Review – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR

In celebration of Skyrim VR’s much anticipated PC release, today we’ll be taking a look at Skyrim on the Playstation VR. Several gamers have already spent countless hours in this very detail oriented and immersive world for the past 7 years since its original release date. With Bethesda porting, adding DLC, and re-releasing updated versions of the game on several different platforms, VR is an excellent reason to ask the question, “Do we really need another Skyrim?”

By now, you’ve probably already read and watched several reviews and seen enough gameplay footage to say that on the surface, it seems as though we’re just looking at another redundant re-release of a title that’s been pimped out by the studio for far too long and needs to finally settle into retirement. Upon announcement, I was unimpressed and apathetic towards diving back into the stale province of Skyrim, again. Not that I didn’t enjoy it the first go round, but after spending 300+ hours there on my Xbox 360, I believed the game had run its course. And, that was a gross miscalculation on my part.

Skyrim VR

Stand and deliver

After the climactic introduction, I took my first steps out of the cave into the land of Skyrim and it really was amazing to finally see the world with my own 2 eyes instead of on the flat surface of my TV screen in the comfort of my living room. Don’t bother too much with the character customization because unless there’s an update, you’ll never see them again. The sights are stunning and the scale is overwhelmingly colossal. I could almost smell the crisp clean air and actually feel the cold breeze of the winds coming off of the mounta. . . hold on, let me turn off my ceiling fan.

Skyrim VR

Be ready to get lost in this beautiful world again

Seeing the land in VR is a lot like finally travelling to an exotic location that you’ve only seen in pictures for the past 7 years. It looks and feels fantastic. The graphics are still vanilla Skyrim, but it’s forgivable and medium grade in comparison to what we’ve already grown accustomed to in most VR titles. It’s easy to criticize the 2 dimensional, heavily pixelated leaves or the awkward blank stares of Skyrim’s citizens. However, when I stop criticizing the imperfect brush strokes and step back to observe the entire painting, it really is a masterpiece. Even if the occasional “WTF” classic Bethesda glitch sends your mind spiraling head first into the uncanny valley.

Skyrim VR

Classic Bethesda glitches

You can play the game with either the Dualshock 4 or the Move controllers. And although both work well, there’s something irrationally fun about having my shield in one hand and sword in the other as I take on a dragon who’s head alone is larger than my entire body. With the Move controllers, blocking and parrying has become an adrenaline rushed experience with more powerful enemies. Although weaker enemies can be eliminated by unconventionally wiggling your controller at them like a shake weight, I favor a more cerebral role playing experience with each swing.

Aiming a bow and arrow feels very satisfying and exposes me to how horrible my aim truly is as I question the kind of damage I could do in Skyrim with an assault rifle. With magic, watching my hands glow with fire and ice while dual wielding spells made me feel like I could crush the world between my fingers, even though I was only level 5 and had to avoid some of the tougher battles. There’s nothing quite like being able to subdue flanking enemies simultaneously by blasting your hands in 2 separate directions.

Skyrim VR

Straight from the dragon’s mouth

By default the movement is set for teleportation. While not a terrible way to travel considering the long road ahead, I made sure to enable smooth movement as it’s easily a much more immersive way to play. I never felt ill and getting lost in this game for hours on end has certainly improved my tolerance to VR. Although, if you feel the need, there are several movement options in the menu to fit your comfort level. Movement and menu navigation do take a bit of getting used to especially since each button on either Move controller is mapped to a different function, but I eventually got the hang of making selections more precise in compensation.

Skyrim VR

Being able to use your actual hands to use magic is so much more satisfying

Unfortunately, Skyrim VR on PlayStation currently lacks 3D audio. Although, there seems to already be a mod for this on PC, Bethesda has always been a studio that allows that community to complete their work for them. It does however support stereo and 5.1 surround sound so if you have a decent audio set up, you can depend on external sources. Even without the inclusion of 3D audio, the sound quality is passable. The wind blowing through dark caverns gives me a sense of lonely anticipation. I find myself paying close attention to footsteps and growling of Draugrs in the distance even though I may not be able to detect the exact direction from which they come. The music has a tendency to build tension in preparation for an encounter before you even knew an enemy was nearby.

Skyrim VR

The Draugr are much more terrifying when they’re in your face

I’ve been through these towns hundreds of times and had these same conversations over and over before but somehow, everything feels new and exciting. Even something as mundane as sitting in a tavern and watching patrons go about their own lives, listening to the live music by a cozy fire, and eavesdropping on conversations is something of a charming activity I’ve never bothered to do in the original. Brandishing my weapons with the move controllers has inspired me to really take the time to examine and admire the detail that went into them from every angle. I never noticed the environment or even my shield reflecting the fire from my spell enhanced hands. I had to go on a Google search to see whether these tiny armies of ants that I discovered were a new addition.

I play it a bit differently because the scale now makes me feel more responsible for my own actions even if I am yelling expletives at the now life-sized NPCs who respond with a blank stare. Even if I did “fus roh dah” my travelling companion off the side of a mountain for my own entertainment. And even though I did massacre every resident of Solitude because I accidentally stole a potion while trying to initiate a conversation (pause, load last save).

Skyrim VR

The sword and shield combat is also a lot more fun. Just be careful of your surroundings.

Despite the obvious flaws, playing the game in VR is definitely worth the price of admission and I highly recommend it as a must buy for any VR owner. Their January 30th update shows that they do plan to continue supporting this game. I’m jealous of every single person who’s going to be experiencing it for the first time ever on a VR headset because I’d have done terrible things to get my hands on this experience on its original release in 2011. Let’s cross our fingers for a vocal mic dragon shout update in the future so I one day get to hurl bodies in the air simply by yelling at them. In the meantime, I’ll continue working on that in real life.

Graphics: 6.0

Dated but not at all the worst we’ve seen in VR this gen.

Gameplay: 8.0

There’s a learning curve but it controls very intuitively.

Sound: 6.0

No 3D audio for PSVR but the quality of what’s there was still very well done.

Fun Factor: 10

I spend as much time living in Skyrim as Neo did in The Matrix.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Reviewed on PSVR.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is available now on PS4/PC