Skyrim VR is the first to launch in a series of VR titles from legendary game-maker Bethesda (with Doom VR and Fallout 4 VR soon to follow). The title is effectively a port of the now six year-old open-world RPG Skyrim. The usual wisdom is that VR is so new and so different that it can’t be shoehorned into traditional titles. And while not without its flaws, Skyrim VR challenges that wisdom by bringing a heaping helping of a different sort of immersion.

Skyrim VR Details:

Official Site
PlayStation Store [Digital]
Amazon [Physical]

Developer: Bethesda
Available On: PlayStation VR (PS4 Pro)
Release Date: November 17th, 2017

Note: Prior to this review, I’d only played the original version Skyrim for a few hours around the time of its 2011 launch. For all intents and purposes my review of the game comes with the perspective of a brand new player, not a preexisting fan of the game or franchise. I haven’t yet completed the game’s purported 100+ hours of content, as the time since release hasn’t made that possible; this review focuses primarily on the underlying mechanics of the VR implementation upon which the meat of the game relies.

Gameplay

Skyrim VR takes place in a fictional province of the same name, encompassing a classic fantasy ‘medieval + magic’ setting for this monstrous open-world RPG. At the start of the game, you find yourself being transported by carriage as a prisoner alongside some other supposed scoundrels. With your head on the block ready for summary execution, you’re spared an untimely end thanks to a dragon which comes to harass the town. You escape in the chaos, and come to learn that dragons were thought to have vanished, and that their return has something to do with you and your “Dragonborn” bloodline.

At the start of the game you get to pick your race, gender, and customize a wide range of physical features. The dated character models are rather ugly no matter what you pick, but avatar customization is a well-liked feature in the VR space, so this is a natural fit for Skyrim VR.

We spend a lot of time talking in detail about the intersection of game design and immersion when it comes to VR, one aspect of which is agency: your ability as a player to have choice and impact in the world. There’s different types of agency, and while Skyrim VR lacks in many, it positively excels in ‘choice’.

There are many different ways you can play the game: when it comes to combat, you can specialize in melee, ranged, magic, stealth, etc. On top of that, there are extracurriculars you can partake in, like hunting, cooking, smithing, and enchanting, all of which can compliment and define your character choices. You also get to pick what kind of person you want to be in the world—the smooth talking hero who does every good deed; the evil doer whose only goal is acquiring power and wealth; or something in between? It’s really up to you, and you choice is largely cemented simply by doing, meaning that your proficiency in the weapons and abilities that you use most will be the ones that level up. It’s clear that you could replay the game with a vastly different approach and have a different experience. This level of depth is not seen anywhere else in VR gaming to date.

Bethesda has retooled the game’s combat controls to work with the PS Move motion controllers. In the game the controllers represent your hands—you’ll wield one and two-handed melee weapons like swords, axes, and maces, as well as bows, and magic. For melee, you actually swing the weapons to make contact and damage enemies. A shield in one hand and a sword in the other is a classic combo, and feels good to actually hold your shield up to block attacks and bash enemies. As for magic, you equip a spell in each hand—like fire or electricity—and hold up your hands at enemies to aim.

SEE ALSO
Bethesda Gives a Peek into 'Fallout 4 VR' in Crash Course Intro to Game Mechanics
Image courtesy Bethesda

Skyrim VR combat in not particularly visceral—hitting enemies with melee weapons largely feels like a hit-check rather than a blade slicing into flesh, while casting offensive magic feels like a point-and-hold affair. Skyrim VR’s bows, on the other hand, feel solid as far as immersion goes; using both controllers, you have to knock your arrow, pull it back, and actually aim it (accounting for drop and lead) to land shots. Your aim is really only done with your bow hand, which feels less intuitive and natural than many of the bow implementations we’ve seen in made-for-VR titles, but, functionally, it works pretty well.

It doesn’t come without its kinks however. Enemies usually come straight at you, but without the ability to properly move while drawing your bow, and no way for a quick 180 degree turn, you’ll find a fair bit of awkward shooting, spamming the turn button, running, then spamming the turn button again to face the target and fire more arrows. The same goes for shield wielding—since the free locomotion is relative to your left controller, if you’re holding a shield in your left hand you have to hold it up sideways, so when you try to move you’ll move sideways instead of forward. There’s an option to disable ‘realistic shield grip’ which can help—or you could try switching your shield to the other hand—but it’s a shame to have to compromise your play due to a game’s controls.

There’s a few things you’ll come across that work better or worse than expected. For example, you might think that shooting your bow from horseback would be natural and super cool. Unfortunately the same issue with the shield applies—you’ll get steered off to the side if you try to aim while your horse is moving. You basically have to come to a stop before shooting your arrow. However, it turns out that melee attacks from horseback are really fun. Two-handed weapons will give you the reach you need to catch up to a fleeing bad guy and strike them down with a war hammer to the back of the head. Unfortunately, if it takes more than one swing, you’ll have to cut a sharp turn on your horse to come back around at your foe—a task which feels incredibly awkward with snap-turning.

Which brings me to the game’s locomotion system, offering both teleporting and free locomotion (controller relative), along with snap-turning and a fair set of options to adjust things as needed. I started off with teleportation but eventually found the game more engaging, and thankfully tolerable, with free locomotion (more about this in the Comfort section of this review).

Though Bethesda has done a decent (or at least as good as could be expected) job at porting combat and object interaction for VR, it seems that eliminating the game’s menu-driven gameplay in favor of something more suitable for VR was simply too large a task. You will regularly find yourself digging through menus to access items, weapons, spells, quests, and plenty more, even in the midst of combat. Since the PS Move controllers lack a joystick or D-pad, this is all made more tedious by the need to use the finicky trigger-and-tilt method of simulating directional inputs with the Move controllers. I found the controls unintuitive in many of the menus, forcing me to constantly reference the mappings (which were generally shown somewhere on screen when needed). It took me hours of play time before I started to feel comfortable with what buttons did what. Even then, I still regularly press the wrong buttons and have to look at the mappings.

