Game: Skyrim VR
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
Skyrim. Ah, Skyrim. The game which everyone has played AT LEAST once in their lives and if you haven’t then where the heck have you been? Its been released across 7 different platforms now, yes, 7 and still we buy it and love it every single time. Whether you play as a fireball staff wielding mage or the sneaky dark brotherhood archer assassins, Skyrim offers up a different way to play every single time and now with Skyrim VR you are actually plunged into the hostile dragon riddled lands with your trusty companion and health regenerating sweet roll. You never truly appreciate the size of Skyrim until you come face to face with a dragon or up close and personal with a frostbite spider. Sure, video games can make creatures appear big on screen but very rarely towering over you. To be honest it’s an absolute joy and pleasure to see the world of Skyrim from this perspective for anyone like myself who’s spent countless hours here.
First of all let me make it clear how I played Skyrim VR. I played on both PS Pro & PS4 Slim and even though the difference was minimal, it was noticeable. Motion blur can sometimes be an issue and characters do at times appear blurry but thats from a distance. Speaking of distance, there isn’t much due to the short draw distance which makes enemies/cities/NPC’s pop in from out of nowhere. Does this take away from the immersion? Yes, sadly. The shadows and lighting are lacking, which is only really noticed when you’re looking for them but when you’re in a world in VR, you do tend to go out of your way to investigate every little detail, well I do anyway, and yes, I was a little disappointed in the lack lustre lighting in places. The PS Pro does help with these issues and does improve on the motion blur & character rendering. The landscapes also appear a little blurry/low poly on a standard PS4 but PS Pro again does slightly improve on this. If you’re a lover of Skyrim such as myself then honestly the blur isn’t much of a problem but if you’re looking to play Skyrim for the first time ever, I don’t recommend it in PSVR unfortunately. I adore this game, I really do, but out of all the editions I found this one the hardest way to play the epic adventure. This is by no means me saying it’s a bad game okay? It’s fun, it’s enjoyable but at the same time, it just doesn’t live up to the expectation I set for it.
Now, onwards to audio. Audio is key when creating a huge immersive world such as Skyrim because without the right music/sound effects then a game just isn’t enjoyable. You can have the prettiest video game graphic wise but without the correct OST, you’re not going to enjoy it. Luckily Skyrim’s original OST composed by Jeremy Soule makes its way back into Skyrim PS4/Xbox One and PSVR editions and boy, it’s just as beautiful as I always remembered it to be. Walking around the vast landscapes in VR (with the HUD turned off may I add) and just taking in the atmospheric world in a fully immersive first person view with the soundtrack playing is easily one of my favourite things to do in the game and one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had within a video game. Also you know what’s super satisfying? When you use the motion controls to swing your sword or block an attack with your shield and the sound effects are responsive to that action. As if PSVR wasn’t immersive enough already, the sounds add to the immersion and make for a much more enjoyable experience. Also also using your Unrelenting Force shout, you know, the FUS RO DAH shout and blasting enemies (or companions alike) off the Throat Of The World looks and sounds amazing. You should try it, I have a save file dedicated solely for doing this. Does that make me a horrible person? Eh, probably.
Speaking of motion controls, yep, you guessed it, you can use the Playstation Motion Controller in Skyrim VR. On the odd occasion the motion controls can be a little fiddly and very minimally unresponsive. For example, to use a crossbow you need to use your left hand (or right depending on what your stance is) to hold the bow while your other hand is use to draw and pull back the arrow. When you’re ready to fire the arrow you release the action button on your arrow hand and in theory the arrow should fire. Sometimes it just didn’t go anywhere so then you’re just left standing there with your arms in a weird position and probably being attacked by whatever enemy you were attempting to shoot the arrow at. This is the only time I personally found the motion controls to be unresponsive. When it came to use a shield and melee weapon, it was always a pretty much flawless attack. You use one motion controller to block with your shield and the other to swing your weapon. Make sure you are in a clear space to ensure you don’t knock into anything in your living room which is where I imagine most people will be playing this game. I whacked the lampshade a total of 8 times before I finally realised I needed to be less violent with my motion controls swings but heck, it made me feel totally epic. I was fighting a dragon in my every day reality house. A bloody dragon my friends, A DRAGON. Personally I found playing it with a standard PS4 controller to be my preference but if you’re looking for a fully immersive virtual reality experience you gotta give it a try with the motion controllers. Another factor with the controls which have been slightly changed for the PSVR version is the map and how you scroll around it. I’m not sure if it’s just because this giant map is now suddenly right up in your face but when you’re using the map to select your next dungeon or city keep, it now feels like you’re actually flying around it, maybe on the back of Alduin The World Eater or maybe you’ve been catapulted halfway across the map by a giant club swing again? Who knows. Either way it’s a cool little addition to the VR aspect of the game which I really appreciated and I’m sure other Skyrim fans will too.
It’s also good to note that Skyrim VR’s settings give you the choice of two. Whether you want to use the default short choppy teleportation or free movement, since some people have motion sickness issues when using the teleportation option. Short hoppy teleportation does also take you out of the immersion so if you can handle it, I’d recommend walking smooth movement.
Ultimately, and I hate to say it but I found myself a little disappointed in Skyrim VR. For the first few hours or so I was mind blown because I was there, actually there in one of my favourite video games. I was killing dragons, I was learning the ways of the Dragonborn, I was hunting cave bears and selling their pelts and it was bloody incredible. Sadly, it soon got a little boring. The at times clumsy controls and simplistic graphics just go to show that Skyrim VR isn’t the best way to actually play Skyrim. If you truly want to enjoy the world Skyrim VR has to offer, play it the way I did. Because Skyrim VR is my 9th play through of the Skyrim story, I set the difficulty settings to the lowest they would go and just spent my time exploring and taking in every single little detail, even though they were diminished and low resolution. It’s by no means a bad way to experience Bethesda’s epic RPG, just not the best either.