I just checked my Steam Stats, and as of right now my Skryim playtime is as follows:
- Vanilla Skyrim: 132 Hours
- SkyrimVR: 10 Hours
Up to this point, I see SkyrimVR as a great game that offers a whole new addiction factor for those who love all things Elder Scrolls, action-RPG, and of course, Virtual Reality. When I first started with SkyrimVR I was concerned that I would get bored very quickly since I have already spent well over 100 hours in the original game. However, after 10 hours with the VR version... I find myself wanting more, and excited to experience the things I've already gone through in the flat 2D game - only this time in VR!
Virtual Reality has that effect by default. It can immerse you in to a familiar environment and completely change the experience. It's the proverbial, Through The Looking Glass.
Skyrim benefits from this right out-of-the-box. So if anyone is hesitant to buy this game because you've already played the original to death, rest assured that the VR experience won't feel as regurgitated as merely adding more Mods and DLC.
As it pertains to Mods, I played my first 2 hours without any whatsoever. I am not much of a graphics junky, and as mentioned, VR automatically changes how something is experienced. So venturing in to an environment of low- or poor-graphic quality isn't that big of a deal to me. One of my favorite VR games back in 2016 was Crystal Rift; which is graphically inferior to most VR games on the market, but I played that thing start to finish and loved every minute of it. In fact, I plan to compare something in Crystal Rift to SkyrimVR in this review.
I'll go ahead and give my SkyrimVR recommendations now. I have multiple because SkyrimVR is a conundrum (my recommendations are for Rift owners):
- If you are a PCVR enthusiast and lover of all things Elder Scrolls, then this is easily a 4.5 out of 5 rating.
- If you are new to PCVR and your preference is more towards full hand-presence and VR immersion, then this is a 3.75 out of 5 rating.
- If you are new to VR altogether, and you prefer the ease-of-use that comes from most titles available on the Oculus Platform, then this is a 3 out of 5 rating.
As most people know by now, SkyrimVR is best experienced with a minimum of 20 Mods added, but there's 40+ recommended with more on the way. That's not for everyone. And because it takes so much to really get this game going properly, it's hard to recommend to anyone who doesn't already function as a PC Gaming and VR Enthusiast.
For the rest of us, sure. But there are noteworthy flaws with SkyrimVR regardless of your pc gaming enthusiast standing.
The biggest reason I can't give this a perfect 5/5 rating, even for an Elder Scrolls luvin PCVR enthusiast, is due to the lack of hand-presence in the game. As of today, this is a SteamVR Title, and the primary target controllers are the HTC Vive Wands. It does work just fine for the Touch controllers, however:
- There is no finger tracking whatsoever.
- Your hand-controllers have basically been turned in to a Gamepad split in two.
- Oculus Touch owners will find that their hand-controllers have been "dumbed down" compared to what we're used to from games like The Unspoken, Robo Recall, and Lone Echo.
- You can't actually grab environment objects with your hands!
That last one is the main reason that despite the addictive nature of Skyrim, I just can't give this a top score. And if you're not a big enthusiast for VR, or if you're not one to turn a blind eye to flaws within the Elder Scrolls universe, then this lack of hand-presence can be a real letdown:
- You're not really squeezing a weapon, you just click a button to equip it.
- You're not really aiming your spells with your eyes; you activate the spell with a button and move your hand to adjust the aiming cursor.
- You can't pick up objects with both hands.
When I'm running along a path and I see a plant on the left side, I can't extend my left hand to pick the object up. The game requires me to use my Right Hand to point at the object and click the "A" button. The Right hand is the dominant hand for all interaction, including initiating dialogue with NPC's. You can change the dominant hand in the settings, but the point is that only one hand can do all this - not both. Not to mention how awkward it is to put your hand in front of every NPC you want to talk to - lol.
I have a slight bone to pick here. Because back in 2016 when the Rift shipped without hand-controllers (no hand presence), and only provided a Remote and an XBox Gamepad, the entire Interweb was flooded with Vive owners proclaiming how Rift owners are sadly enduring a complete lack of immersion. Because apparently: Without hand-presence there is no immersion.
Yet here we are in 2018 and SkyrimVR which is native to the Vive (with Rift support) is receiving such high praises despite a total and complete lack of hand-presence. How does that happen? lol
To illustrate my point. Exhibit A:
I cannot grab these weapons with either hand.
I want to touch them, I want to grab them. I really do. But I can't. How does this happen with a piece of software that is geared towards the VR product that was "first to market" with hand-controllers and hand-presence?
Instead... I have to hover my hand at a distance away from the weapons until a text-based menu pops up.
And this isn't an action that happens automatically. You have to make sure your hand hits that sweet spot, or else... no menu fo you!
This hand-presence issue is problem in many areas, and I'll only detail two more.
First, when sifting through the various lootable cargo throughout Skyrim, the Player can expect to hover their hand oh-so-carefully between Urns, Barrels, and Sacks. Since the game does not Highlight which object you are interacting with, you basically have to play a guessing game paired with lining up your hand with your eyesight.
Which Sack am I looting here?
The only way I can tell is the moment one has been looted and it says "empty." Be prepared for lots of this (there are thousands of sacks throughout Skryim).
Lastly... Crafting! The biggest thing I was excited about with SkyrimVR was being able to using my arms and hands to craft items.
I thought I would be grinding at the Grindstone, or swinging my hammer on the Anvil.
Nope! Instead I just have more Hand Hovering with a Menu Text:
It's not the worst thing in the world, but it's far from up-to-par with VR Standards in 2018.
Things I love about SkyrimVR
The sky in Skyrim is probably one of the most beautiful skies I have witnessed in a VR game. Whether daytime or nightime, it's fun to just look up and relax. In fact, I find that the daytime sky is pretty much as realistic as our own sky in real life:
A screenshot won't do it justice, but that Skryim sky is truly fantastic and downright flawless. Especially when viewing it over mountains.
