There are very few games out there that have stood the test of time like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Originally released on the PS3 November 11th, 2011, it became a poster child for RPG gaming. A gargantuan open world, cutting-edge graphics, and enough content to keep you busy for hundreds of hours. It wasn’t the first game of its kind, but it was one of the most important.
Now, it’s 2017 and Skyrim is a name that once again graces the tongues of gamers everywhere. After a PS4 release in 2016, Bethesda Game Studios has brought the sprawling world of Skyrim to PlayStation VR. Whether you’re a veteran of the game, or a newcomer ready to dive in, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s find out if this new release in VR is the definitive way to experience this world.
A World You Can (Quite Literally) Lose Yourself In
Having been an original fan of Skyrim myself, I generally knew what I was getting into when I dove into Skyrim VR, but for those who are joining us for the first time, let me start from the beginning.
As the game opens, you ride into town on a prisoner’s carriage with your hands bound. You’re surrounded by other poor souls who are all being taken to the town square for execution. It’s a somber way to start any game, but soon you’ll have the opportunity to forge your persona who will become your character for the next hundred hours or so.
The character creator gives you access to races that span the gambit of humans, to elves, to the lizard-like Argonians, and even the Khajiit who are a race of humanoid felines. When you’ve finished designing your look, the game begins.
An action-packed opening mission serves as a linear tutorial. Chaos ensues, and you soon find yourself on your own with the whole world in front of you. This is where The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim truly opens up.
While we as gamers are used to massive maps in our modern RPG games, we’ve never seen anything like this in VR. The whole of the original game’s map is available to you, including all of the DLC expansions.
You can decide to follow the main story by heading into the nearby town, or you can simply walk into the forest and see where the wind takes you.
While the main questline is certainly exciting and takes you through your destiny as a Dragonborn (known as the Dovahkiin), it actually pales in comparison to the countless side quests and supplemental storylines you can experience.
Whether it’s joining the Dark Brotherhood or taking classes as the Mage’s College, the side stories are always exciting adventures in their own right.
Skyrim is a game that is packed to the brim with lore and story. Whether it’s extended conversations with characters, full readable books, or simple exploration, there’s an incredible amount of things to see and do, all of which push the narrative forward and build the world of Tamriel.
You can both literally and figuratively become lost in the world without really trying. From a story perspective, you would be hard pressed to find anything else as deep and rich in gaming. In terms of VR, nothing even comes close to the amount of story you’ll experience playing Skyrim VR.
Perhaps the only qualm I have with Skyrim’s story is that it doesn’t offer a ton of flexibility. Unlike its contemporaries, there’s not a lot of choice or options for how you want to direct the events unfolding.
You’ll be able to ask questions and occasionally choose your responses, but not much else. For all intents and purposes, the game only has one ending as well. It’s a small nitpick, but it is one of the main differences between this RPG and many of the others released in recent years.
It’s a tale of ancient history, of gods and men, and most importantly, of dragons. It’s high fantasy at its finest, and truly a spectacle to behold if you’ve never had the chance to play it before. Even if you have played every quest you could get your hands on, you’ll want to stick around to find out how VR plays into this.
A Brand New Way to Experience a Sprawling Fantasy Adventure
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open-world action RPG that is played in VR from the first-person perspective. With no classes to choose from, you’re free to mold your character how you see fit.
In Skyrim VR, the act of doing is how you level up your character. If you want to become adept at massive two-handed weapons, you need only use them. As you gain real experience using these types of weapons, that skill will level up, contributing to an overall level as well.
If you’re into spells, archery, sneaking, speech, stealth, or any other of the many skills in the game, you can increase you skill simply by doing them. Trainers will also offer quick level boosts in exchange for coin if that’s your thing. Oh, and don’t worry, we’re talking about in-game money, no loot crates or pay-to-win boosts here. Trainers offer a quick way to boost your skills in specific weapons, skills, or anything in between.
Once your main level increases, you’ll also be given perk points that can be spent in skill trees based on every type of ability in the game. These perks give you even more flexibility and power in your chosen professions.
For example, one perk in the destruction spell tree will allow you to save mana when using those types of spells. A future perk (available when that skill reaches a certain level) will allow you to use one spell in both hands for an added effect.
This system of learning-by-doing is what make Skyrim such a satisfying RPG, and one that’s easy to get into. Not being held back by a class means that there are nearly infinite character build options for you to try out.
Beyond combat, which we’ll discuss momentarily, you can also get into crafting, enchanting weapons, and even alchemy. All of these options have their own fully realized mechanics that allow you to enhance your equipment, brew potions, or create high quality ingredients to sell to local vendors.
When it comes time to fight, Skyrim VR offers two different ways to vanquish your enemies: using the DualShock 4 or 2 PlayStation Move controllers. Playing with the DualShock 4 offers standard controls for combat and navigation. Aiming is done with your head tracking, which is always precise for those long range kills.
It works exactly as intended, but the real treat is playing Skyrim VR with PlayStation Move controllers. I had some pretty high expectations about how this would work, and I’m pleased to say that the results are excellent.
