Developer / Publisher – Bethesda Softworks
Price – US $59.99 / EU €69.99 / UK £49.99 / AU $79.95
Release date – November 17th, 2017
Control Method – Dual Shock 4, 2 x Move Controllers
Pro Patch – Yes
Digital only – No
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro
So, it’s here. What could be argued as one of PSVR’s (and VR in generals) more important game releases has finally arrived. 6 years after its original release, and subsequent re-releases, Skyrim gets a new coat of paint and gets a complete and total VR makeover. For those unfamiliar, It’s a first-person action RPG with an emphasis on freedom of choice. Be a mighty warrior, a valiant mage or the exact opposite, become skilled thief an assassin or a mix of anyone of those and more! Save the world or forget about it and wander the landscape in search of adventure and the undiscovered. Included in this little package is all 3 original DLC releases; Dawnguard & Dragonborn, which offer their own lengthy storied campaigns and side missions along with Hearthfire which allows you to build your own house with a plethora of customizable options (along with some tiny quests). I loved this game 6 years ago and played through every single mission, campaign and quest I could putting in around 200 hours and enjoying every minute of it. As of this review I’ve clocked in a paltry 8 hours in VR, but given my familiarity with the world of Tamriel, trust me when I say, this is absolutely amazing!
The controls are two different monsters here as each offers their own pros and cons. DS4 plays like you would expect, locking your arms in front of you, typical of any flat fps. Triggers act as your arms and every other button has its own assigned function (jump, sprint, menus…). This lowers the immersion factor in some ways, but the fluid control and the way you navigate is just more natural compared to the Move controllers. Assign a weapon, shield or spell and press the trigger button to unleash your fury. Menu navigation is fluid and overall the game just plays smoothly and I defaulted to this control scheme just for the ease of play.
On the Move side, Bethesda has maximized the move controls as the best they could, but I struggled with this method whenever I used it. While movement is simple enough and allows for full locomotion, in the heat of battle if enemies sneak up or flank you, this scheme just feels cumbersome. Swinging your sword as fast as you can will typically dispatch most foes, but enemies don’t react accordingly to your swings, hampering that immersion factor. Counter to that is the spell casting and blocking mechanics which are awesome with the Moves. Spells are assigned to whatever hand you want and are unleashed in impressive fashion while raising your arm to block and incoming attack is equally awesome, provided you have a shield as doing so with a weapon didn’t seem to work nearly as well/not at all. The button restrictions make interaction and menu navigation slow and I struggled with this whenever I used them and went back to DS4, just for the simplicity and more natural feel. On that note, both control methods have a wide variety of comfort options so tweak either one to your hearts content and get gaming!
I recently went back to the Xbox 360 version just so I could compare that with this and I’m happy to say that it feels like a direct port of that older version. Skyrim was a beautiful game 6 years ago and it’s a beautiful game now. I’m sure some will point out the ‘dated’ visuals, but VR does something amazing to the look of the game. Everything is closer thanks to VR and in the opening moments I just caught myself staring at a dude’s toenails. So dumb, but after that I found myself noticing the smaller things like the veins on a guy’s arms or just admiring facial expressions. So many of these details were just ignored playing on the flat screen and so while this may look dated from a modern AAA non-VR game, it still looks amazing. The sense of scale is awesome and seeing mountains in the distance knowing you can literally walk all the way over and traverse them is crazy! Getting close to dragon or a giant elicits a sense of scale seen very rarely in VR. Typical of VR, the further away objects are, the more ‘blurry’ they become, and that’s true here, but only really noticeable when you are looking for it and I was actually impressed with how clear the game looked. I just stared at the mountains, the night sky or just constantly found myself getting as close as I could to everything, just to the check out the subtle details I missed out of VR. The graphics may be a little aged, but in VR those close up details and immersive use of scale make this one of the most impressive games I have ever seen.
As I said, there is so much to do here that it can be a little daunting. While the opening chapter is unavoidable, after you learn the basics you are given the next story objective, and from here you can do whatever you want (though I advise continuing with the main story for a couple hours before running rampant along the countryside). The main quest offers some decent length, clocking in around 25 hours or so and has some of the most epic and cinematic moments in the game, but going off the beaten path is Skyrim’s biggest strength. Joining any of the guilds provides their own storied missions and take hours of playtime each. An overheard rumor may trigger an investigation into a mysterious house or just wondering aimlessly may yield a ruined castle or ancient Dwarven ruins littered with all sorts of loot. There are literally an endless amount of quests and tasks to complete here so every time you venture back into Skyrim, you’ll always have something to do.
The level up and ability systems offer a wide variety of choice into molding your character into exactly how you want him (or her) to look. Pick from multiple species and classes, each with their own perks, and work on improving your abilities through both the level up system and the skill improvement system. Want to get good at sneaking? Then start creeping around in the shadows, same for lock picking and weapon use and everything else you can do in the game. Anything you want to get good at requires a ton of practice, but every increase in an abilities level makes the game just a little easier. The level up system allows you to increase your core traits like health, stamina and magic and on top of that you can spend level up points to further finesse your abilities. For instance, if you favor 1-handed weapons than focusing on that skill tree will make you more proficient and add a host of unique bonuses to that trait. The level-up system is one of the most rewarding in any game as you constantly feel like you are improving and developing new skills and turning yourself into an ultimate badass!
Hate constantly having to pay for armor or potions? Start making smaller weapons and improve your blacksmith skills until you can make items better than anything else found in the game. Imbue them with magical traits like additional fire or cold damage, or make a chest-piece that makes you resistant to magic or boost your health (or a ton more options). Creating potions requires and alchemy table where you can mix anything you find in your travels together for unknown effects. Need a place to call home? Purchase a house in any of the of the major cities than find a local store to start making it feel like your own or if your so inclined, build your own and start buying up chunks of land for yourself. Get a spouse, become an assassin, bounty hunter, father, explorer and much more. Skyrim offers up so many options it’ll take you hundreds of hours to experience all it has to offer.
It took a lot out of me to keep this as short as I did and there is still so much to do and see here, but I don’t want to spoil too much. Even though the game is by no means new, I’d recommend avoiding anything potentially spoiler filled and just let the game surprise you. This is a milestone in VR gaming, if not for the scope and scale and the simple fact that it works beautifully. Is it perfect…no, but that’s mostly due to the move control issues, and with DS4 support, that issue is moot, and every other shortcoming is instantly forgettable or countered by the shear amount of fun packed into this game. This will suck so many hours of your time and VR just makes it all the more impressive, if you have never played Skyrim before than you are in for a treat. If you are a Skyrim veteran than venturing back into Tamriel is just as rewarding as it was 6 years ago and even more so now that you ARE the protagonist.
What would I pay? $60 is an easy ask. With people complaining about the lack of content currently available in VR, this is pretty much the ‘shut your dirty mouth’ response to those whiners. With a full campaign, side-quests that take even longer to complete, DLC add-ons and whole world to explore loaded with a cornucopia of surprises, this is an absolute must play!
Bethesda Softworks provided theVRgrid.com with a review code for this game and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!