Skyrim has become the game that you can play on almost anything. We are just waiting for the Apple Watch port to come out and it will be awesome. The latest new way to play the game is using VR. Skyrim VR is both the best and the worst way to play the game though as immersion is like none other but the clunky controls make it very annoying very quickly.
There is really nothing else like experiencing the game in VR. Standing on the water's edge looking out into the distance and thinking about the journey that you can take ahead of you is something I have not experienced since the original and all the feelings and emotions came rushing back from the day I first booted up the game on my PS3. It looks good and if anything it is probably one of the most gamy VR games I have ever played. Don't get me wrong, other games are great but they are always held back by gimmicks and simplified gameplay to prevent the player from being overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the mechanics.
Skyrim VR is the Skyrim we love without any apologies but some major sacrifices had to be made to deliver this. The PS VR runs at 90 frames per second and while the Special Edition of Skyrim still struggles with frame rates, this version had to have some serious cutbacks to make the same thing happen. The draw distance is bad, lighting is even worse, and the texture resolution is a clear downgrade over the Special Edition of the game. Models and characters have been built in low-poly, and the overall visual experience has been simplified.
Say what you want about the game but it is dated now. The engine has seen better days and the animations and character movement were great in the 90s but Bethesda needs to fix this now as even Fallout 4 seemed to be a minimal improvement over Skyrim. When you have games pushing the limit with realistic body movements and you have Skyrim moving like robots then there is an issue. With the VR all this truly sticks out like a sore thumb as you are closer than ever to these flaws.
It is not atrocious though and still have the Skyrim charm we love. Regardless of the graphical downgrade, the game still manages to deliver one of the most detailed VR experiences to date that I have ever played. It still does not beat standing behind a counter with a frying pan (yes, Job Simulator is still my most favourite VR game of all time) but it succeeds in bringing to life something new for the platform, a good old RPG game in a VR world bigger and more detailed than anything you have ever seen and experienced before.
Where the whole experience is brought down is in its controls and they are truly a nightmare. Skyrim VR offers two modes of movement and two different ways to play it. You would think the best way would be to use the Move Controllers and swing your arms in the air to replicate a swinging sword in the game. Well, it is again the best and worst way to do it. Seen as it does not support the extra analogue controller that shipped with the Move back in the day (yes I still have one of those), you have to make use of the two movement methods. Teleporting across the area using the leap, or holding the button to walk at a gradual speed.
The former breaks immersion and is not the ideal way to experience Skyrim at all and the gradual walk is great but the only issue is that to turn your body in the game you need to press circle or cross. So you walk a little, then turn, then walk some more and repeat the same process. It is slow and cumbersome. It also goes without saying that you now have two Move Controllers in your hands so there is in theory eight buttons in each hand. It takes a long time to master just whenever button does and even cycling through menus can be a chore as you have to figure out where the buttons are. I might be a pro at PS4 and its DualShock but I barely use a Move Controller so this took a while. It would have also been so much better if there was a mouse cursor on the screen that you can use your head to point at objects in menus as navigating them with all the dozens of buttons just get in the way.
Then we have the traditional DualShock controller movement that again, offers the teleport or the gradual movement. This is the best way to play the game without the complicated buttons but then you don't get to experience the joy of swinging a sword around and pretending to go all Sports Champions with the bow and arrow. But even that has its issues. When using the Move Controllers to fight you need to take into account that you need to turn with the buttons needed to turn and if you are teleporting make sure you can do that too, all while trying to keep your food in.
Often I would move too far away from the enemy and then have to reverse to get close to him to attack. It was that or they would move out of my vision and I had to quickly make sure I pressed circle to move my view to attack them. The only awesome part about the combat is the ranged bows and magic. To pull out a bow and shoot at an unsuspecting enemy by pulling back your arm is fun, and to shoot ice out of your hand is even better. Again it all comes down to the fact that you always need to keep moving while shooting and it would take a lot of patience and determination to make the combat work for you so make sure you are ready for that.
So basically Skyrim VR is a great VR game but its gameplay is brought down by its clunky controls and one of the most complicated button layouts for a menu I have ever experienced in a game. This can surely all be mastered but you need to have the patience to do it. It is not at all a bad game, just one that requires a few bad words thrown in here and there as you try and make sense of the controls. That being said, I can most definitely see myself heading back into the game to continue my journey during the December break.
This review was done on a review copy of Skyrim VR provided to us by Ster-Kenikor Entertainment
Available On: PS VR | Release Date: 17 November 2017 | RRP: R899