We’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: motion sickness. The game offers a wide range of comfort options for those who need them, so there’s really no need to worry on this front. In fact, Christina, who I affectionately refer to as my “Player 2” is very sensitive to motion sickness in VR.
She rarely plays for extended periods of time as a result. I had her try out Skyrim VR with the default controls. This uses teleportation for movement and slow click turns for rotation while using the Move controllers.
She had played the original release of Skyrim, so she soon asked for a more fluid movement option. I was concerned, but when I switched her over to full locomotion and adjusted the turning to be more smooth, she was extremely pleased with the results.
Not only that, but I couldn’t get her out of the headset for several hours! She also took several of the screenshots you see throughout the review.
If that’s not a great testimonial for a lack of motion sickness in Skyrim VR, I don’t know what is. Case and point, the game does not induce any kind of motion sickness for us, but if you want comfort options, they are all there.
For those who don’t want anything turned on, you can move freely, remove blinders (known as filters in the settings), and adjust the turn speed. Movement without analog sticks takes some getting used to, but it quickly became second nature for me.
Using the Move button to walk forward and the face buttons to rotate works great. Tilting the controller while walking also allows you to strafe, which keeps you from constantly having to rotate your character.
Pointing the controller behind you and pressing the Move button will also allow you to walk backwards if you get stuck in a corner. It all responds perfectly and represents what I believe to be the best locomotion controls you can have on the Move controllers (which sadly lack analog sticks).
Combat and spells in Skyrim VR with motion controllers is just as amazing as you would expect. You can swing your your weapons in real time to issue attacks, and spells explore from your digital hands in real-time.
The bow and arrow works very well for the most part, allowing you to hold the bow with one controller, and pull back with the other to draw and fire. Like with anything involving motion controls, tracking can go wonky at times, but for the most part it worked as well as I’ve seen with any other VR titles, if not better.
The game recognizes swings based on speed, which means that anything from slashes to stabs will make contact with satisfying results. When you’re not using weapons or spells, you’ll see Move controllers suspended in the air where your hands should be. It’s not ideal, but I did find that seeing the buttons in VR helped me remember where face buttons were situated in the real world.
Even so, the option to have your hands out in front of you would have helped with overall immersion. So, the story is all there (plus DLC!), and the gameplay with motion controls is excellent. Let’s find out how it all translates to VR!
The Ultimate Way to Experience Skyrim, Period
Virtual Reality is still a novelty to many, and for those who have yet to experience it, a mystery. It’s extremely difficult to truly describe the sensation of being inside of a world until you’ve donned the headset yourself. That being said, I’m going to try.
All of the screenshots in this article were taken by myself or Christina, so you will most likely see how the graphics have been altered to work for VR. Having played Skyrim on PC, I do realize that the game has and could look a lot better outside of VR, that is not in question.
What I implore you to understand, however, is that the game still looks incredible in VR. You’ll notice that textures sometimes like fine detail, and even on the PS4 Pro, aliasing can be seen on character models, but those things aren’t noticeable for long.
When you’re in motion, experiencing the world all around you, it’s a sensation unlike any other. I find that as I get older and my life becomes more chaotic, it’s harder and harder to become fully immersed in my games. After all, I have the TV in front of me, but distractions can come from anywhere to pull me out of the experience.
With virtual reality, the world is all around you. When you’re walking through a forest, taking in the sights in front of you, you can stop and turn your head. You won’t see your couch behind you when you do this. Instead, you’ll see the path you just walked.
Look up, down, anywhere at all, and the game is all around you. You are inside of the world. For a huge Skyrim fan like myself, it’s wish fulfillment at its finest. I remember climbing The Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar when I first played Skyrim, but doing it in VR felt like an arduous journey, and one that I remember more clearly and in more detail than any of my time playing the game outside of VR.
You can almost feel the snow hitting your face when you climb the highest mountains Skyrim has to offer. The sluggish gait of the Draugr holds a lot more terror when they are coming from all sides. Most impressive, perhaps, is the presence of a dragon flying over your head, or slamming into the ground in front of you.
Play with headphones, and you’ll have the full experience. Sound has incredible depth in Skyrim VR. Spells roar with a voracious power that makes them feel like true destructive forces. Wonderful orchestral pieces add amazing soundscapes to your exploration, and the sound of enemies approaching in a dark dungeon makes your blood run cold.
Playing Skyrim VR showed me the future of virtual reality. It reignited my love for PlayStation VR, and it brought me closer to a world that holds a special place in my heart. Yes, it still has some bugs, and on one occasion I noticed a frame rate drop that took me out of the moment, but these things aren’t what I remember from my numerous hours in the game thus far.
No, what I remember is staring into the face of a dragon and living to tell the tale. I remember exploring the depths of dungeons as the undead attacked from all sides. I remember climbing the slopes of snow-covered mountains and communing with gods amongst men.
Skyrim VR is not only the best game on PlayStation VR and a reason to buy the headset on its own, but it’s also a crowning achievement for virtual reality as a whole.
Final Score: 9.5/10
A copy of Skyrim VR was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes. All screenshots were taken in-game using a PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 11/17/17