VR allows us to do things we could not imagine in our wildest dreams. Apart from useful real-world capabilities, it lets us soar through the sky, become superheroes, play out our wildest action movie fantasies, become our favorite athletes, and countless other things. For me though, VR has always been about being transported to another world. While plenty of games claim to let you do this, it’s often in small bursts and it’s really hard to find a game that lets you lose yourself in an entire world that will last you a nearly infinite amount of time. A lot of people say VR is niche because of that and to all of these people, I say, “Have you played Skyrim VR on the PC? No? Then you haven’t seen why VR is amazing.”
Although it was released in 2017 initially for PSVR, Skyrim VR came to the PC, and with it, the infinite possibilities that modding can bring to it. Playing the game these days is like almost playing a sequel to what was already one of the greatest games of all time. If you have somehow managed to avoid playing Skyrim in some form (you can play it on Amazon’s Alexa even), the only way to play it the right way in my eyes is with a VR headset. Let’s explore what made one of the most unexpected ports the most thrilling experience in all of VR.
How do you even begin when talking about Skyrim VR? It is one of the most open-ended, do whatever you want type of experiences in gaming history. You start off escaping a terrible fate at the chopping block via a crazy dragon attack sequence, and if you’ve experienced this in the flat-screen version, you know this is an iconic opening sequence, but living through it in VR is just a completely different entity on its own.
From here, you can continue following the story of you being the Dragonborn, which is just this game’s version of the chosen one essentially, or you can make your own path. By this, I don’t just mean you can wander the world at your leisure, although you can do that if you’d like. I’m talking about forging your own career and life path in-game. If you want to steal vegetables from farms and sell them in towns, you can do that, if you want to become a bandit and demand money from every traveler you meet? You can do that. If you want to marry and have a family, you can do that. If said marriage doesn’t work for you and you want to instead ride on the back of a dragon and torch the town you had previously call your home? You can do that too!
The only limit here is your imagination, so if there is something you think you can do in Skyrim VR, you most likely can do it.
What if feels like to play
Vanilla Skyrim VR is pretty wonderful on its own, but it is when you get into the meat of modding the game that real adventure begins. Seeing yourself decked out in the full armor sets in the game as well as the endless amounts of armors added by mods creates one of the coolest feelings in VR and the fun doesn’t end there. You can choose to go about your fighting in the game in one of three ways. You can use magic, use a bow, or use melee weapons like swords and daggers.
As far as the combat goes, the melee is less than thrilling as Skyrim VR does not use physics-based swords and enemies, so the result is your blade passing through enemies doing damage when the game dictates you pulled off a swing. Things get far more fun when you use spells and bows though as spells have you conjuring up the spell in your hand, creating a thrilling vibration as your powers begin to swells and then unleashing it on where your aiming reticule is located. I don’t know about you, but the feeling of being an elemental god is pretty damn cool and thankfully, the physics of Skyrim VR come through here so whether you’re blasting someone with a fireball or turning someone to ice, it works amazingly well and creates some truly awe-inspiring visuals.
If you are more of the archer type, well you are in luck as well as the bow and arrow physics are among the best in VR, and with mods, you can add a scope to your bow, iron sights, as well as arrows that act like grenades, can summon hurricanes, arrow showers or ones that freeze foes completely. You actually have to draw back the bow as well, meaning it will go exactly as far or short as you pull and this control is just amazing.
What will keep you playing
I started playing Skyrim VR in 2017, I haven’t gone more than a month without playing it since. This game is easily 200 hours plus worth of content on its own in the vanilla state, but once you start adding the mods to it which give you entire new lands to explore, enemies to fight, quests to take on, and followers to befriend, you will find yourself in a medieval fantasy world that has a scope that is unlike any game you have ever seen. You will become hypnotized by the snow-covered mountains and lush forests and find yourself lost for hours within the countless crypts and dungeons and ruins that are just begging to be explored.
Playing Skyrim VR is like living another life, where you are a master of magic and ride dragons and fight a war against a false king, to me, that’s enough reason to come back time and time again to this masterpiece of gaming.
