For the first time ever I’m seriously addicted to a VR game. When the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive first came out I played a lot of EVE: Valkyrie and Longbow from The Lab, but that only lasted a few days during the launch hype. I’ve returned to games like Onward from time-to-time and do still play Echo Arena when friends are available, but that’s more of a social interaction platform that it is true addiction to a VR experience. But The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is different.
This isn’t a VR app that’s bolstered by including other humans to interact with or a VR app that was built from the ground up for this new immersive medium. No, Skyrim VR is actually just a port of a six year-old game that’s already been ported a half dozen times and it features some of the most unintuitive and clumsy motion controls using PlayStation’s Move wands that I’ve ever seen. Yet, despite it all, I can’t stop playing it.
Feels Like Home
While a lot of people would argue that a game needs to be built from the ground up for VR in order to truly excel, Skyrim VR defies that logic. Since it’s a beloved game that I’ve already sunken hundreds of hours into over the years I went in with a certain degree of expectation. I already know a dragon is going to attack Helgen during the opening moments and I’m going to be able to pick and choose how I play the game depending on my preferred playstyle. I’ve even seen many of the game’s biggest cities and locales outside of VR previously.
But I haven’t seen them in VR. I was enamored the first time I walked up the steps to High Hrothgar and gazed out at the city of Whiterun down below, sprawled out, as a representation of my journey. I’m astounded every time I think about how far I’ve traveled without ever having to see a load screen. Fighting a dragon for the first time got my heart pounding like never before. Bashing enemies with my shield and picking them off with arrows from a distance is everything I’ve ever wanted in a game.
While I am envious of those that get to use the power of VR to visit Skyrim for the very first time, there’s something profound about revisiting an old friend with a new perspective. Lots of elements are rough around the edges in terms of VR integration (such as the UI, menu elements, interacting with some objects, talking to NPCs, etc) but the game as a whole more than makes up for it with its sheer breadth and depth. You can go anywhere and do anything — it’s a promise that no other VR game has even come close to upholding.
A brand new IP that tries to emulate the Skyrim VR experience will come out eventually and it will likely be very fun and very good, but it won’t be Skyrim in VR. It won’t be Tamriel, and the Elder Scrolls, and chuckling as I hear guards mumble about sweet rolls and arrows to the knee. It won’t have the nostalgia that this does.
Since Skyrim VR is the entirety of the originally game, plus all DLC, that means a lot of people have seen and experienced the content already. But unlike virtually all other ports of the game, the VR version does have a lot of new features. For example, aiming with the bow and arrow while using the Move controllers works just like you’d expect it to with motion controls. I reach up and nock an arrow with my right hand, aim the bow itself with my left hand, then pull back and release an arrow to send it soaring. Getting a headshot this way, as opposed to simply lining up a crosshair and pressing R2, feels incredibly satisfying.
In the realm of spell casting the motion controls make you even more powerful. Now you can cast each hand independently and aim them wherever you’d like, instead of pointing both hands at your crosshair at all times. This lets you do things like block and attack with a Wars from one direction while blasting Flames at another enemies, or even hitting two enemies on either side of you.
Decorating a house feels more immersive now as well since you can pick up and move objects using your actual Move controllers. And with melee combat I can swing my arm to attack, raise my shield to block, and even bash enemies with a strong shove.
None of this was even remotely possible in the non-VR version of Skyrim.
Above all else though, the most breathtaking thing about Skyrim VR is just how immersive it all feels once you learn to live with the PS Move controllers or decide to use the DualShock 4. Maybe it’s the small desk fan in my office playing tricks on me, but I could have sworn I felt a strong gust of wind the first time I went to the top of High Hrothgar.
You can catch up on our Skyrim VR livestreams here, or see all of our VR game livestream archives at this link. We also interviewed Bethesda about the process of adapting Skyrim to VR formats and issued a list of tips for new players. And finally, don’t forget to read our Skyrim VR review for the full verdict.
Are you playing Skyrim VR? Let us know down in the comments below!