I have put hundreds of hours into Skyrim across its many incarnations, but I always play the same way: as a stealthy, dagger-wielding assassin. Mostly, it is because the Dark Brotherhood questline is just the best. But it is also because I enjoy shanking people from the shadows and throwing their decapitated heads at their friends. It’s probably a good job I didn’t opt to play Skyrim on a train, now that I can.
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Instead of going for the portable Switch version, I recently picked up a PSVR (I know, I know, but it is much more affordable than any of its PC counterparts), which came bundled with Skyrim VR. I didn’t know what to expect. After all, this is a game that wasn’t built with VR in mind. Would I throw up? Luckily, I did not. Instead, and much to my surprise, VR fundamentally changed how I play.
I mean, I am still a complete sociopath – not even the rabbits can bound across Skyrim’s sun-dappled forests in safety – but I am rolling with a class I have never experimented with before. I am an archer. VR completely alters how archery feels, using your depth perception to trace a target as you notch an arrow, loosing it straight into their eye. Every. Single. Time. Walking through the wilderness, singing that Bright Eyes song from Watership Down. Boom. Right in the peepers.
Successfully taking down a distant enemy after filling them up like a pincushion just feels right. There is something intoxicating about the act – and the same goes for seeing them them topple down one of Skyrim’s snowy peaks as their HP ebbs away.
In the early main mission with the Golden Claw, I am creeping through Bleak Falls Barrow, firing arrows into the heads of any undead draugr that dare wake from their slumber. I am Dark Side Legolas. This new perspective makes me take more care of where I step – I can see every trap, every pressure plate, every hanging jar of oil. My arrows can activate them all, so I use them to my advantage, setting my enemies alight and triggering spike walls to impale them in the chest, face, arms, and legs. I feel like a master tactician, a magician who can affect the world remotely with conjured up pointy sticks.
Violence aside, another change that VR brings to Skyrim is how incredible it makes its, erm, skies look. I spend as much time staring up at the other planets in the night, peering out at all the stars, watching the aurora borealis swirl through the blackness, as I do murdering rabbits. Despite the low fidelity of some of the textures, the horizon grabs you. It is almost humbling to stare up from this new perspective. You feel so tiny when you have more of a bodied presence in such a massive, living world. Everything is huge. Hell, I never knew horses were so terrifying.
VR really helps you take in all the small details of the characters, too. Sure, they are all unnerving marionettes to rival Jimmy Carr by today’s graphical standards, but you notice the damage on their clothing, their hand gestures, a wrinkle in their botoxed brows. You might even feel bad for firing an arrow into their faces for no reason. I didn’t, but you might.
Seeing the characters up close like this also encouraged me to take a companion along with me – yet another thing I have never done in Skyrim before. The reason being that everything feels more real when it is right in your face (including arrows, I would imagine). That sense of loneliness you can experience when wandering through the frozen landscapes of Skyrim? It feels genuine in VR. So it makes sense to take along an armoured friend with a massive axe for company – someone to talk to, to slaughter woodland creatures with. Trust me, it helps, especially given that you never know when you might run into a dickhead with a bow.
This feature was originally published on December 1, 2017. Read more about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.