Menus interactions are the antithesis of VR. Having been exposed to so many VR games at this point, it feels like many steps backwards that I have to dig into a menu to ‘unequip’ a sword from my left hand and then ‘equip’ it to my right hand—rather than simply handing the sword from my left hand to my right hand. And instead of being able to holster my favorite weapons, I have to pull them out with a special favorites menu (which requires me digging into another menu to favorite and unfavorite items).

SEE ALSO
This 'Skyrim VR' Mod Uses Voice Recognition So You Can Speak to NPCs

Immersion

Image courtesy Bethesda

While Skyrim VR’s non-VR roots lead to sometimes glaring reductions in immersion, there’s another part of the immersion equation which the game does like no other to date: the depth of the world. We usually talk about immersion with regards to a feeling of physically ‘being there’, with sights and sounds being the key to convincing you. It’s one thing, however, for a virtual character to appear like it’s psychically ‘really there’ in front of you, but it’s another thing entirely to feel like that character exists in a broader universe that you’re standing in.

The game world feels truly massive compared to anything else available in VR right now, both in physical scale and depth of content. Being able to walk into any random house or tavern and see them populated with people—all with fully voiced lines—solidifies the world immensely. It was fascinating to simply walk into a town and watch as a character operated a saw mill. Just one detail among many littered throughout the game.

This depth drastically lowered my pace through the game; I’m not a huge RPG player, but feeling like I was standing in the massive world of Skyrim made me more interested in engaging characters in optional conversations to learn more about what’s going on in this reality. It also impacted how I felt about what I was doing in the game—since I felt more connected to the world than through a flat screen, I didn’t feel the urge to try randomly killing villagers or to steal their stuff just for the hell of it—I felt encouraged to hold up my part in the role-playing.

This extends to items and objects too. Although object interactions are hardly more than point and click, the fact that the world feels so full of ‘real’, often useful stuff makes it feel surprisingly solid. For instance, I was on my way from one town to another when I stumbled upon a random shack in the woods. Hopping off my horse to investigate, I found that no one was home. Even so, inside the shack were shelves full of objects that I could use or steal, a fully readable journal laying next to a bed that I could choose to sleep in, and a small garden out back with plants that I could harvest for later use. Both the fact that the items existed there, and the fact that I could make use of them elsewhere in the world, made even this random shack feel a lot more real than if it had just been an empty building.

Image courtesy Bethesda

Visually the game feels quite dated—to be expected from a 2011 title that wasn’t the top of its class even at the time. Even playing on PS4 Pro, which Bethesda says uses some supersampling compared to the PS4 version, it feels like details just 15 feet fall off drastically in quality, turning into an aliased mess. Large distant terrain often fares better than regions of high spatial detail (like nearby bushes and trees). There are occasional moments of beauty in Skyrim VR, especially from the gorgeous skybox and vistas that make you realize how damn big the world is that you’re standing in; but for every moment of beauty there’s also one of pretty glaring crap graphics, with somewhat distant towns devolving into completely unrendered fields and clearly repeating textures. Smaller spaces like building interiors and dungeons fare better, and effects like dust, burning candles, falling debris, and flowing water add visual interest. Thankfully Bethesda was able to fix a weird ‘squished depth’ issue that I had seen in pre-release hands-ons with the game.

Frequent loading screens between doors to most houses, towns, and dungeons was an unfortunate immersion breaker, even though they were pretty quick in most cases. I would have preferred to simply be frozen in place, at least able to still look around and hear the world, until the next space loaded, rather than fading to a black screen for several seconds.

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The game’s generally ugly character models have serviceable animations, but janky transitions often ruin your suspension of disbelief, especially that of the would-be menacing dragons. One redeeming quality is that characters will maintain eye-contact for the most part, no matter where you move your head. Another is that characters subtly comment on you as the player—referring to you by gender and race, and sometimes by your actions. I was playing as a female Wood Elf, and occasionally characters would greet me as “Sister,” or say that they were glad to see another one of their own race (referring to me). Hearing people talk about your character (which you got to design) communicates how they perceive you, and in turn reinforces your presence in the world in a really cool way—one that I hadn’t quite appreciated until playing Skyrim VR.

There’s a number of unfortunate and seemingly obvious immersion missteps in the game. For one, when your weapons are sheathed, you literally see 3D models of the PS Move controllers in place of your hands. This feels totally out of place in the game’s fantasy setting. At the absolute minimum they could have textured the controllers to look like wood rather than plastic. Better yet, they should have swapped the models out with something that was more fitting, maybe like a wand, on even just hands. The only conceivable reason to show the models as they did was so the player could see the buttons on the controllers to assist with all the button-based menus, but there’s a million ways they could have achieved that objective while making the controllers feel like less of an utter anachronism. And even so, the buttons as rendered on the controller models are so small and dark that I often strained to see them. They absolutely should have been made larger and brighter for easy reference. Furthermore, when the game’s hand-models do appear, they are often poorly aligned to your actual hand position, making them not feel much like your own hands.

Comfort

Since I’m usually sensitive to free locomotion, I initially opted for teleportation. This worked well enough but felt a little slow and not particularly immersive. So I gave the free locomotion a shot and found that the reduced FOV during movement was astoundingly effective at keeping me comfortable, even during situations that should by all accounts make me nauseous. For instance, running up a flight of stairs causing my character to rapidly bump up and down, jumping, and even riding horseback as the movement of the horse moved my head up and down. I didn’t have any moments during the game where I felt nausea (except briefly in the ‘god-view’ map) though as ever your mileage may vary. There’s an option to turn up the FOV reduction while moving, so if you’re having trouble feeling comfortable in Skyrim VR definitely give that a shot.

