At this point The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been released for a multitude of platforms, whether that be the first iteration back on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 or the more recent Switch version and Special Editions, but now it's moved into totally uncharted territory: virtual reality. At long last Skyrim VR has now launched for the PlayStation VR, being teased by Bethesda for quite some time, and this project has no shortage of ambition, moving the whole expansive RPG (including all previously released DLC) into the world of VR, with some big changes to boot.
When we say the whole RPG, we mean the whole thing, because this is exactly the Skyrim you remember. Now for those with a glass half empty kind of attitude, it's true that this means it's all stuff you've seen before and know very well, but for those on the other side of the scale you can now experience this in a totally new way, as the dragons, the shouts, and the arrows to the knee are all in this new immersive space.
We've never seen Skyrim in this medium before, so the first few moments are going to be a little hard to adjust to. It's indeed a weird feeling sitting on that cart as a prisoner and having to swivel to make sure you're facing the right way, looking around and surveying the land as you hear the mumblings of your criminal companion, but soon you find the sweet spot and you'll get into the swing of things. In fact, the first opening section doesn't even introduce movement, as you are teleported from place to place until (spoilers for those who haven't played Skyrim), a dragon attacks and distracts the guards from removing your head from your shoulders.
Once things really heat up (pun intended) you're then given the reins of your own movement. We started the game out on controller, so for us, this was simple enough, but there are other movement options for those using Move Controllers. For instance, if you like the teleportation movement options seen in other VR games, you can do that by pointing at where you want to go (this is the default for Move Controllers, but not available at all on DualShock), but there's also the choice to walk as you would with the controller too, so there are plenty of options to tweak your preferences.
Speaking of options, there's a number of other VR adjustments you can make, one of the most important of which is the peripheral FOV filter, which slightly narrows your view when turning or moving quickly. This can be turned on and off, but personally we found this to be very useful, as without it on we had a lot of stomach lurches as we weaved our way around the world, but when we reactivated it again (since it's the default) we found our bellies right where they should be.
In fact, we found next to no motion sickness issues throughout the entirety of our experience. Other reports suggest differently, and of course this won't be the same for all players since different people have their own tolerance for the issue, but we were impressed with how optimised it felt. With the number of options available as well, like snapping your turn at different angles, this should help players customise their experience to suit their needs.
Going back to our experience, once we figured out how to move (all in first-person we should add, with no third-person option we saw) and found our way to safety, we were unshackled from our bindings and allowed to interact with the world. In this way the game gradually introduces the different parts of the VR experience to you, stopping things from getting too overwhelming, all of which is helped by consistent tutorials to help you work your way around the world. With our hands free, then, we did what any budding adventurer would - looted anything that wasn't nailed down, equipped a weapon, and went on our merry way.
At this point we were introduced to inventory management, achieved as you would normally on DualShock, while on the Move Controllers this involved holding the trigger in your left hand to drag the menus up, down, left, and right, while selecting items with either hand to equip, i.e. two swords in each hand, or a shield in the left for instance. All of this, again, took some getting used to and applied to shopping as well, but it all worked as expected.
Those of you familiar with Skyrim will know that your escape from the opening section takes you down into a cave with more loot to find, and although we weren't scared of the spiders when playing the game previously (despite being very afraid of them in real life), in the world of VR the spiders in the cave definitely had a lot more of a fear factor. This just attests to the power of VR in terms of immersion, as it was a terrifying experience seeing giant spiders jump into your actual face, rather than the face of your avatar on a TV screen.