It’s become somewhat of an industry joke that you’ll find Skyrim on any format known to mankind and here we have it for the first time in VR. Six years have passed since the game originally launched and somehow this old game feels like the perfect fit for virtual reality.
Your journey starts off sitting on the back of an old carriage as you’re being transported as a prisoner to meet your maker. That’s how Skyrim plans to introduce you to its vast and wonderful world – an execution. Moments before you are to be beheaded a dragon appears out of nowhere and scorches the settlement, Helgen. You escape to Whiterun where your journey will begin. Dragons have not been seen in years and behind it lays a sinister plot. You’re about to explore the wonderful world of Skyrim.
The sky is the limit
In Skyrim you can travel as far as the eye can see. The mountain peaks in the distance is a future challenge to you, but literally and figuratively there is much more beneath the already vast surface. In terms of scale Skyrim can’t quite match something like The Witcher 3, but considering that it’s a 2011 game it’s still big enough for you to get lost in it for days upon days. Following the main quest is just about impossible as you’ll be tugged in so many directions.
It’s a game that’s filled to the brim with lots and lots of content.
Every city from Whiterun through to one of the oldest cities in the world of Tamriel, Windhelm, is filled with side quests and missions for you to embark on. Inside these walls, you’ll get to know its various inhabitants who will become friends over time as you join a guild. You’ll craft your own weapons and potions if you can’t find or steal what you’re looking for, lockpick and pickpocket items and discover other worlds outside of Skyrim. Thanks to all the DLC being included you’ll get to visit Morrowind with its own unique adventure or take on the role as the next Dragonborn in other included DLC. It’s a game that’s filled to the brim with lots and lots of content, and this particular game can only be played in VR.
To say that my first foray into the world of Skyrim via VR was a little daunting is a complete understatement. As soon as you slip on that VR headset it transports you to a world like no other VR game I’ve played before. You see, most VR games expect you to play one or two hours and then move on to something else. As soon as Skyrim gets its claws into you it does not let go, and it’s no different in VR. The world comes to life and spending a 4-hour session at a time exploring everything it has to offer is an easy accomplishment. The VR tracks exceptionally well as you’re constantly twisting your neck in your effort to not miss a thing.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR comes with two controller options – Move controller or Dualshock 4 support. The Move controller setup is once again a broken mess whereby you teleport from one spot to the next by pressing a button. It breaks any and all immersion you would feel in the world other than you being able to control your limbs by casting magic in your left hand and swinging away with a sword or axe in your right. Being able to feel cool in battle but lose the joy of exploring Skyrim is a big price to pay. The Dualshock 4 is your friend. It plays in a much more natural manner and there is no teleporting anywhere. Press a direction on the left analogue stick and you’ll walk that way. Press and hold the L2 trigger to cast magic and tap away at R2 to attack foes with sword in hand. It’s traditional and it works. Due to Skyrim being an RPG that involves lots of looting you will be spending quite a bit of time in the map and menu system.
I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took a VR in the neck
Bring up the menu system (Items, Magic, Map and Level Up) and a big screen pops up in your VR field. Access to each item is easy using the D-Pad, but as soon as you enter any of the fields you’ll be doing some serious neck exercises. For example, look to the left (turn your neck all the way to the left) to see what you’re doing and open the items tab to equip or drop weapons. Now, look all the way to the right to see what the stats of this particular weapons might be. Next weapon, left and right. Next weapon, left and right. Next weapon, left and right. By the time you’re done you have gained muscle volume in your neck that can handle the G-force limits of an F1 car. The VR headset also gets a little heavy after a long stint. Here’s the thing – those little problems are tiny bumps in the road as everything else just plays so well and is so much fun to explore up close and personal in VR.
The world feels enormous in VR.
The world feels enormous in VR and, even though the graphics of 2011 have not aged considerably, I literally had moments of screaming out loud when a wolf would unexpectedly attack me from behind. Battling a dragon to obtain its soul is also a mesmerising experience. In terms of scale, it’s huge in VR and found that fighting it off with my bow and arrows worked so well as you have pinpoint accuracy due to aiming using your VR headset. I played it using the comfort setting, meaning that the camera pans (using the right analogue stick) several degrees at a time. It can be turned off to be a smooth camera transition, but I recommend keeping to the default comfort mode. It plays perfectly in battles, which is your biggest concern when it comes to being a little panicky in the game at times.
Skyrim VR really does live up to its potential, which is not something most VR outings can claim this year. It’s a game for veterans and newcomers alike, even with the letters ‘VR’ etched in. It doesn’t take anything away from the full package. Yes, there are still some bugs here and there that I experienced, but it’s nothing a quick load from an autosave can’t resolve. The soundtrack is still absolutely phenomenal and the quests are just as deep as it is on any other format. What more could a Skyrim fan ask for from a VR outing?
Skyrim has stood the test of time for a reason and the move to VR removes nothing that made it so special. If you had a dream to experience the world of Skyrim first-hand then this is as close as you’ll ever get and is likely one of the best excuses to buy a PlayStation VR headset to date.