This year, Bethesda has launched two new versions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — one for Nintendo’s hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch, as well as a VR port for the PlayStation 4. On top of that, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR also serves as the first of three VR titles released by Bethesda this year (with the other two being DOOM VFR and Fallout 4 VR), and thankfully this version offers an original take on this six-year-old title.
From the moment I put my PlayStation VR headset on, I knew that my journey back into Skyrim would be different this time around. Whether you are looking at the sky, feeling the tension as you approach a giant to witnessing the fiery flames of a dragon coming towards you; The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR offers the most immersive experience for this title.
That’s not to say that you will be immersed the whole time. Skyrim, in any iteration, has always dipped its foot heavily on the wrong side of the uncanny valley. The immersion can break after long hours of play due to the outdated visuals of the Creation engine; most notably when you are approaching NPCs, which are sporting ugly character models making it unappealing on the eyes.
What rubs me the wrong way the most, is the fact that Skyrim VR looks like all the assets were taken from the original versions instead of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition re-release last year for PS4 and Xbox One. Considering that this game had more time than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions (which were released over a year ago I might add), it feels strange not adding a bit more polish to the in-game visuals, but the in-game world is impressive. In fact, it offers one of the most significant open environments in any VR game, especially when you factor in that the game includes the base game as well as all the post-launch content it is one of the beefiest VR games on the market.
Back in 2011 when I played Skyrim for the first time, I found myself being a complete douchebag to the NPCs – ranging from killing villagers and attacking livestock just for fun. However, during my return to the game in the form of virtual reality I felt more immersed in the game, video games are supposed to make you feel as if you are there, VR or not. But, there is something about playing Skyrim VR that made me feel more like I was a character in the game, you can argue it as being a minor detail, but it impacted my playstyle from the very beginning.
Despite the in-game assets not getting much attention, the game’s combat controls have been redefined to accommodate those who want to play with the PlayStation Move controllers. Despite the funny-looking appearance, using one and two-handed melee weapons feels a lot more fluid and precise than a controller, I felt like a knight when I was swinging my sword around and holding a shield to block enemy attacks. Nevertheless, the option to play with a DualShock 4 is still available with the controls working just like the original PlayStation 4 version, minus the camera movement, which is done using the PSVR and rick analog stick.
Aside from using swords, axes and other melee weapons, the PlayStation Move controllers also provide more flow when using magic; each hand will allow you to equip a spell and you can aim your spells on enemies by holding your hand, kinda like a magician. Using bows in Skyrim is just as fun as ever before and personally, I think is the best part of the game regarding combat.
By using both PlayStation Move controllers, you can pull back your bow and aim it as if you are using the real bow; many VR titles try to use the system’s controllers to mimic weapons like guns, but often fail and feel a bit awkward. However, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR‘s arrow mechanics are the most precise I have seen in any VR game I have played. Nonetheless, combat overall feels clunky on a horse when using motion controls, mainly having to force you to make a complete stop before you can make an accurate shot.
Combat overall has been a fun experience, although it can be a bit of a pain in the ass having to swap out my weapons thanks to a reinvention of the in-game menu — a change that breaks the pacing and screws you in tight battle situations. It doesn’t help the fact that the PlayStation Move controllers do not have a joystick or a d-pad to help you navigate a bit quicker.
When it comes to the DualShock 4 and PlayStation Move controllers, both have pros and cons that will depend on personal preference, but just be wary of what you will compromise when selecting your controller. Most people would say “play for several hours and you will get used to the controls,” but I believe games should have that “pick up and play” mentality.” Having to learn and memorize certain gameplay elements can be tedious for a game so familiar to most gamers.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR also offers teleporting and free locomotion; while both options will get the job done, the recommended option is to use open movement, for comfort purposes. Keep in mind that you may experience nausea, although during my time I did not experience that feeling. However, it does depend on the person — free movement in VR is not for everyone, but it indeed offers a more immersive experience overall.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is a great game and, while the base game was never made with virtual reality in mind, Bethesda did a terrific job porting it to the nascent medium. Despite outdated visuals and imperfect controls, it is one of the best VR titles I have played in recent years and offers a lot for its current purchase price. That being said, I cannot recommend this game everyone — if you do not like motion controls in VR, you may be better off grabbing the Special Edition.