PlayStation VR, in this author’s opinion, is at its best when it’s offering brief bursts of immersive gameplay like SUPERHOT VR and Batman: Arkham VR. Despite this personal preference, it’d take a very closeted editor to ignore the pent-up demand for meatier experiences from PlayStation’s very vocal fanbase – and games don’t get much bigger than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The virtual reality version of Bethesda’s best-selling role-playing romp came as something of a surprise when it was announced at E3 2017: could such a colossal title really be converted to Sony’s Daft Punk-inspired goggles? Having spent some 15 minutes or so with the port, we can confirm that this really is Skyrim on PlayStation VR – but there are a few caveats.
For starters, the developer seems intent on showing the title with PlayStation Move controllers, which makes for a less-than stellar experience. Navigation is handled using teleportation, a mechanic that’s irritated us in previous games. Yet it seems slower and more cumbersome than ever here due to the sheer size of Skyrim’s world; flashing forward a few feet every second or so just isn’t fun.
The combat isn’t great either. To be fair, the developer’s at least attempted to construct a motion-based control scheme, allowing you to swing your sword around with 1:1 precision and push out a hand to launch magic attacks; the bow-and-arrow even leverages old Sports Champions mechanics, as you notch your arrow with one hand and pull back to release.
But the tracking is buggy and frankly it’s just not very fun. Flinging a virtual sword about was barely entertaining in the PlayStation 3 era of the PlayStation Move, and it’s not gotten any better in the years that have followed. The fact is that it just feels really squidgy, because you’re effectively swinging a fake sword at fresh air, so it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing any damage at all.
The good news is that, as far as we understand, the DualShock 4 will be supported as well – and this is how you’ll probably spend most of your considerable playtime. Sure, the gameplay will feel identical with a pad in your palms, but it can’t be understated how much PlayStation VR adds to the experience; seeing locations ingrained into your memory suddenly represented in virtual reality is impressive.
Yes, of course the visuals have been simplified, but the sense of scale is unparalleled; underground labyrinths which once felt small and claustrophobic suddenly tower overhead – and even old adversaries seem more threatening than ever when they loom over you at a full six foot tall. It’s that sheer sense of size – so often a highlight with PlayStation VR – that once again shines.
It’s just a shame that loading screens completely break the immersion each time they arise. Rather than transport you to a nice three-dimensional space, the headset boots into cinematic mode – prompting a loading screen within a loading screen – before displaying a flat splash image and then reversing the procedure back into the game. Awful.
Representatives did tell us that the build we were playing was very old, and we hope that means that a lot of our concerns will be ironed out come launch. We were also playing on a bog-standard PS4, so there’s no question that the PS4 Pro will improve upon everything that we saw. At the end of the day, though, there’s a real novelty to visiting some of gaming’s most iconic locations in virtual reality – even if the added PlayStation Move controls perhaps take the idea a little too far.
Have you got the energy to pour another 150 hours or so into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim now that it’s coming to PlayStation VR? Are there any other RPGs that you think would be a good fit for the format? Level up in the comments section below.