Games & Apps

Game Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR Showcases the Best and Worst of VR

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, love it or hate it, is a modern classic with extreme staying power. With a recent rerelease on the Nintendo Switch that emphasized portability (less impressive to me than cramming Doom 2016 onto the platform) the PlayStation VR version emphasizes immersion – putting you inside the world of Skyrim when before, you could only experience it through a screen. Skyrim VR is Skyrim – the entire game, playable from the eyes of the Dovakhiin. That’s great. But also, it’s Skyrim – with all the quirks, flaws and age that come along with it.

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

My initial impressions of Skyrim VR were not good. I fought with the controls, and I was not a fan of the visuals. It took some getting used to, but I played with the PlayStation Move controllers using teleportation. There are a wide variety of comfort options to avoid motion sickness and several movement options, including traditional controller setup or the option to use the PlayStation Move controllers. This allowed me to manipulate objects, draw my bow, and swing my sword with the Move Controllers.  There were some missed opportunities with lock picking being an analogue button pressing affair and manually having to turn made me miss my room scale setup with the HTC Vive, but Skyrim VR is a mechanically solid entry into the VR landscape. Move Controllers show up when you don’t have weapons equipped, which can be a bit immersion breaking, but it helps those fumbling around with controls.

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Melee combat is as bad as I’d feared – I would lamely flail my arm(s) in the direction of my opponent, and this sadly proved effective for the most part. Enemies block and dodge, but Wii remote style wrist flicks tend to dispatch enemies most efficiently. “Okay, melee combat is always like this in VR,” I thought to myself.  “I’ll try archery.” I admit that I haven’t played many PSVR games with archery in them, but I have played a fair share of archery games with the Vive and Oculus using the Touch Controllers. Skyrim VR’s archery on PSVR is not the worst implementation I’ve experienced, but it’s far from the best. After a bit of practice I was able to shoot foes with ease, but the occasional tracking issues made bow use a bit frustrating. I also tried my hand at a bit of Destruction magic, and shooting streams of death from both hands is quite a fun power to wield.

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Skyrim VR is ugly. It is an older game, and its transition to VR didn’t help to hide its blemishes. The VR draw distance is bad, with characters popping out of frame a stone’s throw away, and building details are bare at a distance. Up close details show up, but Skyrim has always suffered from funky looking character models and standing up close to these abominations in the large-as-life way that VR affords makes you realize how strange everything in Skyrim looks. On top of bad draw distance and ugly character models, Skyrim’s dull grey color palette makes the washed-out colors look even more washed-out than usual. That being said, being there with towering giants, fire breathing dragons and giant spiders is as thrilling as you could imagine – if you squint your eyes a bit and pretend. Some of the UI elements are problematic, though. I had a hard time keeping an eye on enemies, my stamina, and health all at once, for instance.

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Menus are kept mostly the same in this VR version, with shopping becoming a little more streamlined. Another problematic menu element was the constellations, used as a skill tree. It’s neat choosing skills from a field of stars, but navigating those stars can be frustrating. On the exact opposite spectrum, the world map stays pretty useful with the Move controls intuitively integrated.

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

Is Skyrim VR worth buying a PlayStation VR for? I couldn’t make that recommendation, not for this single game. But if you own the hardware, and you’re already a fan, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR might be worth a look, even if you don’t stay for the whole adventure. That is a lot of caveats, but if you can work through the clunkiness and get used to the quirks, it’s a completely viable version of Skyrim. That alone is worthy of note. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is available for PlayStation VR.

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