I opted to play the game standing for the most part, which worked fine, and I was also able to play seated when I needed a break—the game automatically calibrates to a standing height, even while you’re seated.

Image courtesy Bethesda

Much of the game’s persistent UI elements have been stripped out, though the Compass bar remains (look down about 45 degrees to see it). This is actually great because it acts to mark your real-world forward direction which helps you maintain the optimal position facing the PS Camera. Health, Mana, and Stamina bars appear above the compass as needed during combat, but they can be a real pain to see in the heat of battle. I often found myself straining to find my health bar while running away from an enemy to see how much damage I’d taken.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
7.7

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  • TheMissingNin

    Good review!

    Can’t wait to see what you have to Say about the PC version of the game, whenever that shows up. I’ve always dreamed of climbing the steps of High Hrothgar in VR, seeing all of Skyrim from the top of the world. ^^

  • Mike Hamner

    So if u think Skyrim VR has sub par graphics then what would you considered to be par? as a ps4 pro user with almost every game released on the system so far, I think the graphics are great. I have also played Skyrim on many systems so I think I can comment on this iteration’s looks. There is very little aliasing in this game compared to most psvr games. in fact,I was quite surprised by just how little aliasing there actually was. the image is very clean over all for psvr. I would say the resolution is right up there with the best titles in this regard. I would compare it closely to farpoint in its res and aliasing in general. super sampling really does help this title out here. there may be some kind of dynamic resolution in use here but its not nearly as noticeable or jarring as that used in resident evil 7. its really just barely noticeable at times if you are looking for it. the big issue I have and its not to fault Bethesda but more a matter of the hardware specs but the draw distances are pulled back more so than even vanilla Skyrim on Xbox 360 and it can break emersion at times. Its not really bad and its actually surprising how far out it is compared to other psvr games but i wish they could fade distant objects in to soften the effect. all and all let me be clear, this is the best looking psvr game by far out there without question. so I ask again how is that sub par unless you are putting it up against non psvr titles. what psvr title looks better on a purely technical level. not even res 7 can match it do to the aggressive dynamic scaling in effect on that game.

    • Foreign Devil

      He is probably used to reviewing VR game on PC. .and their better graphics.

      • brandon9271

        The comment section also had a LOT less whining when all the articles were about PC stuff ;)

    • benz145

      Batman: Arkham VR, Thumper, Doom VR, Playroom VR, PlayStation Worlds, all look far better than Skyrim VR. And that makes sense, they were all optimized from the ground up for VR. Even if raw performance is identical, art direction choices also matter. Skyrim is full of noisy, relatively low resolution textures which alias especially poorly. There’s certain things you can do with textures, especially edges, that look much better in VR than the alternative. I’m not sure that they would have gone back to rework all of the textures in those important ways for the VR version—it certainly doesn’t look like it. There’s also the aggressive LOD which other games handle more gracefully (or are design in the first place to avoid them), as well as geometry and texture popping.

      • Mike Hamner

        so basically you don’t like it because its skyrim and looks like skyrim and you are honestly comparing this game to the likes of thumper? its a glorified rail shooter with minimalist graphics even as trippy as they can be. its no comparison. skyrim has minimal aliasing fore a psvr game and to knock it shows at least for me that you are not being truly subjective, I bet your a pc vr guy and are basing your opinions from that frame of reference whether you mean to or not, you cannot be a fair psvr game reviewer and nock this game for bad aliasing. its excellent for a psvr game at least on the pro and that’s a fact.

        • benz145

          No, the looks are really secondary. I think the primary reason for where the score falls is the port-y feeling and menu-based gameplay which doesn’t feel natural.

          You asked me, “what psvr title looks better on a purely technical level.” I answered with several examples, and now you asset I’m not being objective?

          As I said, even if we were to agree for the sake of argument that the render resolution/aliasing was the same as every other title, art direction, model quality, and animations matter deeply to how the game looks and how immersive it is. Skyrim was fundamentally built prior to 2011—it makes complete sense that it isn’t going to look as good as something like Arkham VR or PlayStation VR Worlds which were not only optimized and art directed from the ground up for VR, but were also built on newer rendering tech.

          When you see how good Doom looks on PSVR I think you will understand what I mean.

          • DeAthArZ

            Very consistent line of argumentation. Chapeau for continuing it so tirelessly. Writing this from hispital and the thought of playing Skyrim VR after being sent home really keeps me going. Fully in the hype train so to say. Only dont forget that your use of the 1-10 scale is not understood by the modern reader who barely follows the links of the aggregators to the articles any more. This game that will blow your socks oft might never be made if the much needed hype game around Christmas time is bombed to below 80 on metacritics. Its all publicity. Please also honor your redponsibility to not killing this tech in times where IGN reviews TV shows rather than VR.

        • yag

          “so basically you don’t like it because its skyrim”
          What ? It seems you have difficulty to understand what you read.

  • Ryan

    Folks over on r/PSVR are raving about how awesome Skyrim VR is.

    • FireAndTheVoid

      From what I’m reading over there, it seems that people are very happy with it, but they are pointing out some of the same issues as were mentioned in this RoadToVR article.

  • Ombra Alberto

    Thanks for the review. Skyrim VR looks great.

    I will wait for the PC version of the game. We hope to polish the small issues mentioned.

    With the use of Mod the graphic level will be better on PC.

