking forward to trying it with the Moves once i set up some space this weekend!

    Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 12:14.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Motion controls are great though take some getting used to if you’re making the jump directly from a gamepad.

      If I had time, I would definitely consider beating the game in VR.

      Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 14:23.
  2. Dange
    Member
    Since: Jan 2011

    Never really interested me on PS3 and PS4 but seriously thinking about picking this up on VR. The thought of exploring a huge open world for the first time in VR is very tempting.

    Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 13:24.
  3. leeroye
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    I have tried twice in the past to get into Skyrim but can never seem to get past 4 or 5 hours.

    I have the VR Skyrim bundle coming for Xmas, im really hoping this version will pull me into the game as i really want to get into this game.

    Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 14:51.
  4. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I would love to play this but I refuse to pay £45 for Skyrim again. I’ve bought it twice at that price.

    Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 15:51.
    • TSBonyman
      Member
      Since: Dec 2009

      Just drop a few hints to loved ones wondering what to get you for xmas – sorted! ;)

      Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 17:33.
  5. matthangzhou
    Member
    Since: Sep 2010

    Got the game deal yesterday for £250. Always wanted to play Skyrim vr but having played it on PS3 and PS4 wouldn’t have bought again except for that excellent package. Can’t wait!

    Comment posted on 24/11/2017 at 17:31.
  6. Byacca
    Member
    Since: Oct 2016

    Skyrim VR is a clunky, ugly and almost unplayable port.
    Only exclusive games, made specifically for the device will save it from oblivion

    Comment posted on 28/11/2017 at 08:56.
  7. Severn2j
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I went for the Gran Turismo Sport PSVR bundle instead of this, but Im really tempted to pick this up (despite putting in 120+ hours on the PC version already). Not sure how my arachnophobia is going to react with life-sized frost spiders though…

    Comment posted on 28/11/2017 at 10:36.

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