Star Wars Vader Immortal is a three part VR “narrative adventure” exclusively coming to Oculus Quest and Rift. A recent trailer has given us a glimpse of what to expect from Episode 1, but very little is known about Episodes 2 (or 3, for that matter). In a panel from creators of the experience, it was revealed that Episode 2 will focused on Force Powers, while Episode 1 will be more about lightsabers.
Anyone who has ever thought about combining VR and Star Wars has definitely thought about finally getting to hold the glowing, humming energy swords that are perhaps the franchise’s most iconic element (pro tip: if you have a PC VR headset you can find out what that’s like right now).
So it makes sense that Vader Immortal – Episode 1 will focus largely on lightsaber combat as a main gameplay element, as we saw from the latest trailer revealed last week:
But after lightsabers, the next most iconic piece of Star Wars lore is arguably The Force—the energy field which connects everything in the universe, allowing certain individuals to manipulate the world in seemingly magical ways.
Last week a discussion with a panel of creators working on Vader Immortal, which focused almost entirely on Episode 1, revealed that Episode 2 would shift focus to Force Powers. It’s easy to imagine how this might work with VR motion input—forcefully pushing enemies with a gesture, levitating important objects, and maybe even choking a peon or two.
Unfortunately the panel didn’t elaborate on Episode 2, but their emphasis on different gameplay elements from one episode to the next helps us further understand the scope of the Vader Immortal episodes, which so far sound like they will lean more toward the ‘experience’ end of the spectrum than full fledged ‘games’. During the creator panel it was said of Episode 1 that “it’s not a movie, it’s not a ride, and it’s not a game,” describing how building the experience for VR involved fusing aspects of each.
ILMxLab, which is developing Vader Immortal, is Lucasfilm’s immersive and experimental storytelling group. The group already has a history of combining Star Wars with VR, including Trials of Tatooine (which was released for PC VR headsets in 2016) and Secrets of the Empire (a VR attraction that’s part of The VOID).
Both are definitely ‘experiences’ rather than full VR games—they’re shorter and primarily focused on telling a slice of a story, with game-like interactions largely used as a means of making players feel like they’re part of the Star Wars universe, as opposed to building out deep mechanics that will bring players back time and again.
Vader Immortal seems like it will follow a similar pattern where the narrative is the most important focus, leaving gameplay as a supporting function rather than the main draw. This makes sense considering ILMxLab’s movie studio lineage (as opposed to game studio). This is just speculation, but from what I’m seeing and hearing about the title so far, I would guess that each episode will last less than an hour; perhaps closer to 30 minutes on average.
That said, the creator panel did hint that there would be some replayability in Episode 1. The panel described a “lightsaber dojo” scene where the player will learn how to slice and dice enemies (this can be seen in the trailer)—but they found it so much fun that they opted to make a way for players to come back to the dojo and use it after the fact.
“We can’t just encounter the lightsaber dojo and then move on with the story, we need to [let players go back],” one creator said.
What isn’t quite clear right now is if gameplay mechanics from each episode will carry over from one to the next, or if each episode will have discrete gameplay. For instance, if Episode 1 teaches the player lightsaber combat, will they use that alongside their Force Powers in Episode 2? We can only hope.
Vader Immortal – Episode 1 is due to launch exclusively on both Oculus Quest and Rift (and Rift S); it will be a launch title for Quest when it hits shelves this Spring. No release timing has been given so far for Episode 2 and Episode 3.