A short slice of Vader Immortal shown at Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference offered a good look at how ILMxLab is using the Oculus Quest VR console.
First off, Darth Vader is super intimidating in person. I’m over six feet tall and he towered above me with his hulking half-machine physique. Even if I moved my head a few feet and changed my position because he’s so scary — Vader’s gaze followed. Get out of my personal space, dark lord.
Vader Immortal also nailed an incredible haptic effect in my demo with the new Oculus Touch controllers paired with Oculus Quest. The developers effectively simulated the sensation of firing up a lightsaber and then feeling its energy pulsing in my hand. The frequency of the vibrations seemed to switch at regular intervals so it made the saber’s handle feel like it was regulating the incredible power flowing out from it.
This introductory Star Wars experience is the first in a VR series and there are lots of pieces shown in the trailer or mentioned in a recent panel discussion talk that weren’t shown at F8. The full experience includes a voice performance by Maya Rudolph, for example, and I didn’t see any of those scenes. The demo time, however, did do an amazing job of recreating an iconic moment in Star Wars canon. In a lighsaber training sequence, you face off against two kinds of bots. The first is a sphere like the kind Luke trained with in A New Hope and the second is a tall bot that pops out a lightsaber from inside its casing.
Each of them telegraphs their attacks ahead of time with lights or distinctive movements so it is easy to block the incoming saber swipes or deflect incoming particle beams from the sphere-bots. Successive waves upped the number of each kind of bot and I had to use 360-degree movement to keep blocking the attacks coming from all directions. I turned in enough circles that I’m very curious to see how the title plays on Oculus Rift headsets with a tether back to the PC.
I’ve also played enough Beat Saber that I’d wished the entire time I was dual wielding the laser swords or at least to be able to do something with my free hand. Instead, I had just one sword to defend myself with from all directions. It is easy enough to swipe at a bot and take it down after it takes its swing at you.
Near the start, Vader asks you to open a kind of puzzle box with your hands to reveal a crystal inside. The demo time ended in a dark void — even your hands are gone — with red light illuminating and reflecting off his dark suit. There’s clearly a lot more story here than any previous Star Wars VR experience, but it wasn’t obvious how it all pieces together just yet. The experience directly connects to Secrets Of The Empire — the walk-around multi-room VR experience offered by The VOID. During a recent panel it was shared that Vader Immortal takes place a few days after the events in that experience.
Vader Immortal is a launch title for Oculus Quest, which starts shipping on May 21 for $399, but the experience will also come to Rift devices later on.