Skyrim VR Review
At this point, every gamer on the planet has established how they feel about Skyrim. I can’t even imagine the thousands — no, millions — of words that game reviewers and journalists have written about this game. And for good reason. Skyrim is a huge achievement, a complex and expansive fantasy world the likes of which we haven’t really seen before.That, and it’s been released, and rereleased, on just about every platform imaginable.
But there’s something special about Skyrim VR, something that takes it out of the realm of “just another port.” Skyrim VR is a completely new interpretation of the game. No, I’m not saying the game itself is any different — it’s exactly as you remember it, bugs and all. Only it’s so radically different that I’m having a hard time putting it into words. Some issues aside, it feels like the definitive way to experience the world of The Elder Scrolls. If this is a taste of what Bethesda has in store for us in the future, then the future looks bright.
I won’t rehash the plot of Skyrim, because, as I said, it’s been done a million times before. Skyrim VR presents the same world, the same characters, the same dark plot surrounding the resurrection of the dragons and the ascension of the Dragonborn. The difference here lies in your distance from the action. Sitting on your couch, staring at a television screen several feet away, Skyrim was an immersive experience. With a PSVR on your head, you are in Skyrim. I know this is a bit hyperbolic, but it’s such a treat to be able to explore a world this size, with so much to do, in such an intimate way.
Bethesda has given us a few different control options. Of course, there is standard DualShock 4 support, if you want to play it the way you did in its previous iterations. I opted for the Move controllers, however, and I highly recommend it. Your Move controllers are your weapons. Want to swing your sword? Swing your arm. Want to cast a wall of flame at encroaching Draugrs? Hold out your hand and fire away. I’ve been playing as a dual-casting destruction mage, and combat just feels so good. The game really gives you a sense of power. Beyond combat, the developer has found an innovative way around the Move controllers’ lack of an analog stick. Holding the Move button in your non-dominant hand makes you run forward. You strafe by tilting the Move controller in whichever direction you want. Turning is still done in small increments with X and Circle buttons on the other controller, which is my one gripe with the controls. I’d love an option for smooth turning. All in all, controlling Skyrim with Move controllers takes some getting used to, but the additional immersion is worth the time invested in learning.
Free movement in a virtual reality world can cause problems for some people, so Bethesda has provided an array of comfort options, which you can adjust freely. If you can’t handle smooth movement at all, teleportation is available. But if you want to try free movement, vignetting around the edges of the screen while running and turning is super helpful, and you can change the severity of the vignette at will. This moderates discomfort for many people quite a bit. Even still, play sessions of several hours did leave me feeling a little bit woozy, so don’t plan on dropping six hours at a time in this. All of these options prove this isn’t a slapdash VR conversion — Bethesda took some time and optimized this for the platform.
“… this feels like the definitive way to experience Skyrim”
I wish the same could be said about the graphics. I don’t recall even the PS3 version of the game looking quite so rough. Textures lack detail, character models are lower quality, and pop-in is frequent. The game understandably only loads detail for what you can see, but because this is VR, you’re able to turn your head quickly. Doing so will reveal detail pop-in that would normally be hidden when using a standard controller. It feels like I’m exploring a vast fantasy world without my glasses — objects even fifteen feet away remain pretty blurry. I don’t believe Skyrim VR is optimized for PS4 Pro (which is what I played it on), so maybe Bethesda can use the system’s additional horsepower to improve the visuals a bit. But even the low-quality graphics can’t keep me away from this game. Looking out over Skyrim’s massive vistas is a real treat, and it makes me glad I invested in a PSVR.
Despite all the work it must have taken to squeeze a game this size onto the PSVR platform, one element that remains is the game’s famous bugginess. I had an entire section of river simply fail to load, no matter how close I got to it, and had a very trippy experience swimming through what appeared to be thin air. Similarly, and more problematic, combat has its fair share of bugs. Frequently during combat (at least while using the Move controllers), my weapons disappear from my hands. This happens in nearly every substantial conflict. I’m hoping Bethesda plans a few patches to take care of the VR-exclusive bugs. I can deal with floating people and other oddities, but bugs that directly impact playability have to go.
Resident Evil 7 and Skyrim prove that PlayStation VR is a viable platform and that full-sized games belong on it. If you can look past the bugs (and let’s face it: if you’re a Skyrim fan, you can), then this feels like the definitive way to experience Skyrim.
** A PSVR code was provided by the publisher **
- Incredibly immersive VR experience
- Motion controls work surprisingly well
- Solid VR quality-of-life features
- Graphics are subpar
- Glitches are as present as ever
- Long play sessions can get uncomfortable