Skyrim never dies, having graced the PS4 already in HD goodness its back and in a VR wrapped package of goodness.
Rivalling perhaps Minecraft for platform releases most people will know of Skyrim whether or not they have walked its paths.
It’s a game that has also been around a long time, so it might not be the prettiest of adventures, especially up close in the VR headset, but that soon washes away when you look into the distance and start to marvel at the world building around you.
It is fair to say that Bethesda have put some effort into the launch, the move controllers have had time and effort put into their mapping, almost to the point of being overworked and borderline confusing. It makes sense with practice, but can be a handful in the heat of battle. You can play with the standard controller setup, which makes for a smoother play, but takes away some of the intent. Wandering a dungeon casting spells in virtual freedom is a pleasant experience and all the more fun because of the Move controls.
They also seem to have the movement and transition under control, with a range of options from free movement to teleporting to a target. It is easy to find the setting that suits you best and also limit the field of view during transitions, which in turn does a great job of blocking out any opportunity for motion sickness. If only some of those early releases could go back and add some of these options.
Combat is a staple of the Elder Scrolls and there’s not much different here, apart from you can flail your move controllers around while waving virtual swords or notch virtual arrows. The concept is sound, the reality can sometimes be a letdown, not having any feedback and depending on the camera/headset behaving themselves it can be an empty-ish experience. Again it makes more sense on the standard controller, where strangely I have less of an issue with depth perception. Then consider that is from someone that would always play Skyrim on third person views for combat situations.
The real star of the show is the world around you, wandering familiar paths and revisiting villages or towns that you grew fond of before. The perspective that VR brings is quite astounding in most cases. While its easy to get up close to some textures and bemoan them, there is more reward to be had by drinking in the world around you. Just take a moment with the Jarl of Whitehaven and look up at the majesty of his halls above you, as if Peter Jackson himself ordered them built.
For me it’s the world outside that wins, I remember being in love with Oblivion because I could fire an arrow from a mountainside and then go looking for it in the valley below. SkyrimVR just ramps it up, strolling through the forests and mountains, listening to the babbling stream at your feet or the flock of startled birds overhead. Not to mention the awe of seeing an admittedly jaggy dragon flapping around in the distance.
That’s the good, now there is some ugly. I it wouldn’t be Skyrim without a few glitches. loopy NPCs and floating items or people that hover next to their beds while sleeping. They are forgiveable, for a game this size and age it’s unlikely that will ever be perfect, although in some eyes it already is. Of course one of my favourite pastimes is sticking my virtual face inside the heads of NPC characters to inspect their dentistry, not often you can do that without getting arrested.
We are into year 2 of PSVR and the future is looking better everyday, probably the most fulfilling VR experience on PS4 to date. Better than Life? Not quite, but we are getting there.