We tried the PSVR demo for Skyrim, and it wasn’t the smoothest experience.
Skyrim is available on every platform I own, and, maybe up until now, I kept finding reasons to play through it again. The PSVR demo of Skyrim that I played at Gamescom isn’t outright bad; it’s just, in my opinion, the worst way to play.
In order to walk around with Move controllers, you use left and right buttons to turn in jarring fractions, and another button to point and teleport. This isn’t something that’s easily picked up, and in a game with fast-moving enemies like rats, I spent a lot of time spinning in place, unable to move fast enough to see the enemies darting around me. Every time I turned to find them, they were already out of my view. I should note that the game is playable with a DualShock 4, but I didn’t have a chance to use that traditional control method.
Skyrim is also a game full of dungeons, a lot of which have narrow paths and sharp turns, which are annoying to navigate when you can’t smoothly teleport around a corner. You have to get to the end of a tunnel, stop, pivot, and teleport again. In essence, the system slows everything down, and Skyrim isn’t a game that’s designed to be played slowly. When you can’t even teleport all that far ahead, every familiar looking pathway feels a lot more tedious than it does in any other version of the game.
That said, the teleportation system is likely there for one reason – to prevent motion sickness. Despite the flaws of slower movement, at no point did I feel unwell playing Skyrim in PSVR, and I tend to be pretty susceptible to VR motion sickness. There weren’t any frame-rate issues and the game didn’t look noticeably worse than it does on console, but it wasn’t without glitches (and I mean, more glitches than is normal for Skyrim). Around 50% of the time my right hand, with my sword, was floating in the air several feet away from me. It popped back in place seemingly randomly, and I never really figured out if there was a ‘right’ way to hold my move controller to prevent this.
All of that said, the charms of playing any game in VR are just as present here. Seeing a dragon fly overhead actually scared me a little (and it never has while playing Skyrim any other way), just because it’s presence felt like an invasion of space. Dragons are enormous, and picturing one standing in front of ‘virtual me’ made me incredibly nervous, adding a tense threat that doesn’t exist otherwise. Having to fight a giant spider in VR is absolutely chilling, too, because you don’t have the comfort of your living room separating you from it. Where you’re in a more open space fixated on something in front of you, it adds an intense, worthwhile atmosphere.
The demo I played was fairly confined though, so I wasn’t able to openly explore the space. I can’t tell you what it’ll be like to adventure through Skyim’s open world, but my guess is that the short distance you can teleport will make traversal very tedious. Of course, none of this is fault of the development team or even of PSVR itself – from what I’ve seen, nobody has really figured out how to make an open-world game feel right in virtual reality. This feels like a very direct port of Skyrim and I think that, like a lot of VR, it’s a cool novelty that’s worth trying, and dragon fights might even be better in PSVR. Unfortunately, for the most part, it’s just slow and tedious, and I don’t think I’d want to play it in VR for much more than 15 minutes at a time.
Alanah Pearce is a writer at IGN, you can find her on Twitter @Charalanahzard.