Book Text! It is very readable, which is a pleasant surprise since so many VR titles have struggled with Text. In fact, when I received my Oculus GO unit, I loved how easy it was to simply read text with those improved lenses. But with Skyrim, PCVR has the much needed clear and gorgeous text available:
(Side note: There's a special place in my heart for letters that compliment the "power of my Thu'um")
The Role Playing element of Skyrim needs no review (it is legendary and we all know it). However, with vanilla Skyrim I would often skip through dialogue - or simply fail to pay attention. Yet with SkyrimVR, I feel like I'm part of the conversation. I enjoy standing around listening to NPC's talk, and I love when they acknowledge my presence.
The head-tracking of the NPC's themselves is also spot-on. If I move left/right or up/down, they keep their eyes right on me. It almost feels creepy (in a good way).
Other things I love with SkyrimVR:
- Dungeon Crawling. It's creepy as hell (especially if you add immersion Mods).
- Realistic Bow Combat. It's not as accurate as a game like, In Death, but it is challenging and addictive.
- Realistic Sneaking. Using your own body to squat down as you try to sneak-kill an enemy with a dagger is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in a game!
- All forms of Magic. With first-person-view in VR, what a lovely light show every spell creates.
- The skills panel! When leveling up you get to hang out in the Space Constellations menu room.
That space room is something that I was very much looking forward to with SkyrimVR. In Vanilla Skyrim it is a lovely area:
The dev's did not let me down with the VR version. I love hanging out here as I'm floating amongst the constellations in a full 360 environment. I'm a huge fan of these "space rooms," espeically when they appear in games where you least expect them. Other games that offer this experience include: Mage's Tale and Obduction.
I'm using the Diverse Dragon's Mod which is great. However, the Dragon's are another issue for me.
- Their flight paths are VERY scripted. They stutter in the sky (it's not a glitch) and often look like a stiff cardboard cutout being pulled along a string.
- When fighting up close, they look great as creatures. But as majestic dragons, they are a bit of a let-down.
I got up close and personal with the first dragon, and the sense of scale was just not there. This is where I will compare a superior game like Skyrim to something small like, Crystal Rift. I loaded up Crystal Rift before writing this review and went to a Save Game file I had from 2016. It lets me encounter the dragon. And yep... I can say that the dragon in Crystal Rift feels more "overwhelming" than the Dragons in Skyrim (I've fought 2 dragons in SkyrimVR so far).
Yes, SkyrimVR Dragons have great creature models...
... but it isn't as grand as being in front of a true VR Dragon like in Crystal Rift:
... or Chronos:
Aside from the Dragons issue, I do love all the creatures in Skyrim. They look great and fighting them is exciting. I especially love the Giant Spider encounters (because I really hate Spiders) since these creepers love to invade your personal space.
It is a pleasant surprise to see actual "fear" showing up in SkyrimVR. The vanilla game was cool as it let you explore demonic locations. But it's a whole new game with VR added in. I screamed IRL as I was going down some winding stairs and a damn over-sized rat jumped outta nowhere to attack my face. Sneaking through the undead halls also starts to turn in to a slight anxiety exercise as well. High marks here!
Sense of Scale
Several people have talked about issues with Scale and Depth with Skyrim. I found that with some Modding things do look much better in these areas overall. The only complaint I truly have is with the Height aspect. I have a RL phobia of Heights. I freak out to this day with VR experiences like the "platform" in the Oculus Dreamdeck, or the robot attack in Face Your Fears. But with SkyrimVR, I can stand atop the highest ledge and look right on over; I feel absolutely nothing. Not even a little bit of hesitation. Things look high up when viewed from the bottom, but from atop... things just don't look that far down. At least not the way they would in real life, which is something that software built native to VR tends to capture well.
Superhot VR, for example. It has a level where you have to jump off a ledge. I had to close my eyes to do it. In SkyrimVR, I can look straight down and freefall no problem.
So why do I say that SkyrimVR is, " Bringing the Player to Tamriel, but not Tamriel to VR" ??
SkyrimVR is clearly a "VR Port" and while it's mighty fun, the fact is that there are key VR elements missing. I can't grab a door handle or a bottle. I can't drink anything or eat anything in a way that we should all expect from something marketed as "Virtual Reality." For example, in Mage's Tale I can grab mushrooms with my actual hands and hold them up to my face to eat; I can grab drinks and make a proper hand motion to consume them.
In Robo Recall I can use my hands to rip the arm off a robot and beat it to death with its own limb; in SkyrimVR I can't grab a sword off a rack. In fact... I can't even throw something properly! Everything is done with the "A" button; gamepad style.
The main rival in the entire game - the majestic dragon - sometimes looks silly when flying around and doesn't have a true "grand presence" the way other VR Dragons exhibit. This needs to get worked out soon. The hand-presence issue can be overlooked, but these dragons needs to get better, stat.
I consider SkyrimVR a successful VR Port, hands-down. It has definitely brought players to Tamriel. However, as a Port, all of its flaws are related to the fact that this is not a game built for VR from the ground-up. The day that Tamriel is built for VR, natively, is the day that we can finally start "feeling" Tamriel the way we feel things in other VR Titles; in a way that lets the player experience true presence in Tamriel. We're not really present in Skyrim yet. They just took our faces and shoved it down to the camera level.
Without true presence in Tamriel, we're missing a crucial experience with VR as it exists today.
Anyway... this was a long review and honestly the only thing I wanted to do the whole time is jump back in SkyrimVR to hit up another dungeon. I need my phat lewt!
Here are the Mods I used when writing this review.