Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of PSVR titles release their exclusivity and either branch out to other VR platforms or drop VR altogether and become PS4, or even multi-platform, titles with a re-vamped ‘Flat Mode’. However, what we have here with Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is quite the opposite, it was originally created with the help of Oculus Studios as an Oculus exclusive, yet you can now experience all three episodes on Sony’s VR headset. This is one of the few titles I’ve been waiting to make its move over to PSVR ever since I heard about it, but was it worth the wait?
Developed by ILMxLAB (Industrial Light and Magic), Vader Immortal is one of a number of titles they have created within the Star Wars universe for both VR and Mixed Reality. Their goal appears to be developing experiences which fully immerse you within the most well-known sci-fi franchise, making you believe you’re really there and part of the adventure. They were also the team responsible for the incredible Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride at Disneyland, an interactive experience which lets you take control of the iconic spaceship.
However, we’re here to talk about Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – was the Force strong with this one or does it not have enough Midi-chlorians? Let’s find out…
Vader Immortal is split into three chapters, all of which are, unusually, their own separate downloads. The first chapter introduces us to the new characters and gives you an introduction to the mechanics, the second one takes you deeper into the planet with Vader as your guide, then the final one throws everything at you as you harness the power of the force and show everyone just how handy you are with a lightsaber. Each episode flows into one another after a brief recap (just in case you don’t play them back to back) and offers around 40 minutes of story and a bonus ‘Dojo Mode’ to play through.
The story itself revolves around you, the nameless smuggler who has been stranded upon Mustafar, a firey-surfaced planet which is currently occupied by Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers. You’ll make new allies, discover secrets, and face a multitude of enemies as you explore the depths of Lord Vader’s dark fortress, trying to unearth a fabled artifact which holds the fate of the entire planet. You’ll encounter giant beasts (which really scared the crap out of me), deflect blaster beams (which is as cool as it sounds), and even engage in one-on-one lightsaber battles against both ancient guardians and the infamous Sith Lord himself.
Although the images in this review don’t really show it, due to them being flat, standing in front of Lord Vader in VR is very intimidating and it really does make you feel powerless – the immersion within this game is far greater than what I imagined it would be. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you need to own this experience. For those on the fence – let’s talk about why…
For the majority of the story within Vader Immortal, you’ll be moving around, following the person talking or standing where the game wants you to in order to progress the narrative. This is where the main difference is between the Oculus version and the PSVR one – the movement mechanics. Vader Immortal on PSVR is teleportation and snap turning only. You can’t move freely, smoothly spin around, or even set the degrees at which you snap turn (I think it’s 30). Overall I wasn’t too disappointed with this, as you can’t really explore due to how linear the narrative experience is, but some people may not like this.
There are moments when you’ll have to climb up walls and through money bar-like designs – this works very similarly to how we did it in Crisis on the Planet of the Apes, holding out your arms and grabbing before you pull yourself up or forwards like an ape/monkey. With regards to climbing, you can actually disable these if you don’t wish to climb (or have issues in doing so with your arms), and you can even give yourself safety nets by not letting yourself fall if you let go or falling slower to avoid motion sickness.
I personally left the comfort settings all set to ‘off’ and there were a few ‘wtf’ moments in the later chapters where I fell and felt a little dizzy – it was my fault but I’m also glad it happened as it really added to the immersion.
You’ll also gain access to a tool and a lightsaber as you progress, both of which can be handily stored at your hip if you’re standing up. The game can be calibrated based on you being seated or standing but I can’t help but think that seated mode may have been an after-thought as it wasn’t very precise within this position. I found it was hard to place things on my hip and the in-game wrists constantly dislocated themselves when you put your arms down or close to your chest – it didn’t really affect gameplay but due to the character wearing long gloves with invisible arms, your wrists literally flop all over the place like a fish out of water slapping its tail around (imagine Magikarp)!
Narrative and interaction parts
As you’re following people around, you have very little interactions within the story. You’ll sometimes have to pull a lever or open a door, but that’s about it for the first episode. The second one introduces us to the force powers, so you’ll get to use those to operate a few switches and to pick up objects, same with the final episode. Vader Immortal is more of an interactive experience so don’t go into it thinking it’s a full Star Wars adventure, you’re simply along for the ride with the added benefit of…
Classic Star Wars Combat
When that Star Wars Kinect game was announced for the Xbox 360, we all thought it was our chance to become a Jedi and wield a lightsaber as we fought other Jedi, Sith Lords, and deflect projectiles. Oh, how we were wrong! The only good thing about that game was dancing with Han Solo (and even that was terrible). Vader Immortal finally lets us live out our fantasy in this virtual immersive experience as we hold our lollipop controllers and wave them about as if we’re Luke ‘Freaking’ Skywalker himself!
Within the story, there are moments of duelling and general combat. The duels work just like we saw in Golem, you have to hold up your weapon to block the direction the enemies are attacking you from, then retaliate and thrust yours forward when you see an opening. At one point you’re being attacked from all sides so you have to constantly spin on the spot as you block and destroy every single one of them before they slaughter you. If you do like this form of combat, I do strongly recommend Golem as it’s very similar and expands on the mechanics more than they do within this game.