  • Ethan James Trombley

    I’m just a little sad how the Skyrim VR review scores seem to be compared to Skyrim, or traditional games. All other VR games are scored against regular VR games. Compared to other VR games Skyrim is a clean 9.5.

    • benz145

      As stated at the top of the review, my review of this game comes from the persistent of a new Skyrim player, so I’m definitely not comparing it to the non-VR version of the game. I also make not comparisons to traditional games and focus mainly on the title’s VR mechanics.

      There are definitely some bright spots to the game, but it’s clear to see that its non-VR foundation is holding it back in many ways. As I concluded in the summary:

      “In some ways, Skyrim VR offers strong hope for the future of VR—when a game of this scale is eventually built for the ground up for VR, it’s going to knock your socks off.”

      • GrangerFX

        I agree as a default it should not do this. The thing I love about Skyrim VR is that you can dial up the immersion/motion sickness to your own comfort level. I have still have not gone to a level where I feel even a small amount of motion sickness. In fact I have only experienced it once in my life (in a carnival turbo ride that spins you around inside a drum, sitting up on the wall of the drum and then turning my head quickly to the left).

        Another way they could solve this is to change the loot behavior to let you do it with much less of a head tilt. Perhaps have a loot icon on a stalk over the body that would let you know there are things to loot. Zero Dawn uses this mechanism and it works well.

        Very well written review, BTW. I am constantly impressed by what I read on this blog.

        • benz145

          Thanks Granger!

      • Ethan James Trombley

        Sorry, I actually thought I was at upload. The content of your review is great, I was simply expecting a higher score than what amounts to “average” based on what you said.

        • benz145

          Ah ok. Personally I would call it average/decent. There are some people it’s going to appeal to who really love it and will play hundreds of hours, and that’s great, but I think there’s a good portion of people who will be turned off by the relatively clunky VR integration and menu-based gameplay which isn’t conducive to VR.

          That’s understandable too, they had to port this game to work in VR without completely rebuilding it, however I didn’t give it a pass just because it’s based on an old title, my goal was to asses it as the full priced VR game that it is. Other people who played and loved the non-VR version of Skyrim may feel differently, but this review was specifically looking at it as a VR title without any nostalgia for the non-VR version.

          • Ethan James Trombley

            Well you also need to factor in that you are not really an RPG player. I think this is huge. Not a strike at you but the people who are going to read this are more than likely RPG players, and as such I would hope my review would come from someone whose taste aligned with my own. I don’t know it just seems like to me, if someone wanted me to review a NASCAR racing type game I would naturally rate that game lower, or not find as much enjoyment out of it. Does that make sense?

          • Ed

            This is a VR site reviewing an RPG, not an RPG site reviewing a VR title. I think the angle the review took makes plenty of sense, and the score seems perfectly reasonable. Also, as someone with an appreciation for deep RPGs myself I feel that Skyrim has many problems as an RPG game. Where it excels is as a sandbox environment to explore, but even this wore on me after a while as the gameplay possibilities are pretty shallow.

            This was a game with some great strengths and also great problems back when it came out. Now, years later, it is a full-priced title again, with all the same problems and limitations it had on release, with a serviceable VR implementation which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Charging full price for a 6 year old game with added HMD support and controlsUI adjustment justifiably invites scrutiny of all aspects of the game. For context, there are moddershobbyists accomplishing similar porting tasks in their free time.

            This game should NOT be exempt from criticism simply because it is beloved by many people who have invested great time into it. It is better for the VR community and gaming as a whole if we are realistic about what works well and what doesn’t, and give those 9.5s to the games which genuinely NAIL IT. We can still be very grateful to have a vast open world to explore in VR while being realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of the game. Besides, to me 7.7 means “It’s good!”

          • yag

            “Average/Decent”, I would say the same for the RPG part of Skyrim (Bethesda’s games have always been plagued by an average writing and a less than average IA).

          • Slaziar

            Have you played the VR version yet? How many arrows to the knee did you take?!

          • DougP

            Re: “turned off by the relatively clunky VR integration and menu-based gameplay which isn’t conducive to VR”
            Hopefully on PC modders will be able to fix what’s broken.

    • rabs

      The rating looks correct to me.

      But I like better to play games with good VR integration and polishing, even if they have less content.

      I’m more hopeful for Doom VFR, if it’s as well designed at it seems. Another kind of game though.

  • Ed

    PC or it didn’t happen. :p

    I am a big advocate of porting non-VR games to VR. It’s a medium that can facilitate a whole new level of appreciation of the work of the artists (visual and otherwise – coders are artists too in my view). In most cases, though, I’d say it’s a bit rough for it to be full price for those who already own the original game. It’s not like it cost them anywhere near as much to develop the VR port as it did to develop the entire game. I still welcome this and other ports.

  • GrangerFX

    The left stick should let you tilt you head up and down. Looting is a pain in the neck. Literally. My neck hurt having to crane it down enough to loot. The up/down on that stick is not used for much currently (it resets the view or something) so this an obvious missing feature. They could make it spring loaded with a wide dead spot so you need to move the stick up or down a ways before the view starts to tilt. That way you don’t get unwanted tilts when you intend to move the stick left or right.

    • benz145

      IMO, no stick should ever change the direction of your head in VR, that would be a recipe for sickness. I didn’t have the issue with looking down to loot. If you stand at a distance you don’t have to look too far down to point down with the controller at the thing you want to loot. You don’t don’t need to be directly on top of what your looting, you can point at something a few feet away to pull up the loot menu.

