What makes Skyrim VR so special? And what breaks the experience?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR launches worldwide today, exclusively on PlayStation VR. Yesterday VRFocus delivered a review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR detailing the experience and what it’s like to journey into the world of Tamriel in virtual reality (VR) for the first time. Today, we look in more detail into the mechanics and technical specifications that make-or-break the videogame.
Like many of you, I personally have previously experienced The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim many times: Xbox 360, PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (albeit briefly) and no also PlayStation VR. Despite this, my enthusiasm for reliving the adventure for a fifth time has not been dampenedthanks to the brand new medium. As the subtitle for my review stated, “No matter how many times you’ve experienced Skyrim, you’ve never felt it like this.”
And this is true, mostly for better but occasionally for worse. Today I’ll discuss some of the technical highs and lows of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR.
One of the most impressive aspects of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is the sheer scale of everything. It’s frequently been noted that VR gives the user a greater appreciation of scale, and this has never been truer than with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR.
From the long distances to huge overbearing mountains, to the vastness of Tamriel’s great halls, to the club wielded by a giant: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR may have taken a graphical hit compared to some of the more recent re-releases of the original, but the appreciation of scale more than makes up for it.
Highs and lows. While characters are undeniably more believable and building relationships is a much more personal affair, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR’s aged underbelly means it can’t hold a candle to the forthcoming L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files. Facial indicators are rarely detailed beyond binary responses such as happiness and anger, confusion and hate.
Furthermore, the positioning of menus for text-based dialogue options often blocks the face of the character you’re talking to and the options to move when mid-conversation are limited at best.
As stated above, the graphics of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR are significantly inferior to last year’s Xbox One and PlayStation 4 re-release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. However, much can be forgiven for the new incidental detail that’s noticeable in the world from a new perspective. Did you know that giant spiders drool? Have you seen the bugs that crawl across tree stumps? Having played many iterations of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is the first time many of these details have presented themselves to me.
A big one, this. As stated in my review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, the default option when playing with PlayStation Move motion controllers is teleportation. The smooth locomotion option – which allows players to continually move in the direction dictated by the position of their left PlayStation Move simply by holding the large Move button on the controller – is buried away several button presses within the menus. At no point does The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VRtry to present the huge variety of comfort options available to the player; a lot of digging and experimentation is required in order to get the best out of the control system.
And that’s a shame, as while The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is playable with a DualShock 4 controller, the PlayStation Move offers a much more immersive experience. Combat that relies specifically on your own motion, interaction with objects and the feel of the world is all heightened with motion controllers.
Fade to Black
Another double-edged sword. When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR has to rely on forced movement – most notably in the opening sequence of the videogame or when the player encounters a push move from an enemy that clocks over a specific (unknown at present) distance – the videogame cuts to black before reopening with the player in a new location. This is a concession to avoid inducing simulation sickness, of course, but when you’re in the midst of a battle or a quest, it can certainly be disorientating.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is available now exclusively for PlayStation VR. I myself have already spent numerous hours in the videogame playing as several different characters, and will be bringing you commentary on my adventures a little down the line.