Once you enter the Dojo, or at certain points within the story, you’ll be against enemies which fire projectiles at you and small annoying creatures that nibble at your feet! These can be taken out by either slicing them up if they get close, deflecting their projectiles by not only blocking with your lightsaber but also thrusting it back towards them as you do so, or you can use the Force and ruin their day! Small creatures have their neck broken as you grasp them from afar, hearing their neck snap in the process (or at least I thought I could hear it), yet bigger enemies like Stormtroopers can be lifted then thrown into one another, killing two birds with one stone.
Suffice to say, the combat in Vader Immortal is very satisfying and makes you truly believe that you’re a Jedi.
The main story will take around 40 minutes per chapter, so for £22 you may feel that two hours of brand-new Star Wars lore set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope is a little expensive? If so, this is why the Dojo was bundled with each chapter, a ‘training’ mode with 40 challenges to complete in each.
Although the same ‘mode’ is present on all parts of the game, the experience is different as it introduces you to new mechanics you pick up within that particular story. For example, the first Dojo only lets you use your lightsaber as you deflect the training droid’s blaster projectiles back at them. However, the second Dojo now lets you throw your lightsaber like a boomerang, slicing up everything that gets in the way, and you can now use the Force to kill enemies from afar or pick up and throw rocks. You can even use your new powers to activate various traps around the area depending on the location you’re playing within.
Each of the forty levels has three ‘stars’ to unlocked based upon how fast you can complete the challenge you’re given. Also, each time you get hit you’ll lose a ‘star’, meaning you can no longer get all three even if you meet the time criteria – which is a little unfair. I’ve read online that some people bought Vader Immortal on the Oculus purely for these Dojo segments and I can understand why – if this was released as it’s own thing, without the extra narrative experience, I feel it would still sell just as much. It’s like how I’ve bought every version of Nintendo’s Brain Training purely for the Sudoku part (as it’s the best version of that puzzle game ever made on any platform).
As you earn more ‘stars’ (they’re not stars, I think they’re mini-Death Stars), you’ll unlock new coloured lightsabers and gloves to wear within the Dojo – these rewards don’t carry over from game to game though, it’s for that episode only.
One thing I wasn’t a fan of is that you only get one trophy per episode for actually completing the story, all of the other trophies are simply related to beating the dojo in each download. There’s no platinum trophy (as expected), but rewarding all of them in the optional mode instead of the story, which has numerous chapters per episode, was a bit silly in my opinion.
In terms of visual quality, Vader Immortal is clearly one of the best looking games I’ve seen within PSVR. The visuals are very clear and defined with very fluid character animations and very high attention to detail in regards to the various locations you move through. There are a number of textures which are clearly lower quality than the Oculus edition, but that’s to be expected in order to keep the framerate as stable as it is. Seeing Darth Vader up close was very intimidating and made me jump when he just appears out of the darkness, lighting up his features with his lightsaber.
The voice acting is second to none and is provided by a lot of well-known and high-calibre actors. Darth Vader, for example, is voiced by Scott Lawrence, the person who has voiced him in pretty much every single video game, ever – including last years Star Wars: Fallen Order. The other voice which a lot of people will recognise is the voice of your trusty companion ZO-E3 which is provided by Maya Rudolph. These characters are brought to life by David S. Goyer, the writer of this experience as well as the Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman, and many more big titles.
My only issue with Vader Immortal has to be in regards to the broken wrists. As I said previously, it doesn’t affect the gameplay but it is very offputting when your wrists are flopping all over the place like a kite in the wind! I believe this is because the game is reading the accelerometer within the Move Controllers but it’s set to really high sensitivity, so it’s either flop to the left or flop to the right with nothing in-between. I hope they fix this or simply give you short gloves with only the hands being covered – we don’t need to see the invisible protagonists invisible wrists.
On a side note, I hope we eventually get free movement and/or smooth turning as well. The PSVR is often notorious for losing tracking and/or slowly shifting to the left or right after long periods of use. This makes snap turning a pain as what was once forwards may now be a little to the side due to the drift – meaning snap turning eventually ends up being lob-sided and holding ‘Options’ doesn’t fix that. But, this and the wonky hands didn’t affect my enjoyment, it’s just things I would like to see ‘fixed’ in a future patch.
Also, the game initially tells you to press certain buttons to turn left and right – it tells you the wrong buttons. Not an issue, but technically it is…
Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, Vader Immortal is a brilliant experience to show off the immersion which can be created within VR. The story itself is interesting and has enough interactive moments and combat to keep you engaged and active, yet the optional Dojo modes are where you’ll probably spend the most time. This game allows you to live out your childhood fantasy of wielding a lightsaber and using the force to take out those who oppose you, even if the battles are over quite fast. If you’re looking for an immersive, surreal, and visually stunning experience, you need to pick this game up today – If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should already have this downloaded on your PS4!
Here’s a video of the combat within the Dojo in action (the quality isn’t great due to the Twitter compression):
— Rob Pitt (@RealTurniplord) August 28, 2020
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series£21.99
- - Interesting story with a great cast of actors
- - Visually one of the best looking PSVR titles this year
- - You get to be a Jedi and wield a lightsaber
- - The Dojo modes will last hours if trying to get all trophies
- - The whole experience is very surreal and immersive
- - Your wrists flop all over the place like a puppet on a string
- - No free movement or smooth turning, you also can't adjust the snap turning degrees