Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “The PSVR is really impressive for VR powered by a four-year old game console, but the PlayStation Move controllers are really lame.” Chances are if you’ve ever talked to anyone that owns or has tried PSVR at any point in their life, they think the PS Move controllers are just plain lacking. They don’t have a D-Pad, analog stick, touchpad or any other movement input system and you’re lucky to get through an hour without a glitch or weird tracking bug. To make matters worse the PSVR is a front-facing only device with a single, outdated tracking camera that severely limits what you can do while immersed in a virtual world. The last thing I want to do when playing a VR game is have to worry about which direction I’m facing in real life. That means no moving around a room, no ducking or crawling, no rapid movements, and no turning around at all. Facing forward in a seated or feet planted position are your only options.
Consider me surprised then when I learned that not only is Bethesda porting over one of its most massive, sprawling, and immersive adventures (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) to VR, but it’s bringing it to Sony’s PSVR first with timed exclusivity. Talk about bittersweet.
While the end result is much better than it has any right to be (read our full review here) that’s mostly in spite of the PS Move controllers, not because of them. Reaching into the world of Skyrim to punch a dragon in the mouth, pick up a dagger and fling it across a room, or just beat bandits to death with a big warhammer feels great right up until the PS Move controller tracking gives out. Craning my neck up to look at a towering giant or deadly dragon really puts me in the moment right up until I turn around to shoot it and realize the camera can’t see my hands anymore. These, and plenty of other issues, are all outlines in great detail in my review.
What I’m getting at here is that Skyrim VR is a great game. It really is. But that’s because Bethesda struck gold with its original release all the way back in 2011 and its been milking that cash cow ever since with releases on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One, PC again, Nintendo Switch, and now the PSVR. Skyrim proves that a great game is great regardless of when or where it launches and that includes VR devices.
Standing at the top of the Throat of the World and looking down at the landscapes of of Tamriel in VR literally took my breath away. I got chills the first time I got surrounded by Draugr in an old Nordic crypt. Reliving key moments from my Skyrim-laced memories brought smiles to my face. Playing a game like Skyrim VR feels both like you’re coming home and you’re in a strange new land with a strong sense of déjà vu.
Imagine what it could have been like if the first time Skyrim VR released to the public it had the full weight of a roomscale-tracked environment with proper motion controllers such as the HTC Vive wands or Oculus Touch. The visuals would look crisper and more detailed, movement could be accomplished with a trackpad or analog stick, and the power of mods would be much more likely than they are in the PSVR iteration of the game.
I’m sure Sony paid Bethesda a hefty sum to keep the game exclusive to their headset for a little while and we should eventually see Skyrim VR on other platforms like the HTC Vive, but I can’t help but think that part of me feels like the Skyrim VR will forever have a lackluster first impression for a lot of people. That isn’t to say that games should never launch first on PSVR, but a game like Skyrim that has the PC culture at its root and core and prides itself on intense, immersive realism, should really be empowered by its platform, not hindered.
I’ll be the first to admit that PSVR continues to surprise me with how much it can do. Honestly it’s my heasdset of choice a lot of the time and is still the most comfortable one to wear. Skyrim VR is a great game and easily ranks as one of VR’s best, most ambitious, and most elaborate titles to date. Anyone that considers themselves a fan of RPGs owes it to themselves to give Skyrim VR a try.
But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been even better from the get-go.