Skyrim VR is playable either seated or standing and depending on your playstyle, you might not be moving around all that much or you might be moving quite a bit, so either way, have a nice space set aside for you to play in. You are going to be spending a lot of time in this world, so you should have a safe area available to play in.
I recorded my 30-minute workout with Fitbit and played on a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed reality headset.
Calories burned: 164
Calories burned per minute: 5
Average Heart Rate: 104
Max Heart Rate: 125
Active Minutes: 30
The intensity in Skyrim can vary wildly depending on what you are doing at that particular time. For example, you aren’t going to be sweating much when you are visiting a local tavern to find out about the quests in that area and soaking in the atmosphere and unlike most VR games, you will be spending far longer amounts of time within the game, so a more accurate depiction of the workout you’d get would be over the course of an hour or more. You will however start feeling the sweat coming on when you are neck-deep in the Falmer enemies in a desolate cave somewhere, unleashing every last arrow in your quiver in an attempt to fight off these dangerous foes. Melee can actually be pretty intense as well, especially if you edit your .ini settings to make the threshold options for swinging far higher than you initially have, allowing actual strength to come into play with your swings.
Skyrim VR is very arm centric and although you will go long stretches of time without doing much of anything resembling exercise, the combat scenarios are awfully tough at points and this is exaggerated in VR especially if you are an archer and you can find yourself tiring out pretty quickly if this is the style you prefer to play as. As a warrior, you find yourself swinging like a mad man to beat your foes and while this is mostly done with one hand, dual-wielding will bring the other hand into the fight and can be a hell of a time when fighting in this style. This can be amplified by lowering your .ini melee threshold settings too as you can make it so hits will only register if you are using a certain amount of force in your swings, making certain that you will have to earn your kills as a melee character. Mages won’t really be getting much of an arm workout here, but the real fun comes with Weapon Throw VR, a mod that allows you to throw any weapon in any hand and the result is an exhausting and incredible visual experience as you are launching your weapons left and right like you’re Thor. Overall, there are plenty of ways to get your arms involved in Skyrim VR.
You might be thinking “Skyrim VR? Legs? WHAT?” and normally you’d be right, but with a few tweaks to the gameplay and an extra app downloaded, you can actually get a solid leg workout from this game. First of all, we have the setting to apply physical sneak. This means for all you archers and assassin builds out there, means you will actually have to be crouching to get your sneak to activate. Doing this will have your legs barking for relief in especially tough scenarios, though the payoff of getting your double damage hits off is pretty worth it I’d say.
The other big way to use your legs in the game is by actually running in place. Through an app called Natural Locomotion, you can turn your flat-footed experience in Skyrim VR into one that is actually very active. Using Natural locomotion, your movement becomes solely controlled through the movement of your arms and legs. Swinging your arms in a motion you would use for running or walking will cause your character to start moving and you can adjust in the settings just how fast or slow you want this to be. The leg sensors require additional controllers to sense them, but if you are using a device with full-body tracking such as an HTV Vive, you will have your legs tracked naturally in this regard. I was able to mix this in with a treadmill to create an amazing running experience as I was able to sprint through the lush forests and dark caves of Skyrim without any trouble, all while being able to stop to fight when needed. A manual treadmill is recommended for this experience, but it is well worth it, especially with the VR treadmills of the world being quite expensive at the moment.
Core/ Balance- 7/10
In terms of your core being involved while playing Skyrim VR, you are going to have to play a certain style to get the most out of it. For example, if you are playing as a warrior or a mage, you won’t be engaging your core all that much here. As a stealth-based archer or assassin though you can utilize the sneaking technique and by enabling physical sneak, you will have to be crouched over while moving to get behind your targets unnoticed. If you do choose a mage path though, you can still get your core involved, but it won’t be the game forcing it on you, instead, you are going to exaggerate your motions when launching a spell. That means torqueing your body as you thrust your hand forth to launch a fire spell. It adds to the immersion for sure as you wouldn’t expect such power to fly forth from you with meek gestures to begin with.
