Narrative games aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when talking about VR. Most story-focused VR games tend to fall flat, and sales numbers have shown that VR owners would rather play more mechanically focused games like Beat Saber or Superhot VR. Vader Immortal is proof that narrative games can not only manage in a virtual space but flourish with the help of the added immersion.
Game Name: Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series Episode One
Platform(s): Oculus Quest (Reviewed), Oculus Rift S (Coming Soon)
Release Date: May 21, 2019
I leave the pilot seat of my ship and walk around the cabin behind me. I pick up and inspect random knick-knacks and odds and ends from my adventures on various planets. My sassy droid sidekick and I reminisce and share stories while we inspect the damage our ship sustained in a recent encounter.
I was in Star Wars.
Vader Immortal is a testament to what narrative experiences can be in VR. Mechanically, it’s quite simple, and the story is somewhat barebones, but the package as a whole floored me with its quality throughout its short 45-minute runtime. This is the definitive title for the Oculus Quest right now, and I’m eagerly anticipating the next episode.
The first thing I noticed about Vader Immortal was how good it looked. It’s only available on the Quest right now, so there isn’t a Rift version to compare it to yet, but Vader Immortal is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, looking on par with or even better than most PC-powered Rift experiences available right now. Environments are detailed and filled with things to interact with, and characters are beautifully animated. The attractive visuals and the freedom of wireless VR transported me into the game’s world. I felt like I was really looking out at the vast lava fields of Mustafar instead of staring into a headset in my bedroom.
Performances are incredible and do a lot to make the whole experience more believable. Your droid pal Zoe serves as comic relief, and working with a partner results in a much less lonely time than other VR experiences. She keeps things lively and there’s never a dull moment with her. Vader himself steals the show when he is in the room. His powerful voice and presence demand your attention and he’s much, much taller than I was expecting. I know from other Star Wars media that Darth Vader is tall, but the presence and immersion that come with VR made him all the more imposing.
These performances help to carry the mostly flat story. Vader Immortal‘s plot is as basic as they come: you’re a smuggler captured by the Empire, Darth Vader needs your help with what he’s working on, and then you try to escape. There isn’t much depth to Vader Immortal‘s story, but the physicality of VR makes certain scenes especially gripping. There are some twists here and there (like a spectacularly directed lore-dump sequence that I won’t spoil), but it’s very clear that Vader Immortal is holding back its best story bits for the next two episodes. This is very much the setup to a larger story, but the gameplay and setpieces succeed in keeping the experience fresh and interesting throughout its duration.
For the first part of Vader Immortal, you’re mostly fiddling with locks using a special tool. It’s interesting enough poking and prodding through the machinery while your companions make small talk, but the game also features a number of climbing sections. These climbing sections are brief and spread out enough that they never become stale, and the scenery accompanying them was always breathtaking. Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Wars without a lightsaber, and Vader Immortal lets you get your hands on one fairly quickly. There’s a short training sequence right out of A New Hope, and after that, you’re deflecting blaster bolts back at stormtroopers and partaking in an epic lightsaber battle in the finale that I won’t spoil. So much of Vader Immortal‘s gameplay is intertwined with the narrative, so detailing certain gameplay sections would spoil the best bits of the story.
The combat isn’t very deep, but it’s enjoyable enough. The sound effects are pulled straight out of the movies and the haptic feedback on the lightsabers is amazing. Blocking attacks feels great, and even though enemies blatantly telegraph their attacks, the satisfaction of blocking and counterattacking never wore thin throughout the game’s runtime. Luckily, Vader Immortal hints at new abilities to come in future episodes, so the combat will likely grow deeper as the series progresses.
After completing the brief story, you can spend time with Vader Immortal‘s optional lightsaber dojo mode. This mode features a number of training scenarios starting with deflecting blaster bolts back at floating droids and slowly ramping up toward lightsaber duels. The dojo holds at least another hour of content and is highly replayable, rewarding you with unlockables like new lightsaber colors if you perform well.
Vader Immortal surprised me with the plethora of comfort settings it provided. You can opt for either a 180-degree front-facing experience or a full 360-degree experience. Both snap and smooth turning are available as well as teleport and smooth locomotion. Various vignettes are available to make the climbing sections and other parts of the game more bearable. Those new to VR or those that get queasy easily will have no problem enjoying Vader Immortal.
Although heavily linear and very short, the first episode of Vader Immortal kept me gripped throughout its entirety. It looks and sounds incredible, and the story plants seeds that could have huge payoffs in the next episodes. The great performances and enjoyable lightsaber mechanics made Vader Immortal a joy to play, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next chapter. At a price of only $10, Vader Immortal is absolutely a must-buy for all Oculus Quest owners, and those with Rifts should definitely pick it up when it comes to PC.
Incredible graphics and sound help Vader Immortal overcome its short runtime and shallow story. Characters are likable and performances are stellar. The gameplay lacks depth but this isn’t a problem thanks to the game’s brief length. Those unhappy with how short the experience is can find extra gameplay in the lightsaber dojo. This is a must-buy for Oculus Quest owners.
- Fantastic graphics
- Incredible sound effects
- Great Performances
- Very Short
- Shallow mechanics
- Bland story