Developer / Publisher – ILMxLAB / Disney Electronic Content Inc.
Price – US $9.99 / EU €10.99 / UK £8.59
Release Date – September 25th, 2019
Input – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Store – Oculus
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift
I’ve already reviewed the first 2 episodes of this series (Episode 1, Episode 2) but I thought I’d take a look at the trilogy and sum up my thoughts on this first Star Wars VR Adventure. You play as a smuggler, caught up in Lord Vader’s plot to uncover a super weapon hidden on Mustafar and it’s up to you to not only survive this adventure, but try and stop the Sith Lord from attaining his nefarious goals.
Each chapter utilizes core movement mechanics with comfort options available for click-turning and teleport. It’s worth mentioning though that even with smooth turning activated, the turns are still click only but offer up smooth animations as opposed too the blinking. Navigation is handled by the thumb sticks and you have 2 hands that can be used to interact with items in the environment but are more often doing something a little more contextual with each chapter offering up a few unique methods of play like shooting and gesture-centric force powers. Things get a little more fun when you nab a lightsabre in the first chapter, force powers in the 2nd and blaster mechanics in the 3rd with each using most of the skill learned in the previous chapters. You’ll find yourself in many context sensitive situations which might ask you to hack doors or get into long- or short-range battles or just watch a scene as it unfolds before you. Almost every encounter that requires any kind of interaction with enemies or the environment stops your movement turning these moments into stationary affairs until all the enemies have been defeated or barriers bypassed. Additional mechanics like climbing and some light puzzle solving as well as some one-off situations pop up throughout all 3 chapters with the larger emphasis being on presentation above anything else.
That presentation is some of the best I have seen in the headset and Star Wars fans should rejoice at being closer to this Universe then ever before. You start Episode 1 in your ship which is rich in detail and care, instantly making it feel like a smuggler’s ship that’s seen some adventures. With you is your trusty droid companion Z0-E3 (Zoe) who floats around nearby offering tidbits of info. Soon enough the Empire gets its clutches on you and you’ll find yourself in an Imperial fortress and soon enough within the bowels of the planet itself, exploring ancient ruins of a lost civilization. Every set piece looks grand and breath taking, especially the larger moments when you are in massive hangers or caverns and even though the black levels showcase the pixels in the headset, the sense of depth in these moments had me believing I was flying through these massive areas. You’ll encounter enemies like Storm Troopers, Battle droids and a few other small (and large) surprises that will amaze fans and non-fans alike. Lighting effects are next level making everything around you look authentic, but that sense of realism might go unnoticed until you nab your light saber. Shining that fancy laser sword along any surface adds a light blue hue to everything and I found myself constantly admiring the lighting effects at play…along with just about everything else.
This is a licensed Star Wars game and it shows. The 3D audio is on point and directs you wherever you should be looking at. The Star Wars soundtrack is here in full effect with all the characters being commendably voiced. Even Vader himself sounded pretty damned close to the great James Earle Jones and when his giant form is standing right in front of you, it’s hard not to be intimidated.. My one complaint would be Zoe, your droid companion who is voiced excellently by Maya Rudolph, but I just found the character to be a little annoying as she droid-splains just about everything in the game when she’s around. She’s not awful by any stretch, I just found her presence to be a bit more forced then necessary.
As a Star Wars fan, I really dug the 1st episode and thought it was an excellent start to this game/experience hybrid but as each new episode came out, that initial ‘wow factor’ wore off. What few puzzle elements that are introduced never evolve past grade school levels of difficulty which I’m sure is by design to keep the story flowing at a fast pace, and it does. Each chapter’s story content takes roughly 45 minutes to get through and is linear so there isn’t anything new to see on a 2nd run unless you missed something the 1st time. The light saber battles occur quite often and devolve into blocking and parrying attacks from up high and on either side. Enemies attack you in choreographed fashion so its fairly easy to see when and where to block, though sometimes when you are faced with more then one foe things get a tad tricky, but I never once died in the campaign and truthfully don’t even know if that’s possible. The story takes place sometime between Episodes 3 and 4 of the movie series and while I’m not the biggest fan of the prequel trilogy, I did appreciate the nods to Vader’s histories and his motivations for turning to the dark side which are expanded upon in here. Outside of the campaign is the lightsaber dojo mode, and each episode’s dojo does get harder than the last thanks to the assumption that you are familiar with the game’s mechanics. The dojo’s take you through a series of enemy waves that get progressively harder and utilizes the skills acquired in that Episode as well as including enemies from the previous chapter. There’s a 3-star system in place and should you take to many hits, you’ll fail and have to repeat that stage again. The dojo is solid addition to the story and greatly extends the time you could spend in this game…assuming you don’t mind stationary wave shooters.
As a total package, Vader Immortal delivers a fun little Sar Wars Adventure that puts you right in the middle of galaxy changing events and hits all the bullet points you would expect to see from this franchise. With that said, this leans more in the cinematic then the immersive and while there is variety in the gameplay, there is also a large sense of repetition as you travel from stationary action point to stationary action point. It still delivers some stunning moments in the headset and as a fan, I couldn’t help but marvel at the amount of care that went into this, I just wish it was a more fleshed out game and not an experience that caters to those who may be new to VR.
What would I pay? The total price for all 3 episodes is $30 and despite my misgivings, I still think this is worth it whether you are a fan of Star Wars or not. This contains some of the best fidelity for a VR title and has a more then a few ‘wow’ moments that are a delight to play through and with luck is just a tease of bigger things to come.