Skyrim hasn’t been allowed much rest, despite the game’s 2011 release, it will be receiving two new versions at the tail end of this year on PlayStation VR and Nintendo Switch respectively.
Making the rounds at PAX Australia this weekend I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to check out both of the upcoming versions and compare them to the hundreds of hours I spent with the base game. Here’s how that went:
The PSVR has been out for a year, and what a mixed bag of a year that’s been for the tech. Something that initially blew me away has been sitting in a cupboard now for the best part of six months, only taken out to show the shark diving demo to friends. The issue I have with the PSVR is that there aren’t enough games out that justify its existence, although individual experiences can be cool, they’re just that, experiences.
Skyrim promised something else, a fully fledged RPG to take in the majesty of VR. Strapping on the headset at PlayStation’s booth, I was greeted by the snowy peaks of the land I know oh so well. A setting that blew me away six years ago now looks a little worse for wear, the game shows its age in the intimacy of the medium. But hey, that isn’t necessarily bad, it could still be a fun experience.
To move in Skyrim VR you push down a button on the Move controller to paint a teleportation point onto the map. Getting around requires a tonne of little blink-like moves, which isn’t uncommon in VR games, but it sure as hell doesn’t work for open world titles. Getting around feels a little like being blackout drunk, moving to points in lurches and slowly rotating with swivel buttons on the controller to line up the next jump.
It’s a clunky system, and made even more noticeable when you have to engage in combat. Bandits run at you mindlessly, exposing themselves to streams of magic hand fire or completely unskilled waves of a sword. You feel less like a chosen warrior and more like an invincible whacky armed inflatable guy blowing around a fantasy land like an unimaginative god.
Roasting enemies is as simple as waving your hand slightly in their direction. Moving deeper into the dungeon of the demo the most challenging enemy was a spiralling flight of stairs, because OH MY GOD teleporting in loops is fucking outragelously dumb. You hit one wall, swivel, hit another, swivel again – all the whilst waving one arm around trying to fight off giant rats like they owe you money.
The pay off was a fearsome giant spider boss, which I managed to defeat before it fully entered the level by shouting at it and unleashing my unlimited fire stream at its stupid eight legs simultaneously. The PlayStation rep told me after the demo wrapped up that the retail version will be tougher, as this had a “god mode” enabled so you can experience the movement without too much distraction. Well, the movement sucked, but the promise of being able to play with a regular Dualshock controller could make it worth keeping an eye on down the line. As for the demo, it was horrendously bad and I’m not sure why they would be showing it off at expos.
Skyrim for Switch
This breakdown will be a little bit shorter, as there’s not a whole lot to digest with the hands on experience I had with Skyrim on the Switch. Playing in docked mode with a pro controller, the game functioned fine, looked much the same as last year’s Special Edition, and all in all seemed like a solid port.
I tinkered around with some load times, and I’m pleased to say loading up a save takes way less time than it did back on last gen systems, which was a real drag if you found yourself in a particularly hard fight that you were save scumming.
The area of the game we were given to demo was fairly early on, so apart from noting that stealing a horse is still fun, there’s not much else I can say other than: this looks like Skyrim… on a Nintendo Switch.
With 2017 almost being peak Skyrim (six years on from its initial release no less), it’s weird how one of the upcoming versions can get so much wrong, whilst the other sticks to the basics and looks to be a fine release.
Skyrim VR and Skyrim Switch Edition are both due out on November 17.