  • PJ

    Never played the pancake version of Skyrim despite it sitting g on steam Library for over 5 years, when/if the VR version comes out I’ll get it on day one, and actually play it

  • rabs

    > Your aim is really only done with your bow hand, which feels less
    intuitive and natural than many of the bow implementations we’ve seen in
    made-for-VR titles

    Oh no, the horror… How is it possible to mess that up ?! Hope they’ll fix it for PC release.

    • benz145

      It’s probably a limitation of the underlying system (built before VR); adapting it for two hands may have been too much work to justify.

      • Ed

        Maybe… I’m open to the possibility that there is some technical reason why this was more difficult than it should be… but having explored some gamedev myself I believe this should be trivial to implement. They already need to take positionalorientation values from one controller to orient the bow, how hard could it be to include values from the other controller in the calculation? I remain optimistic that this can be fixed, if not by the dev team for a PC release, then by a modder.

  • doug

    The dumbest assignment of reviewer to game I’ve ever seen led to a review that started “I’m not a fan of this genre…”

    This is the second dumbest. The part where the reviewer marveled at the shack in the woods reminded me of Zuckerberg’s naive truck stop tweet. SMH.

  • Mike549

    I agree with most of what you said in the review, but I still think it deserves a higher score both because its sense of immersion is so compelling and because of the sheer number of hours one can stay in VR with this game. There’s nothing else like it yet. In fact, I’d say it’s far and away the most important VR game yet.

    Eventually we will get large AAA titles developed from the ground up for VR, but in the meantime, the way forward (and the way to grow VR in general) is to port existing AAA titles that people already love. It’s like experiencing them again for the first time. Alien Isolation is another example of this, and many people don’t even know about it since it’s not an official release. Had it been official, there would probably have been a lot of copies sold to people who’ve never played it before.

    • benz145

      The world depth, quantity of content, and agency definitely propped up the score to where it is. If this was just a 5 hour experience it would have received a much lower score because it’s VR mechanics are clearly ported compared to native VR titles. Maybe on other sites a 7.7 is a bad score, but we make use of the entire 1-10 range, 7.7 is decent but not great.

      • David Mulder

        Maybe an idea worth exploring is going with an absolute score. So no upper limit, and a higher score always means a better game, and a lower score always means a worse game. No matter when the review was published (so the score right now would be in the range from 0 to 50, and 10 years down the line they might be from 0 to 4000). Just an idea to play with, DxOMark does this for example with cameras (though some people are confused about this right now as they are around the 100 range).

        That way you aren’t forced to give everyone the same grade (publications that rate all acceptable games around 8-10) and don’t confuse readers by using the grade scale the way it’s intended to be used.

        • benz145

          That’s a really interesting idea, especially because game design and player expectations evolve so greatly over time. Going to have a think on this.

  • doug

    Why would a reviewer who is not a fan of the genre give a numerical score? What the hell is he basing it on?

    • benz145

      Never said I wasn’t a fan of the genre, just that deep RPG’s like Skyrim aren’t necessarily the genre I play most.

      • doug

        “Prior to this review, I’d only played the original version Skyrim for a few hours around the time of its 2011 launch.”

        “not a preexisting fan of the game or franchise”
        “I’m not a huge RPG player”
        Skyrim was Game of the Year in 2011. Not RPG of the year… GAME of the year. It runs on any gaming PC and has been deeply discounted several times. That RoadtoVR would have the VR port reviewed by someone who somehow avoided the original GOTY is a sign of a very limited bullpen. With December 12 approaching, I hope they find a real RPG fan who has played all the Fallouts.

        • benz145

          The reason I decided to handle the review is specifically *because* I hadn’t played through the original, meaning I’m looking at this purely as a VR game against other VR games, and without rose-colored nostalgia glasses.

          What is your personal 1-10 rating for the game?

          It should be noted that in our book, a 7.7 is decent, despite whether other sites scrunch their scores up into just the 7, 8, 9, 10 end of the scale.

          • doug

            The point of assigning a professional reviewer with experience in the genre is not to bias the review with nostalgia, it’s to tap the deepest possible well of experience and knowledge on the subject they are reviewing.

          • benz145

            I have experience in the genre, I just didn’t happen to delve deeply into Skyrim. The fact is that the impression the game leaves on players will be different if they played much of it in non-VR vs. if they hadn’t. This review is for the latter. I elaborated on that here:

            https://www.roadtovr.com/skyrim-vr-review-playstation-vr-psvr/#comment-3627681562

          • doug

            Last time I saw a reviewer this mismatched to the subject was PC Gamer’s last year in print.

        • David Mulder

          You should check GOTY on wikipedia, there are tens and tens of organizations giving GOTY awards. If you ask IGN the game of the year of 2011 was Portal 2, if you ask Metacritic it was Batman: Arkham city, if you ask Time magazine it’s minecraft, etc. There is no general ‘game of the year 2011’. No such thing exists. Just because your favourite news source awarded that title to Skyrim doesn’t mean that benz145 gave it any attention.

        • yag

          “I hope they find a real RPG fan who has played all the Fallouts.”
          I hope they find better and less whining readers, they deserve it.
          Skyrim was just overrated, they are tons of better RPGs out there.

  • MW

    So… Great game Skyrim.Bad vr effects. As we expected.

    • Gus Bisbal

      So this is the very first time in history a game like this has been made available in VR. Think about that. Its never been done before. EVER. And you response is Meh…. not up to my expectations. Like …”I want awesome and I want it now! Where are my flying cars, why am I not going to work on a jet pack, why can’t I have a holiday on the moon already… Ahhh life is so tedious” Honestly dude. Your living in your head. You think just because you can imagine it that it should exist. You forgot the golden rule of self awareness. You are irrelevant. Be grateful. Be grateful that anyone anywhere has done anything that happens to be what you like. Its a gift.

