It’s been 6+ years since we were graced with the latest single-player RPG in the Elder Scrolls franchise. Since that time there are been expansions packs, DLC, Game Of The Year editions, and an MMORPG. We have just been given another version of this game, one that involves strapping on a full headset and diving into the newly charted realm of Virtual Reality. Skyrim VR is available on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality, though our review came from the HTC Vive.
Bethesda has given us fantastic games time after time; this time, I’m not so sure. With the game being almost seven (7) years old, I’m not going to touch on the base game. There have been review after review for every iteration of this game that can give you that information. Today, we’re just going to talk about the Virtual Reality (VR) implementation into this game that an immeasurable amount of people enjoy.
When you boot up the game for the first time, you’re given options on how you want to have your VR experience. You can do the glorified TV version, where you use a controller to control yourself and the “TV” is the headset. If you want that full immersion, you’re going to be going with the motion controllers. There are two different ways to play with the motion controllers. 1.) Teleportation: You hold down the main trackpad and a dotted line with a little man shows up. Wherever that little man is, is where you will teleport to. I see this being a viable way to play, if you’re just looking to take in the scenery and explore the Imperial controlled world. 2.) Motion: The trackpad in your left hand turns into your left joystick. Sliding your thumb forward/backwards moves your character forward/ack. Sliding your thumb left/right strafes your character left/right. Your right trackpad turns into, you guessed it, the right thumbstick WITH 1 CHANGE. Sliding your thumb left/right will turn your character left/right OR it will turn you 90 degrees that direction.
After reading that, what sticks out? I’ll give you a few moments to think about it.
Time’s up. Let’s see if you thought the same thing you’re about to read. When it comes to looking up and down, you’re used to taking your mouse or joystick and going up/down. That doesn’t exist anymore. Up/down is controlled by your head. While this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, I found myself frequently sliding my right thumb up and down and nothing happening. It turned into a bit of a pain because of how we’ve been playing games for years. It’s not a huge deal, just takes some getting used to.
Let’s take a paragraph to talk about using the controller and the “glorified TV” method. If you’ve played this or any other game on a controller before, it’s exactly the same, except the TV is strapped to your head. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because you do feel more immersed in the world. It’s easier to control and things are all right there and you don’t really have to learn much of anything new. The main, and coincidently hardest, thing that you have to get used to, is that up and down viewing. As per normal, you move your right thumb up and down to move the screen, but it just doesn’t work. You have to get used to tilting your head. This takes a long time to get used to. It also makes combat much more difficult, as you are moving your head around a lot, but your hands are staying in the same position. Think of that friend, or me, that plays Mario Kart and tilts the controller and moves their body but their head never moves from facing the screen. Then take that though, and flip it around and that’s how the controller plays in VR.
Crouching. This “action” is a HUGE issue in the game. When I play a VR game, I want what I physically do to matter. When you crouch in real life, it DOES NOT cause you to crouch in the game. Doesn’t make sense right?! Well, take into account that this game came out in 2011. All that they did was change how the arms & camera worked. They didn’t change the fact that to go in and out of “crouching”, you have to activate a key. I really wish that when the game noticed you crouched, that it would put you into a crouching state. This might seem like a small thing, but it immediately takes you out of the immersion that this game has always wanted you to experience.
I have been playing VR games since the VIVE came out. I really like what i’ve been playing. Unfortunately, this game doesn’t make that list. There is a serious disconnect between your body and what’s going on in the game. I’m going to be honest with you all, and this might be TMI, I got physically sick from playing this game. I am not a person who gets motion sick. I’m not saying that to “flex” that I don’t get sick, but to just state that I can play any other game, go to an interactive amusement park ride, watch Cloverfield over and over, and not feel sick at all. I feel that the First Person PoV was not implemented properly, which we’re going to talk about shortly.I found myself, frequently, having to walk in place to get my body to be alright with the feeling of moving forward and backwards. Even with the “turn” setting as low as it could possibly go, it was still too fast and my brain couldn’t keep up with the speed and the fact that my body/head wasn’t turning as well.
When it comes to the PoV, it’s almost as though they couldn’t get the arms to be in the proper place. The best way to describe it was that they were too far back. You almost had to have your arms fully stretched out to get them to feel proper. When you turn, there is a faint black outline that goes around your eyes to try to get your body to be more alright with the change of vision, without your body moving. I feel like I’m repeating myself constantly, but it’s a serious issue that keeps this game down. Aside from combat, the depth perception issue still persists. You do all of your looting with the left controller. To loot, you point the controller at the person/object, click the trackpad and then the menu is normal. Consistently, to get that loot option to come up, I had to over point to the object so it knew exactly what I wanted, especially when there was more than one body in the same area.
The menu system is 100% the same as the normal Skyrim. It’s more difficult to navigate through, though. You can’t click up/down/left/right on the trackpad, you have to swipe. I don’t think it should be that difficult. Let us have the option at least. The other issue with the menu system is that whatever way your head is facing at the time of opening, that’s where the menu will stay. I.E. if you’re looking down and left to look a body, you have to continue to look down and left to scroll through the menu; it does not follow where you move your head. Here we go again with the Depth Perception. The menu sits just far enough away that it’s difficult to read. Now, if you’ve been playing the game for hundreds of hours over the past 6 years, that’s not going to be too much of a pain since you know what does what. For any new player, you will find yourself having to take a step forward to read the descriptions.
Combat has its ups and downs. Remember that PoV having to stretch your arms out thing from before, well it’s gonna come up again. I did find myself having to swing more wildly than I would have hoped. I didn’t smack my walls or desk, but I was very rigid. With the movement being on the same motion controllers that you’re using, it makes it incredibly difficult when fighting moving enemies. I honestly don’t know how you could ever fight a dragon in this game. There is just too much going on and can’t react fast enough on the motion controllers. Now for hte ups. Hit Detection is actually spot on. I was very surprised by this. When you see that axe slide down on a baddie, you see that blood come out and watch the HP slowly go down. At the same time, Blocking is super difficult and super rewarding. Before you just hit a button and it blocked for you, now you have to actually get it placed in the proper spot like real combat.
I really do wish I could say more good things about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR. The base game has been so well received and i know people who have hundreds and hundreds of hours into it. Unfortunately, there is just so much disconnect between the game, the controllers, and your brain/body that I just can’t recommend this game at this time. I do feel that in time, VR will catch up to handling games like these. If I had one of those 360 treadmills where it actually moved how my feet moved, that would honestly almost fix it entirely. I don’t know if the PoV/Depth Perception issues could be patched out, but if they can, I highly suggest it Bethesda. The way that the game was originally created, to have both weapons on screen at the same time, is just not realistic when it comes to VR. They totally can be, but the code doesn’t take into account how far the weapon juts out in your hand and to hit the target.
All in all, I think that Bethesda put a good foot forward to take a AAA game like Skyrim and bring it to Virtual Reality. I can see how great this game could be, but there is just too much anchoring it down.
- Immersive experience
- Rewarding combat system
- 360 view in the world of Cyrodiil
- No changes to the base game
- Disconnect between what you see and how your body feels
- Depth perception problems
- Trackpad controls
- Motion Sickness
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR was provided by Bethesda Softworks for the purposes of an honest review. This game was played on the HTC Vive,