Time Perception- 10/10
I’ve been playing VR for 4 years now and I still have yet to find a game that is as inviting as it terrifying, calming as it is cruel and awe-inspiring as it is pulse-pounding. Skyrim VR might take a little while to get acclimated to as there are tons of menus and systems to learn at the start, but once you do, this will become your second life. I have seen the hours fade away as I’m exploring a newly discovered crypt or trying to find the right items to craft the ideal weapon. Things get even better with mods like HIGGS ( Hand Interaction and Gravity Gloves for Skyrim VR), which lets you physically grab items in the world like bowls, cups, and also allows you to take the armor off of enemies as well as weapons instead of just navigating through the classic menus. The result of all this is an experience that can grip you for hours at a time and the relatively light physical exertion allows for this.
A perfect score in a category like this is tough to justify a lot of the time. That changes though when the content in question has the potential to house over 300 hours’ worth of gameplay. The thing about Skyrim VR is that you are never going to finish every single thing in the game, it’s borderline impossible because some of the quests are radiant, which means they just keep regenerating in slightly different ways, the best example of which happens during the Dark Brotherhood questline, which is among the best in the game, so you’ll be happy it never truly ends. If you get to modding, you will have an experience that will last you for the rest of your life. There is a reason that players still have Skyrim at the top of Steam’s charts a decade after its initial release. It is a game of wonder that will be etched forever in gaming history as the game that never lost its fanbase.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
There are certain ways to get a workout in Skyrim VR, and those revolve around the type of player you are. If you want the easy-going and breezy experience, that is readily available as you can go large stretches of time in the game without even touching combat, and instead, you can enjoy the atmosphere, browse the markets, follow questlines that feature little to no combat, and explore at your leisure. If you want to get the heart rate going though, there are plenty of opportunities to have this happen as opportunities to fight are ripe all over the place, and with some mods that add monsters to the world, you will never be wandering too far without a fight to take part in.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 9/10
In Skyrim VR, your options for movement are vast and if the basic teleporting mechanic causes some uneasiness in you, you can easily turn it to natural locomotion and play that way instead. In addition to this, you can turn on tunnel vision in the options menu to limit your peripheral view, which has been known to help VR sickness as well. As long as your frame rate is staying steady, you won’t feel any sickness while playing Skyrim VR. However, some of the less polished ideas in the game such as horseback riding, dragon-riding, and getting punched by a giant (please do not let this happen to you), do not translate great to VR and can definitely cause your stomach to turn a bit.
Social Interaction- 6/10
Skyrim VR is not a multiplayer game in the least, but that does not mean it doesn’t involve any social interaction. If you peruse the internet for information on the game, you find countless message boards and Reddit pages detailing and discussing everything you can imagine, and the best way to describe the experience to liken Skyrim to the videogame version of Game of Thrones. For fans of that world, you know that although you likely digest the stories on your own, the true joy of it all is discussing everything with friends and strangers alike and the same goes for Skyrim VR, which has a background of lore that would make any fantasy fans fall in love with.
VR Fit Score- 7.8/10
Game Score- 9.5/10
Skyrim VR does the impossible, taking one of the greatest games of all time and directly translating it into VR in a way that is easy to learn and hard to master. It gives an almost endless amount of quests to play through with tons of different weapons to collect and magic spells to acquire. In terms of writing, you won’t find a more compelling RPG in VR as the side content and stories they weave are by now iconic in their own right. The main quest on its own is not that lengthy, but exploring the different guilds, joining in a civil war, or fighting against the vampire army in the DLCs will keep you busy for years to come, and with the modders constantly working to improve the game, the VR experience gets better and better.
Skyrim VR is certainly behind the times with VR physics, so if you are looking for something that gives full VR immersion without having to use mods to get that experience, this won’t be it. The graphics are also less than impressive at first glance, so without a strong enough system to support some serious supersampling and visual mods, you will be looking at a game with graphics from 2011, up close and personal and that isn’t the best visual experience, to say the least. You might just be burned out on Skyrim by now as well, so it is possible that the allure of reliving the experience in VR may just not be worth it for you.
Skyrim VR is available on Steam and the Playstation Store for $59.99 and is playable on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Quest 1 and 2 via a link, PSVR, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.