      • MW

        You right. However-I’m too:-) Author just praises good old game (all stuff known from the 2d version), and criticizes VR effects. So…

  • VRgameDevGirl

    Great review!

  • ITALI-LORI-MONTI

    buona recensione…io a skyrim do un 8 secco.
    i programmatori stanno lavorando per potersi girare su se stessi in maniera fluida e non solo a scatti( a richiesta di molti giocatori)!speriamo bene …

  • –Will–

    Can’t help but think the controls, locomotion options and graphics all would have potentially much better on a PC with a Vive (or Oculus). Room-scale would have helped a lot with movement, especially turning. And something like ArmSwinger locomotion could have been presented as a customizable movement option by BethSoft instead of skating with the controller touchpad (and with the Vive Tracker, potentially decoupling head direction from waist/movement direction will IMO cut down the nausea factor tremendously). Add to all this that for PC, there will likely be a slew of mods that come available quickly, ported from those for the non-VR version, to improve everything from menus to graphics to movement and everything in between. Speaking as someone who has put well over 800 hours into the original Skyrim, mods can be used to turn it into an almost entirely different game–certainly a vastly improved one on most fronts.
    Anyway, not to be a PC elitist, but I can’t help but read reviews like this as, really, illustrative of PSVR’s shortcomings.

    • yag

      Ikr, not so enthralled to play the vanilla game again. As I also already played it with ton of mods and VR injectors (with comfortable results). Mods support is not confirmed yet but it’s our only hope. As for the VR part, I just want to sheath/unsheath my weapons like in any other VR games (you would just have to set a weapon as “favorite” to wear it).

  • Barry Stephenson

    Well, I have virtually every game that has been brought out for the PSVR, and Skyrim has blown me away, and leaves all the others in the dust, except maybe Resident Evil. Even then, Skyrim’s scale is far superior.
    There are moments where I just look around at the landscapes in awe. There are parts of beauty, and even where the graphics aren’t amazing, it does nothing to break the immersion. It really is an incredible experience to be inside this world. The review, for me, seemed overly critical. This is Skyrim. In VIRTUAL REALITY. in my home. Only a few years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that would happen. I’ve already spent 20 hours in there and can’t wait to go back each time. No game has done that for me for a long long time. Yes, I long for the day that a game like this is built from the ground up in VR – and yes, I long for the day where it is in 2nd or 3rd generation VR with HD resolution, but until then, Skyrim PSVR is an outrageously good experience.

    A 9.5 for me.

  • Rob H

    Well I hope to god you do a seperate review when it’s released on pc. Most of the issues you mention here like turning and movement etc will most likely be fixed by roomscale and your mention of low visual fidelity will hopefully be fixed when pimax and other hmds come along. Hopefully you’ll take that on and leave seperate reviews for the different mediums when they’re available, as I can only imagine how dissapoited someone who wanted to get vr specifically to play this (there will be many) would be if they saw a game that averages 9-9.5/5 stars on the vast majority of it’s reviews, only scores 7.7 in vr. I’d maybe next time consider chosing someone who has knowledge of the full game’s offerings of it’s literally hundreds of hours worth of gameplay to review the game too, rather than someone who’s just played through a tiny fraction of the game for the first time. Did you unlock thuums? Fight dragons (not the one in the opening scene)? Explore the vast caves like Alftand? Visit all the major cities? Learn to use all the different trees of magic? Even complete the main storyline? etc. It’s simply not possible to have experienced all those things in such a short time in order to properly review the game, so I’ve no idea why you tried. Especially when it’s pretty easy to find someone who knows what Skyrim has to offer.

    • doug

      Exactly. I’d add the Ice Troll encounter to that list.

    • benz145

      Hey Rob, I appreciate you taking the time to discuss the review. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the game plays on PC. And I’m absolutely looking forward to when a game like Skyrim gets made from the ground up for VR—I think that’s going to blow everyone away.

      I made the limitations of the extent of my review clear right up front:

      “Prior to this review, I’d only played the original version Skyrim for a few hours around the time of its 2011 launch. For all intents and purposes my review of the game comes with the perspective of a brand new player, not a preexisting fan of the game or franchise. I haven’t yet completed the game’s purported 100+ hours of content, as the time since release hasn’t made that possible; this review focuses primarily on the underlying mechanics of the VR implementation upon which the meat of the game relies.”

      I played about 10-15 hours before writing a single word, and I’m still going back for more. As mentioned above though, I knew I wasn’t going to be able play the 100+ hours of the game (not to mention the DLC), because I don’t have a Hyperbolic Time Chamber, which is why the review primarily talks about the underlying VR implementation and mechanics, and doesn’t attempt to extrapolate on things like story. If more more time with the game drastically changes my experience, I certainly reserve the right to change the review accordingly (and this would be noted clearly).

      I find it interesting that the score I gave (7.7) currently exactly matches the aggregate critic score on Metacritic (77) across 19 reviews.

      As I also mentioned elsewhere in the comments: “The reason I decided to handle the review is specifically *because* I hadn’t played through the original, meaning I’m looking at this purely as a VR game against other VR games, and without rose-colored nostalgia glasses.”

      It’s unfortunately impossible for one person to consider the game as someone who played the original and someone who hasn’t, so the choice has to be made by the reader to decide which one of those two options is most relevant to them, and seek out the appropriate review.

      Just as an example, I played Mega Man X growing up and absolutely loved the game; I’d put it among my all time favorites. If I told a friend today, who had never played Mega Man X, “this game is a 10/10, you gotta play it!” that opinion would be totally informed by my feelings of the game that I formed back when it was top of the line game design, music, and graphics. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they went to play it and came back and said they didn’t think it was as great as I had said. Game design moves along, just like the performance of cars and computers—what was once considered fast and the best ends up getting surpassed, even if nostalgia for those things leaves a mark on your heart.

