Skyrim VR Review
Skyrim VR (PSVR) The first massive VR title does not disappoint!
Skyrim is a game that Bethesda has been accused of milking, in fact on twitter any post they make promoting Skyrim VR (Virtual Reality) is met with memes of this or people stating it is not wanted. Give us Elder Scrolls VI etc. Personally, I see it more as a game that Bethesda a) knows is good and b) are supporting. Whatever your stance in this area you have to admit that this is a big thing to happen for VR.
The first “big” game to hit the PSVR holds up very well. There are some issues and niggles that I will get to but let us start off by saying that this is an amazing VR title which will have you playing for weeks/months to come.
The whole game including the main DLC packs are included, as you would expect on such a high priced game. Yes, it is full priced and while worth every penny to be able to play in VR it is a bit of a sour point for many of us who have bought Skyrim a few times now (and for me, I will need to buy the VR edition again on the VIVE when released).
The game does show in places that it is clearly a non-VR title converted to VR. Although you have direct control of your sword, it still makes a swing noise a fair bit when you move it too much (and caused me to jump many a time). The menus have not changed much from the non-vr version and while they remain perfectly functional with the PS move controllers, I am left wondering why they did not do something more immersive.
Truth be told about the menus, although they are a throwback to the non-VR version, there is something very “Minority Report” about navigating them with a swish of your wand that I do enjoy.
In other places, some really good decisions were made to change things for the VR market. The map is very cool to fly over and makes me feel a bit like I did on Google Earth’s VR version. Books open up and enlarge in front of you, allowing you to easily read the text (often an issue in VR titles) and scroll the pages with the wands. One of the best uses of the new tech though has to be the dual casting of spells, you can aim one hand one way and the other another and unleash jets of flames on two different targets at once, it feels so good!
All in all the good outweighs the bad and it is clear that this is all new to Bethesda but far from a quick port. Time has clearly been spent perfecting the experience and with luck, patches will add more and more to the experience (another reason to be less annoyed at the large price tag)
The PSVR is very good, I bought mine a few weeks back specifically for Skyrim VR. Yep, all those people saying that Skyrim in VR will not sell PSVRs are more than a little wrong, I am not the only one in my little circle to get a PSVR ready for Skyrim!
However Sony’s choice of using one camera and two PSVR wands will never sit right with me and I have had tracking issues in a few games, so this was my biggest worry!
To combat any potential issues I took some drastic measures, I took two Argos(a UK store) freestanding cheap cheerful lamps and made one seven foot pole on a stand and well…Duct taped the camera to the top! Angled down. This gave me a large tracked area that works wonderfully so long as I face the camera. Before Skyrim, I tested it with The Solus Project and it was a huge difference over the “right” way to set up the camera.
When you have your weapons holstered you see the PSMove controllers (yeah I call them wands) as models in the VR world, the tracking on Skyrim is so good that if you move the wand past the small gap at the bottom of the PSVR HMD you can see it cross from the real world to the VR one. That is majorly impressive.
The controls support are PSMove or a standard controller, my personal feeling is that you would be doing yourself a disservice to use the standard controller but it is good to see that they have the option.
Since I have not used the standard controller I will not discuss it here, I assume it is pretty standard controls.
So the wands are the best way to experience the game and Bethesda has done wonders with the limited amount of buttons on them.
The default movement is teleporting, the implementation of this is pretty standard and good for those prone to VR sickness, the alternative movement is direct control, you hold the button on the left wand and the character glides in the direction of the wand. This allows you to aim behind you to go backward, or left and right to sidestep. The only time I had an issue with this was when I had a bow in my hand and wanted to retreat away from the big scary monster that wanted to eat my face while I fired arrows at it. Unless Sony bring out a new PSMove with a thumb-stick or touch-pad though I can not see a way for Bethesda to fix that.
Turning is done with two buttons on the right wand, you turn in chunks, personally I prefer smooth turning but the best I could do was set the turning chunks to one or two degrees, and you can not hold the button, this felt a little un-natural so I got into the habit of turning physically in my environment unless I needed to turn more than 10 to 15 degrees, a cursor display at the bottom of the screen means you never really forget which way is “forward” for your setup and saves you from accidentally facing away from the camera.
