Our early The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR impressions weren’t exactly enthusiastic. We tested the game in sub-optimal convention conditions with hellish teleportation enabled, and walked away from our demo like we’d just spent an afternoon in The Bannered Mare. The opportunity to test the final build of Bethesda’s snow-tipped fantasy setting with PlayStation VR is one that we simply couldn’t refuse, then – and fortunately we can confirm that it’s hugely improved.
Firstly, the controls. We once again played with two PlayStation Move wands – the DualShock 4 is supported, of course – with each illuminated controller representing one of our hands. Our understanding is that everything is completely customisable, but we played with the run command mapped to the Move button and incremental turning applied to Square and Triangle. Holding the Move button down propelled our silent protagonist forward, while looking left and right slightly altered the direction of our movement.
Hallelujah, it works just fine! We still reckon that we’ll be playing this with a DualShock 4 in the final version – manually swinging your sword adds very little to the experience in our opinion – but it’s nice to try the title without that nightmarish teleportation option enabled. With everything being completely customisable, it’s safe to assume you’ll be able to settle on a set-up that works for you – even if it may require a little bit of tinkering to get things how you want them.
More importantly is just how surreal it feels being in Skyrim in virtual reality. We often point to scale (not the dragon kind) when we talk about PlayStation VR, but once again it’s the most prominent feature here. Arriving in Riverwood at the start of the game is an unreal but euphoric moment: it looks and feels like the village we explored on the PlayStation 3 some six years ago, but suddenly it has the size and depth of a real place. Simply wandering down its central pathway is a revelation: it’s like our previous playthroughs took place on Google Streetview and now we’re actually there.
Of course, the enhanced immersion does come with its own unique drawbacks. Skyrim is, and arguably always has been, an ugly game – excelling in scope but collapsing under scrutiny. These problems become even more prominent in virtual reality, as you entangle yourself with dogs trapped in wooden beams and peasants who evaporate as they disappear through doors. The sandbox itself is immersive; the bugs, glitches, and bad animations are not.
But this isn’t a phoned-in effort from Bethesda – not at all. The skill tree, a vibrant star chart, is displayed as a kind of dome that you stand inside, with each unlockable attribute engulfing you. The map, meanwhile, transforms you into a phantom, as you fly over the world in order to find your next destination. It’s all incredibly impressive stuff, but it begs one question: are 100 hour role-playing games the best fit for PlayStation VR? Non-owners have argued that the headset isn’t worth the investment without full-length experiences, but in a medium that mostly excels in short bursts, the jury’s still out.
Are you planning to revisit Skyrim with PlayStation VR, or have you had enough of Bethesda’s perennially repurposed RPG? Post your favourite Fus Ro Dah pun in the comments section below.