The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s reputation as one of the more engrossing role-playing journeys is iron clad, and there’s no changing that. It’s the sole reason it keeps rearing its head. A remaster, a Switch version and, of course, Skyrim VR. The trouble with translating such an enormous world to virtual reality is always going to be locomotion.
Prior to my hands-on, I was quickly run through the game’s controls. I’d wield magic in my left hand, a sword in my right. Snap looking was to be expected, but honestly, my heart sank a little bit when I was told “teleport with this button” as he gestured to the main button on the Move controller. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised, this is par for the course with a technology still very much in its infancy. As a result, this isn’t the pinnacle for Skyrim, the world that’s already been realised a number of times before in arguably better ways.
As jarring as it is, instant teleporting is rather simple to master and I quickly found myself zipping around the game world. Ahead of me, I caught glimpse of a large door, but before I could ascend the cobblestone steps that lead there, I heard a dragon’s bellowing roar overhead as my eyes quickly darted to find it. Though it was a mile away, its scale was still impressive. I doubt the demo offered the chance to fight it, but I figured I wouldn’t tempt fate lest I fast become a charcoal briquette or worse.I ran up the steps to see what laid behind the door.
Before I could reach it, a pair of lightly armed enemies descended upon me. This is where things took a strange turn. I began to have nightmares of Morrowind — a setting I adore, a game I loathe — as the hit detection when using my right-hand sword was not existent. I found it hard to tell if I was dealing damage at all. I figure I must have been as my target slumped over and tumbled down the steps from whence I came. I instant transported to within arms reach of the dearly departed’s friend and proceeded to, again, in an imprecise fashion, cut him down to size too.
If I displayed any skill in the brief scuffle, I was oblivious to it.
I finally made my way into my first cave. I already missed the bright outside world, as the dank, torch lit hole I entered filled me with a pang of dread. I surveyed my surroundings as I noticed a small campfire ahead, surrounded by more friends of those I’d murdered with an imbecilic lack of precision. This time around, I decided to remember I had a left hand too. Figuring the warmth of their fire wasn’t enough, I let slip a hellfire from the palm of my hand that barbequed them all quick smart.I never touched my sword again.
Deeper and deeper I spelunked into the winding cave, following the distant pleading of someone. Eventually, I came to a thick wall made of spider’s web. I’d grown fairly reliant on burning everything in sight so I melted the silken door and strolled in to aid the man. Logic just left me as I didn’t even consider what created all that web. Fortunately, I’m no arachnophobe as a spider the size of a school bus dropped down before my eyes. I teleported away to a relatively safe spot and engulfed it in flame, rotating gingerly around the room to evade its enormous fangs. Sooner than later, it fell and I freed the captive from his stringy prison cell. Of course, this is a world of snakes as he waited literally two seconds before betraying me.
He, too, met his end as I got tapped on the shoulder — my time in Skyrim was up.
As damn cool as it is to see Skyrim up close and personal, the experience feels a tad undercooked. Movement, as it always will be, is too a big a hurdle in the quest for absolute immersion which is critical to a series like The Elder Scrolls. The sword fighting felt clumsy and the ease with which you can toast enemies makes swordplay feel outdated and unnecessary.
Skyrim VR releases November 17 for PlayStation VR.