      If you want a review which looks at the game through the eyes of someone who has played the entire game in non-VR, reviews like that are available elsewhere; our review is going to be most useful to other people who haven’t played Skyrim before.

      • Rob H

        I’m not sure what you’re looking at on metacritic, but Skryim has an average score of 94 across 32 critic’s reviews (see below for link), certainly nothing even close to as low as 77. The only one that scores anything like that low on pc is the special edition and thats because when that released it didn’t support exisiting mods which already made the normal version of the game a million times better than it. And you’re meant to be the jouranlist/reviewer here but you don’t even check the information you’re using?

        While I can appreciate you hadn’t played the game to a decent extent before you wrote the review, that’s exactly my problem. When the new lion king film is released, do you think reviewing companies would specifically chose someone who hasn’t seen the original, then only give the person they chose time to watch the first minute of the new film before making them write a review on it? Do you seriously think that’s normal? And I’m fairly disheartened if you’re saying that all the other reivewers on this website aren’t capable of writing an objective review without personal bias from their previous experience of something.

        While you’re arguing this choice was also specifically to review for those that haven’t played skyrim before, that’s going to be a tiny percentage of readers that’s going to apply to. Skyrim is one of the top 20 bestselling games of all time and personally I don’t know a single gamer who hasn’t played it. But whatever, that’s apparently the perspective you wanted to go for and did so. That still leaves us with this fact: the original game scores an average of 94 across 32 critic’s reviews on metacritic, while you’re scoring the exact same thing, but in VR, with only 77. So what you’re saying is, as an orgnaisation specializing in VR, that the game is in fact far better to play on a 2d screen?

        Edit: Disqus keeps hortening the link i posted which in turn makes the link return an error.

        here is the full link
        http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim

        • yag

          We talk about the VR version of Skyrim which is rated 77 on metacritic (78 now) :
          http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-4/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-vr
          The non-VR version was just overrated.

          • Rob H

            “The non-VR version was just overrated”

            I genuinely don’t know a single person that’s played it and hasn’t absolutely loved it. The only other game I can say that for is Portal 2. I mean sure it had bugs etc., after all it’s Bethesda, but the scale of the game and sheer depth to it is so staggering that easily makes up for it’s downfalls. Not to mention the game has one of the largest ever modding communities that’s still active 6 yers on; So that means every single gripe you have with the vanilla game can be easily fixed, you can make the graphics rival that of any new AAA title and the hundreds of hours of potential gameplay in the vanilla game got turned into thousands (and that’s just including the very high quality stuff like “The Lost City” mod). In what way do you think it is “overrated”?

            I’m not saying that instantly means the VR port should be given a high score as it clearly has it’s faults. But I feel that the score given here is unjustly low.

          • benz145

            I think you are relying a bit too much on anecdote and your own personal feelings for the game. I know a number of gamers in my close friend group (not counting online friends) who never played the game. I also know several who were who huge Oblivion fans but didn’t like Skyrim that much and didn’t play it nearly as much.

          • Rob H

            I’m not basing my judgement on personal feelings for the game, I’d genuinely just like an accurate review of the game. If the port really is that bad that it deserves only 7.7/10 then fair enough. Reading reviews elsewhere doesn’t give that impression though. But like i mentioned in my edit, after seeing your other posts about what games you do rate highly on this website, e.g. in your “top 5 vr games” lists, I really don’t know why I bother coming on this site.

          • yag

            94% means near-perfect, when Skyrim is pretty far from perfect : the writing is average (unoriginal story, lot of fedex quests,shallow characters), the IA is poor, too many loading screens…
            Skyrim is an average/decent RPG, but still I enjoyed it as a nice walking sim (and I enjoyed it even more with VR injectors).

        • benz145

          I wasn’t talking about the PC version, I was talking about the VR version on Metacritic, which still sits at 77 against 20 reviews:

          http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-4/the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-vr

          Games are different than movies. As I said, the review focuses primarily on the mechanics and underling feel of the game’s VR implementation; those fundamentals don’t change over the course of the game, so I’m comfortable talking about combat or controls or immersion before playing 100 hours.

          As for nostalgia bias… it isn’t as simple as you made it out to be; most biases are unconscious, and this is one you simply can’t consciously control for, especially because our feelings about things change more and more as time passes. So if you find someone who loved Skyrim on console and put 100 hours into it six years ago, they simply cannot wipe the slate of their memory and experience and consider the game in the same way that someone who has never played the game would be able to.

          I’m obviously bias (ha!), but I think my review is a more objective analysis of Skyrim VR than a review from someone who has poured hours into the original, because anyone who played the original isn’t just reviewing Skyrim VR, they’re reviewing Skyrim VR as (unconsciously) informed by their feelings toward the non-VR version of the game (which means their analysis is being influenced by something that’s not actually contained within the product at hand).

          You may be right that, if this review primarily appeals to people who haven’t played Skyrim before, that may be a smaller number of people than those who have played it, but having both types of reviews out there is certainly better than just one.

          As for the original scoring a 94 on Metacritic, and attempting to compare that to a newer version of the game—review scores aren’t comparative over such a length of time. As I mentioned with my Mega Man X example before, game design moves along, and when a great game comes along and does innovative stuff, you can’t just make a clone of it and expect it to be received just as well because now it’s just treading on known ground. Same deal with movies; films that were once considered great by a prior generation (let’s say, The Wizard of Oz), aren’t likely to be received as well by newer generations because those people will be used to seeing many films with better acting, directing, props, script, quality, and effects as time moves along (aka, their expectations change over time).

