The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR Reviews

83,638 (53,730)
TT Score for this game: 343
Posted on 29 November 17 at 19:21, Edited on 30 November 17 at 13:31
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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR | PS VR | Review

The fact I’ve never played Skyrim has been a dirty little secret of mine for more than half a decade now; the role-playing game that took the world by storm, and its re-releases, have simply passed me by. While shameful, this does make me almost uniquely qualified to approach Bethesda and Escalation Studios’ Skyrim VR without Sony’s future goggles taking on a rose tint. With nostalgia out of the question, how does The Elder Scrolls’ fifth instalment hold up on PlayStation VR?

Well, getting straight to the point, not only does Skyrim endure six years later, but it excels. Immediately drawn into its grounded fantasy by the bellowing main theme, the game’s hooks were firmly in place by the time we emerged from the grim tutorial dungeon into the vastness of its colourful open world. In every direction there are detailed locations to discover and explore at your leisure, taking the time to enjoy being consumed by the richness of the region’s varied biomes in 360-degrees along the way.

Points of interest house side quests, or tell stories through their environments, which often prove just as memorable as the narrative’s main thread. When this is coupled with the intoxicating sense of constant progression that comes from simply performing tasks to improve at them, just like in real life, Skyrim becomes - and you’ll have to excuse the tired clichè, but it absolutely is - a living, breathing world. It’s the rare kind of game that you think about all day at work or school, eager to get home in order to reprise the exciting role of your in-game character.

If you’ve already played Skyrim, this isn’t news to you, so what is there beyond that to justify shelling out for a second, third, or maybe even fourth time? The game’s add-ons are seamlessly knitted into the base experience here, should you never have purchased them in the past, offering up the full suite of official Bethesda content from go. On the unofficial front though, there’s unfortunately no form of mod support.

We can hear the cacophony of groans, but don’t let that put you off - of all the game’s reiterations, this is undoubtedly the most significant. Translating a tens or hundreds of hours long RPG epic for virtual reality was certainly ambitious, and, whilst the execution isn’t perfect, Skyrim VR makes an impressive go of it.

Skyrim VR is the rare kind of game that you think about all day at work or school, eager to get home in order to reprise the exciting role of your in-game character.
The technical foibles hampering its execution include a familiar, but no less irritating, image drifting issue that sees your display gradually migrate to the side now and then. If you turn to follow it it only gets worse, and holding start to realign doesn’t do the job, so a quick and easy fix is to cycle your headset’s power with the inline control. The otherwise strong motion tracking on our PlayStation Move controllers also tended to go awry as they started to run low on battery, but that’s probably more to do with the hardware’s ancient tech than the software itself.

Provided you can tough these issues out and stomach the omission of a third-person camera perspective - which isn’t a big deal in VR, but it does mean you can’t fully appreciate that swanky new armour set - the positives you’re presented far outweigh the comparatively insignificant negatives.

It’s the little things that stand out, like approaching a mammoth and bolting when the towering beast postures as though about to attack; getting a real-life shiver when clouds conceal the sun and rain starts to pour in-game; nearly dying of a heart attack when a swinging log trap abruptly falls from the ceiling and crashes directly into your face. The sense of scale and depth creates an immersion that transforms the run-of-the-mill into the extraordinary, plastering a smile on your face as you internally exclaim “Now that was cool!”

Rock solid fundamentals evoke a similar response, whether you’re playing with motion controls or a standard DualShock 4. In addition to this initial choice, you're also able to adventure either seated or standing, and can tweak a range of comfort options, meaning just about everybody can jump in regardless of their virtual reality prowess.

Menus in VR can often be much less accommodating, due to finicky motion scrolling and illegible low resolution text, so it’s a real relief that Skyrim - a menu-heavy game by any account - doesn’t fall victim to these pitfalls. Both a high level of polish and some beautiful reworking make it much less of a hassle to, for example, ditch any useless items you pick up at the game’s mercy, as its point-and-click method doesn’t quite boast the finesse necessary to pluck individual gold pieces from a bowl.

VR's sense of scale and depth creates an immersion that transforms the run-of-the-mill into the extraordinary, plastering a smile on your face as you internally exclaim “Now that was cool!"
While the menus are great and all, favourite shortcuts help you bypass them to access your arsenal toute sweet, and stay in the thick of the fight. Dual-wielding Move controllers is a perfect fit for Skyrim’s mix-and-match combat, in which you can combine a range of spells, melee weapons and shields across both hands. For the first time you’re afforded total independent control, meaning you can simultaneously attack different enemies in different directions, perhaps after anticipating a flanking manoeuvre thanks to PS VR’s 3D audio output.

Getting to grips with combat can be like spinning plates at first, juggling motion and button inputs across both hands at the same time, but once you’ve got your head around it you’ll start to feel like a truly badass death dealer. The conventional system is still passable, but very stiff by comparison; it’s simply so much more involving to physically swing a sword, raise your shield to block a loosed arrow, or shoot arcane elements from the palm of your hand.

Similarly, VR’s proclivity for creeping terror makes travelling the stealthy route just as intense. Nocking an arrow, pulling back the string, aiming and releasing is incredibly rewarding, as you’ll more often than not hit your mark without any kind of HUD element to serve as a visual aid. Just don’t get too comfortable sniping from a perch, as being caught unaware by the incoming axe swing of a virtual assassin-come-executioner isn’t the nice kind of surprise...

Skyrim does show its age in places, particularly with regard to its ugly and stilted NPC interactions, but small sacrifices to visual fidelity had to be made across the board in order to hit the necessary 90 frames per second for a non-nauseating time inside your headset. Just rest assured that, at its core, the game is perhaps more so than ever an incredibly in-depth and engrossing RPG with many meaningful choices of approach.

Whether you’re revisiting The Elder Scrolls V or venturing into its snow-capped mountains, vibrant countryside and deep, dark dungeons for the first time, Skyrim VR is an essential play for PlayStation VR owners. There’s more game for your money here than anywhere else on the platform, and, in spite of a few flaws, it’s pretty much all killer and no filler. With Bethesda bringing Fallout 4 and DOOM to virtual reality just next month, this is a very promising insight into what’s to come from one of the few major players supporting the burgeoning technology, and single player games along with it.


+ Just about nails bringing the full-fledged RPG to VR
+ Well-tracked motion controls are fantastically involving
+ Full of memorable moments that would go unappreciated in the vanilla game
+ A varied, vast and beautiful region to explore
+ Constantly rewarding progression system


- Image drifting issue is incredibly distracting when it rears its ugly head
- No mod support



If you've played Skyrim in the past you know what to expect here. The base game and its DLC packages carry their trophies over, none of which are particularly dependant on skill, just time commitment. Getting 100% will take around 100 hours, but that's no hardship when the game's as enjoyable as it is.


Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

You can check out my Xbox One reviews over at TrueAchievements.

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