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When you've poured thousands of hours into Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you get to know it inside and out. You know the world's stories by heart. You know the cast, you know the play style you favor best, and mechanics are second nature. What if, however, that was quickly changed with a touch of VR? That's exactly what happened in Dallas, TX for QuakeCon 2017, when I got a chance to go hands-on with Skyrim VR.
During my time with the game, 10-minutes per visit, I would find myself adjusting to the new approach to combat, graphics, and movement. Since I was using the PlayStation VR headset, I was granted the chance to use the PlayStation Move controller, which would turn my movement into minor jumps of teleportation, and turning into roughly 35 degree increments. Combat would also change up a bit as I would need to aim the controllers in the direction I wanted my spells to attack.
If I wanted to swing a sword, I found myself getting in close with the enemy, slashing at them as quickly as possible at whatever angle I wished. If I wanted to use a bow, I would have to move my arms as if I was holding a bow, using my right arm to hold the arrow, while my left held aimed in the direction I wished to fire.
Using the buttons on the sides of the controllers, I was able to bring up my favorites list, switching between daggers, axes, fire or lightning spells, and even equipping a sword and fire spell if I so wished. Since I had a bit of trouble with the sword and bow, I found myself becoming a battle mage. Wielding fire and lightning, I knew the torrents of each element would fell my enemies, and allow me to proceed through the short demo.
The demo took place in Bleak Falls Barrow, one of the game's starting locations. As stated above, combat is key, and so is the teleportation based movement unless you are using a controller. I did notice a few niggles that had me gritting my teeth. The demo felt like Skyrim in every way I had imagined, but the resolution had clearly been downgraded in order to run on the PlayStation VR headset without a hitch. Framerate, however, was smooth, not dropping, bumping, or stuttering in any form.
Even with my streams of lightning and fire constantly flowing, the graphics never hitched. I didn't have a moment where I found my enemies circling around me, bringing their hate-filled wrath down upon the Dovakhiin as he entered their crypts. AI problems have existed in past Bethesda games, and though disappointing this is a caveat players have become accustomed to accepting.
While my experience felt bleak at best, I was informed by Bethesda that the VR version will come with all three expansions when it launches this fall, and that my experience could very well change when I use the PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 controller.
While that news is promising, it still raises several questions. Can we expect harsher combat where more than one enemy will attack at a time? Was my troubled encounter with the game merely just for demo purposes to allow me a chance to become accustomed to the mechanics or was this just because I was using the PlayStation Move controller scheme? We won't know until the final version launches exclusively for the PlayStation VR headset on November 17, 2017.