          Also, you may not have read this elsewhere in the comments, but a 7.7 from us is not a ‘bad’ game, it’s a decent game. We don’t cram our ratings into 7/8/9/10—you can see from Metacritic that, on average, our reviews fall 1.8 points lower than other critics: http://www.metacritic.com/publication/road-to-vr?filter=games

          So just so we’re clear, we’re not saying Skyrim sucks. If you are still interested in discussing it, and haven’t already read the complete review, I think that might be more productive for our conversation than focusing too much on the score. I would be more interested to know if you had any specific disagreements on the points I’ve raised in the body of the review rather than having us go back and forth on the validity of the number.

          • Rob H

            Before I discuss something other than focusing on the score, i’d like you to just understand why I feel like it’s unfair you’ve given it such a low score and why i think it’s a problem. As after all, thee score should be a summary of the quality of the game and by giving it a score of only 7.7, you’re saying there’s a massive 23% of this game that you don’t like, so roughly translated into gameplay (not saying this is how review scores are reflected, just giving an example) it gives the impression that just over 1 in every 5 minutes in game you’re unhappy with the game or wishing it was doing something better compared to other games. That may well be the case in which case the score is fair, but I highly doubt this was the case. However I’d still like to address the following:

            Firstly, lets address the VR versions reviews on metacritic then: There are 25. You’re score at 77 is literally the 19th highest score, meaning 18 of the 25 gave a higher score than you. The ‘average’ is only so low because there are a couple of reviews with scores like 50 which massively affects the overall average due to the nature of how the average is calculated. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, just giving you the facts here so you can understand why I see there’s a problem.

            Secondly, maybe I didn’t make this clear in my first reply and apologise for not doing so. What I was also implying by saying you shouldn’t have had someone who hasn’t played the original review the VR version is this; Skyrim at launch was one of the best selling titles of all time, it still remains in the top 20 to this day. It’s been around for 6 years now and still has a massive following, numerous re-releases with improvements, the biggest modding community I personally have ever come across and is rated one of the best games of all time too with one of the highest average scores there is out there. So my point is, how has a video games reviewer not played this game yet? The only answer I can think to answer that question is, you didn’t have an interest I playing it. In which case i’d just like to bring up something you mentioned: “most biases are unconscious, and this is one you simply can’t consciously control for”. That works both ways. To me, that’d explain why it’s been given a low score and I feel this is massively unfair reflection on the game.

            Whether or not Skyrim is now a 6 year old game, there are very few games in VR that if just played on a normal screen wouldn’t look and feel far more dated than that. I feel that if Skyrim wasn’t an old game and was being released by another studio as a brand new vr game, the reviews for this game would be through the roof. Instead, we’re left with the impression that the first ‘real’ massive game release in vr, and it scores lower than the original on a normal screen. To me, that’s saying VR just isn’t worth it. I hope people looking into getting VR don’t see it that way.

            So out of interest, what games have you given a score of 90 or above to, or even 100 to (in comparison VRFocus gave Skyrim 100, though I think that’s ott as I’m not under the false impression it’s going to be perfect)? Or is there a way to see all the games reviewed on RoadToVR so I can see what has scored higher than this. I’m genuinely interested to see what you rate as better games/experiences than it in case I’ve missed something.

            Edit: I just remembered what you listed on this website as the ‘Top 5 VR games for the Vive’ at the start of this month and don’t know why I bother visiting this website anymore.

  • Sam Johnson

    Just want to say that Farpoint scored an 8.2 vs Skyrim 7.7. I personally feel that Skyrim is a better game. It does have its problems being a ported game from 2011 but at least it is the first game you can put 40+ hours into. FarPoint was what 10-15 hours of repetitive play for the same price?

    • benz145

      There’s a lot of different ways to analyze games, and some people value things differently than others, so we simply may disagree on the weighting of characteristics with regards to the score. Some people will be happy to put up with the game’s flaws because they can spend 40+ hours in it. For others, for whom the flaws get in the way of the enjoyment/gameplay, it doesn’t matter if there’s 1,000 hours of content if playing through it doesn’t feel great in VR. Some people would prefer a great 5 hour experience to an ok 50 hour experience.

      Generally speaking, our focus leans toward things like VR game design, VR interaction design, immersion, and comfort. But, as I noted in the summary/conclusion, the game is “propped up by the sheer quantity of details, things to do, places to discover, and ways to play.”

    • ITALI-LORI-MONTI

      non si può paragonare skyrim con farpoint…farpoint ha preso un voto come gioco sparatutto multiplayer(ed è una cosa a parte)…skyrim ha preso un voto come RPG (un altra cosa a parte)…sono gruppi diversi…

  • Juho Valmunen

    How much do you think, PS4 and it’s hardware limitations are causing some of the issues? If Fallout 4 VR does it better, could Skyrim VR in PC also do it better?

  • yag

    You know you have an awaited AAA game when people are whining about the score.
    I know a video game website who doesn’t give a score anymore with their reviews because of the whiners. Maybe that could be a solution ?

  • Robert Holt

    We say that VR is the future of gaming.

    This elder gamer thinks otherwise in this disastrous yet laugh out loud funny Skyrim VR PS4 reaction video.

    https://youtu.be/dFkO1bzdTOM

  • Bart

    Why is this game getting awesome reviews its worse than both SE and LE, I tried it out on wmr colors are washed out, looks pre beta before there was LE and Skyrim got bug patched. Your toon doesn’t have a physical body your a pair of magical severed hands. I couldn’t get mods to work, I didn’t bother much. Your in game toon seems short as hell like they made you a midget that can jump like a clown its ugh wrought with wtf. I give it a 5.6 out of 10 it looks like a Phone port gone horribly bad.