Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series came as a bit of a surprise. We'd expected a bit of a cash grab, but the actual product is decent if unorthodox package. We get a campaign spread across three episodes plus three waves-based challenge modes. There’s actually a surprising wealth of content when viewed cumulatively.
Each episode on its own isn’t terribly impressive, but you can’t buy them individually for PlayStation VR anyways. Which makes their delivery method extremely strange. Each of Vader Immortal’s three episodes count as a separate game and must be booted up independent of one another. It’s such a bizarre choice and adds a lot of seemingly pointless loading time to the experience. It’s especially annoying to pivot from Episode 2 to 3, as Episode 2's narrative component barely clocks in at 30 minutes.
The actual gameplay is equal parts walking simulator and stationary duelling. You play as a descendant of a royal house of the once prosperous planet Mustafar – the very same planet where Obi-Wan famously underestimates Anakin’s power – where you've been brought against your will. You then must escape with the help of your sassy – maybe too sassy – robot and some of the locals.
But the game is called Vader Immortal for a reason, and the fabled dark lord butts heads with you at multiple points on a quest for immortality, culminating in a pretty excellent lightsaber duel. The combat focuses almost exclusively on lightsabers, with each episode introducing a new gimmick. Episode 1 is all about the lightsaber; Episode 2 introduces force powers; Episode 3 is a culmination of everything previously learned.
The narrative experience doesn’t last long enough to feel as though you’re much of a master but that is where each chapter’s “lightsaber dojo” comes in. Each comes with a unique 40-wave experience that allows you to really flex your Jedi aptitude. Unfortunately, you’re locked down and stationary for this, but the combat is fun enough that it’s not really that upsetting. There are a breadth of customisation options, like lightsaber hilt and lightsaber colour, but many of the “rewards” amount to no more than motivational quotes. The experience is decidedly fun, if rather limited.
Being able to wield a lightsaber and deflect laser blasts, or pull a Stormtrooper up close to skewer them, carries an appropriate amount of weight, and there are many moments where the trappings of VR fade away, and you feel completely integrated into the Star Wars universe. These transcendent moments are many, and when this experience is firing on all cylinders, it’s truly special. As a stepping stone for a more expansive follow-up, there is much reason for excitement looking ahead.