Sneaking is thankfully bound to a button, hold triangle on the right wand to toggle sneak mode (tap to jump) I was worried I would have to physically crouch down and I am no young spring chicken!
There are a few anti-VR sickness measures all of which I turned off, my first session was two hours long, my second just over an hour at no point did I feel even remotely sick.
You have 1-for-1 control of your sword and shield and it feels pretty good, however to block you need to move the shield in front of you or the sword in a horizontal pose, no epic sword fights parrying blades sadly (I fear that may be a limitation of the engine and unlikely to be fixed).
By my third stream, however, I was really quite liking the melee combat, though I prefer magic or the bow.
With bow and arrow, it is much more fluid and dynamic, while I have struggled to hit my target that is more a lack of skill on my part and less an issue with the game mechanic. Yep, skill is needed to use the bow accurately, not a stat or anything like that but practice and time with the bow, to me that is very cool. I look forward to being able to shoot the wings off a butterfly at 100 feet (at the minute I can just about hit the barn side of a barn).
Magic, oh man, if you watch the first play stream recording you will see me whoop for joy as I unleash a torrent of lightning from my hands like a Sith Lord, what is more as mentioned further up you can aim one hand at one enemy and another at a second enemy. You can also wield staffs and in vr that adds a whole new level of awesome to the game, a weapon that I was oft to ignore.
Magic and bows are clearly the stars here.
Lefties, when the game loaded I was asked to choose my main hand, this leads me to believe that my left-handed gamer pals have been given love and support too.
ROOMSCALE / ENVIRONMENT / GRAPHICS
Here is where the hit comes a little, the resolution of the game has been reduced when compared to the special edition. This is expected in VR and you mostly will not notice once engrossed in the game (during my third stream it barely registered). It is also worth noting I only really experienced any annoyance with the lower resolution when in the outside areas and things at a distance. I am hopeful a patch will come out for PlayStation Pro to improve the resolution a little however it does not spoil the game.
Being inside one of your favourite games is very cool, and in the second part of my lets play I got to do my first dragon fight, it was fantastic seeing it flying around and loosing arrows at it. Of course those familiar with the games start will also know to look forward to an up close and personal experience.
No issues at all, no crashes, no massive frame drops, no bugs beyond a small graphical one with far textures (and that happened only once).
Bethesda did a really good job here.
There is a full tutorial at the start which teaches you the basics and an in-game help functionality. Most of the time buttons you need to press are listed on the screen along with which hand. It still took me a while to see the favourites button and I still hit the wrong button a lot but it is a large complicated game (finally a full massive VR game).
I would say it is as intuitive as it needs to be.
Skyrim is an old game that has been released in many formats. You may baulk at the full price tag however, this is the full game and all the DLC’s fully playable in VR, that is some major game time ahead of you. Skyrim VR is well worth the cost of admission and shows us there is some real hope for the future of Virtual reality.
This is a very promising sign for the future of VR.
- It is Skyrim in VR!
- The first full big name VR game.
- Firing spells from both your wands at different targets make you feel godlike.
- Bethesda clearly has not done a quick dirty port and have instead focused on a lot of the design choices/conversions.
- The bow mechanics mean you will need a real skill at using it fully.
- Holding the pickup button on an object allows you to move it about, cannot wait to decorate my ingame home! (yes I know how that sounds)
- All the DLC is included
- It does not have content club
- Multiple movement and anti-VR sickness methods.
- One of the DLC’s lets you ride dragons, I can not wait to do that in VR!
- The method used for displaying books is both cool looking and practical, allowing you to actually read the books.
- No mod support at launch (yeah that is pretty major, we had to fight tooth and nail to get mod support on the special edition on PS4 and to have that yanked away from us is painful)
- The resolution could be higher.
- Some of the design choices feel strange in VR (the UI for one takes getting used to)
- The High price makes me believe there will be further patches and support if there is not then this will be way more of an issue then it is now.
- You can not actually shout the shouts (the PSVR HMD has a built-in mic, the PlayStation has built-in voice recognition, how did this get overlooked?)
- We have no eta on mod support (I know mod support listed twice but it really is important and a lack of eta is very worrying)
- No killcams, I was looking forward to feeling like I was flying with the arrow as it hits my target or to step out of my body for a second and witness an epic finisher. I understand why they removed it (break from immersion) but I wish they had made it an option.