Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (PSVR)

Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (PSVR)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Optional (1)
  • Move Recommended (2)
  • PS VR Aim Controller None
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Title: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (20.16 GB)
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I’m not going to waste your time by reviewing the full Skyrim experience. Not only do we have two reviews available on this site, but chances are that you’ve played the game already and are simply wondering what VR brings to the table.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim represents the longest I’ve spent under the headset. That’s not to say that other VR games haven’t been interesting or deserving of my time. It’s simple: this is the entire Skyrim game. If you want to play it for two hours, there’s something there for you. If you want to spend a thousand hours on it, Skyrim VR has you covered.

What VR brings to this massive RPG is a level of immersion that cannot fully be described, and should be experienced for an accurate opinion. So the best way for me to explain it is with the word, “presence”.

You can play Skyrim on your television for hours and feel like you’re lost in this virtual world. But when you spend a few hours in Tamriel under a VR headset, you will, quite simply, lose yourself. Those mountains that towered over your character on your 70-inch TV, are now actually towering over you, and you have to crane your neck back to marvel at their majesty. That giant dragon, which seemed to dwarf your puny elf character, is now looking down upon you. Even first-person mode on an IMAX theater does not equate to what VR brings to Skyrim.

Bethesda has ensured that VR players of all levels of motion tolerance are covered. With what initially caused controversy, the default method of locomotion here is the teleport system. You can easily switch to a smooth locomotion option or just stick to the DualShock controller which utilizes a scheme identical to the one used in Resident Evil 7 in VR.

But seriously, the best way to experience this game is with a Move controller in each hand because the combat is more intense and engrossing. It was impossible for me to go back to the traditional controller after taking out a few enemies with a bow, or incinerating two bandits with a flame spell coming from my fingertips. You can even use each hand to aim a spell at two different enemies.

Bethesda has even migrated certain perks from the original game into the VR realm. For example, one of the archery perks had you zooming in on an enemy when aiming with the bow. Since that would be disorienting in VR, you now get a target on your bow that assists with long range aiming.

Walking is fairly simply with the Move controllers. The left one controls your heading and the right turns your character’s body when using the Cross and Circle buttons. There seems to be some confusion online about the inability to reverse your walking when using the Move controllers. This is not a true statement. By holding the Move controller behind your body or over your shoulder, you are able to walk backwards. With some experience, you’ll easily be able to weave left and right to dodge arrows and back away from an enemy while lighting it up with a fire spell.

I would say that the only area where using the Move controllers affects gaming is in the lack of variation in walking speed. I found my sneaking failing at times because I could not slowly creep up to an enemy. Upon switching to the DualShock controller, I was able to slightly tap on the joystick and successfully sneak up on that same bad guy.

That is my only complaint in what could be the future of controlling a video game. No, I’m not talking about the Move controllers in general. But as an example, I would just walk by a table covered in gold and extra arrows and I could reach out my right hand and just click away as I made my way through the corridor. I reached a certain point in playing where these motions became second nature and I no longer had to look at what I was picking up.

Similarly, I would find myself facing off against a bandit on my right, but I knew that there was also one behind me. So, I would slice and dice at the one before me, while reaching my left hand, equipped with a lightning spell, behind me and electrocuting the other one without ever needing to look. The ability to affect an enemy or object beyond your line of sight is all but impossible in a traditional game. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I have a Blue Shell here with your name on it…)

Accessing the menu system with the Move controllers is reminiscent of navigating the PlayStation menu. Holding the trigger on either controller turns your gestures into a virtual joystick. So holding the trigger and gesturing downwards will scroll down through weapons, for example. This takes a few minutes to get accustomed to, but like most of VR, it becomes second nature after spending some time with it.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the enjoyment provided by the combination of motion controls with the depth provided by a virtual reality headset. With the exception of some small bugs and the occasional tracking issues on my Move controllers, I found the gameplay here to be extremely enjoyable.

Visuals:
After a year of playing VR with the PlayStation 4 there comes a certain expectation for what we are going to see under the headset. The current headset doesn’t provide the sharpest images. This is due to the resolution and the fact that you have magnifying glasses in front of your eyes zooming in on the small screens. So I have learned not expect anything as sharp as my 4K television screen while playing in VR. Not yet anyway.

But my television does not put me inside of an environment like VR does, so there is a tradeoff. That said, Skyrim looks good. When you factor in the vastness of the environment you are exploring, as well as the age of this series, I was surprised to find myself often marveling at the environments and experiencing many instances where I simply stood before a grand waterfall and basked in its beauty. Hell, at one point, I exited a building to find it raining outside so I stood under the porch of the small shop and took in the sights and sounds for about five minutes.

I spent another moment following a bee around because it was so surreal to see it buzzing around me. I cast a light spell and watched the glowing orb circle around me. I even reached out to “touch it”.

Wolves attacked while I was riding my horse so I spun around on my saddle and took out all three of them with my bow as my horse trotted along. I jumped as I turned to find a giant spider standing behind me, instinctively loosing an arrow at it and killing it in one shot.

I realize that Skyrim under the headset isn’t pretty. Particularly after playing the Special Edition in 4K on my PS4 Pro. But I will probably never play that 4K version again after experiencing it in VR.

You are there. Nothing could be more immersive than that. And as someone who has been playing RPG’s since the days of Atari 2600, nothing could be more satisfying.

Audio:
VR benefits from positional sound almost as much as engrossing visuals. So having an idea of where an enemy is coming from is paramount to an engaging experience. Skyrim VR has some decent stereo sound, and I often found that it saved my life. Hearing those wolves growling from my right had me equipping my bow long before they reached me.

At times, I would hear things that weren’t actually there, like creatures that were on the other side of a wall in another room, but I could still hear them. So, much like the visuals, Skyrim isn’t devoid of bugs. But very few times, if ever, did it take me out of the experience.

The music is one of those things that will never age for me. It’s relaxing when it needs to be and urgent when an enemy attacks. Other times it just provided the atmosphere I needed to fully engross me in a dungeon’s ambiance.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR has placed me in the shoes of my video game avatar like never before. Throughout my entire playthrough, I realized those digital characters were not real, and truth be told, their aging models didn’t make that difficult. But for some reason, I would pay attention to them more. They were staring at me, speaking to me, cheering me on, fighting a giant dragon alongside me, pleading for mercy from me.

The difference is the headset, and Bethesda has done something smart by bringing this out. Look anywhere online and you will see people complaining about the number of times this title has been released. But at this point in time, few developers are going to take a chance and create a brand new IP of this size for VR when it’s such a new thing.

By bringing Skyrim to VR, we have been given a 100+ hour game to explore in a way that has never been done before. I experienced so many firsts in my time with Skyrim VR that I can’t begin to list them all. Those experiences combined to make this a new game for me.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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