Skyrim VR review: Feeling stuffed, but thankful

Source: Bethesda
Source: Bethesda /

Clunky and imperfect but still substantial and innovative, Skyrim VR is the perfect metaphor for the state of Virtual Reality today.

Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Platform: Playstation VR
Release Date: November 17, 2017

This past weekend I was confronted by one of my deep, dark gaming secrets. When the editorial team asked who wanted to review Skyrim VR, I waited for someone else to jump on it. Though I was intrigued by the thought of Skyrim in VR, I also have never actually played Skyrim. For years I have dealt with random “Fus Ro Dahs” from good friends, all the while feeling shame for never playing one of the most re-released games of all time. It did occur to me that I may actually be in a place that I can now review the VR version of Skyrim with a pair of VR-loving, fresh eyes. I took the job on as a challenge to finally understand what the heck Fus Ro Dah really means.

You probably know the way the game starts: you are on a cart on the way to be executed, and I already get why I never played this game. Yep, the ole cart of the innocent bandits’ trope. I started to think this was going to be something for more the Game Of Thrones crowd and not my cyberpunk, laser beam, played-HotlineMiami-20-times-loving self. Then something happened, something that no one ever told me about Skyrim, something that would have made me play this games years ago. You can play as a cat! Why has no one ever told me Skyrim can be a cat game?

The promise of a swords and sorcery VR cat game caught me, so I jumped in headfirst into this ancient VR world seeing how long I could last before hurling. Generally, I am okay with VR locomotion, so I turned off the snap turn movement setting to try and make the game as immersive as possible, while still easing into combat with the DualShock controller. I then proceeded to turn that setting right back on to make things easier on myself. I tried the DualShock settings for a little while before deciding to go all in with the Move controls.

Credit: Bethesda
Credit: Bethesda /

I have to commend the Bethesda team for having many different options and settings in order to make the journey through Skyrim as comfortable as possible. I personally don’t like the point and teleport movement options in VR games, but Skyrim VR feels like a lot of thought was put in to make it work given the limitations of the Move and PS Camera. I always feel like teleportation controls take away from gameplay and the feel of actual travel, but given how large the world of Skyrim is, I was more than happy to have this option.

Though teleportation with the Move controls can help you traverse the world quickly, I did not like them for combat initially. Combat with the Move controls actually made for a more limited and exhausting experience. Movement and overall defense became a chore when using them, and although I tried them several times, I still preferred the DualShock.

Credit: Bethesda
Credit: Bethesda /

Getting an understanding of the direct control option on the Move controls made combat a little easier. This option allows you to use the Move controls to sidestep and add overall better maneuverability through the use of a button push and a movement of the controller in the desired direction. After a few hours, I swapped back. A classic game controller just feels more natural in a long-form game for me. Still, having the option is a boon for those with different preferences than myself.

Once I was comfortable with movement and combat, it was off to Riverwood with my homeboy Helgen to go some forest people rebel things. This was when I first knew for sure I was playing a Bethesda game. While walking through the woods I came across my first glitch, a fox basically stuck in a tree. The jagged edges of the PS3 level graphics on the tree seemed to cut the fox in half. Despite this ominous sign, I continued on this journey and cracked up every time NPCs made some sort of joke about me being a cat person.

Credit: Bethesda /

Skyrim VR is a great experience for fans of both Skyrim and people just looking for good VR content.

By the time I got to my first real quest, which was to do something or another in a tomb located in southern Skyrim called Bleak Falls Barrow, I was already bored. But then, something happened in that tomb. The game suddenly felt tighter, the combat became more fluid, and the visuals…stayed about the same. I became completely enthralled by the game when I finally understood the meaning of Fus Roh Dah. The first Dragon Shout was mine. After leaving the barrow, I walked outside to see a beautiful sky and landscape, rendered in PS3-era graphics, but still beautiful, especially experienced in VR.

I realized at that moment that Skyrim VR is the perfect metaphor for the state of Virtual Reality today. Yes, it’s clunky and imperfect, but there is plenty of substance, structure, and even innovation if you give it time to grow on you. The landscape does not look absolutely amazing today, but it’s an inspiration for the journey ahead. This tech will continue to build on past accomplishments and lead us to amazing experiences in the future.

Credit: Bethesda
Credit: Bethesda /

As enjoyable as the experience is overall, it’s hard to avoid the all-too-familiar bugs. From character models clipping to the game crashing during intense moments, it seems like more things change the more they stay the same. Though this is a VR port, many of these bugs were familiar to fans from their first PS3/360 gameplay. This is just unacceptable. If this were a brand new game made for VR from the ground up, I might understand. But Bethesda has had the resources to make sure these were fixed on future ports, and yet they never are.

But overall, I am truly impressed with what Bethesda has accomplished. The limitations of a six-year-old game show, but Skyrim VR isn’t for people hung up on that. It’s a game for fans of Skyrim, as well as people who really enjoy their PSVR. Right now this is the best title out for PSVR and is a legit full-length high-quality game. The number of control/movement options, the many hours of gameplay, and the fact that the PSVR library is still limited make this game a must-own title even if the price is $59.99–higher than most other PSVR titles.

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Skyrim VR is a great experience for fans of both Skyrim and people just looking for good VR content. Its lengthy campaign has aged considerably well, but is still hindered by the bugs that have affected Skyrim from the start. In the end, Skyrim VR is the start of a journey for Bethesda into VR gaming. As a developer, they have dedicated resources to grow the VR gaming space and have both Fallout 4 VR and Doom VFR on the horizon. This is a journey that will force, balance, and push the future of VR gaming.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR. 8. Bethesda pushes the limits of the PlayStation VR with <em>Skyrim VR</em>, and it pushes back. <em>Skyrim VR</em> is the best game available on PSVR right now. The ridiculous amount of content, gameplay, and options combined with flexible movement controls make up for the aged graphics and bugs. This is a must-play for anyone who owns PSVR.. Bethesda.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.