You’ve got to hand it to Oculus, when the company announced standalone headset Oculus Quest during its Connect event last year the device instantly generated millions of interested consumers thanks to Star Wars. Rather than creating another videogame Oculus and ILMxLAB went all out, focusing purely on everyone’s favourite villain Darth Vader for an interactive episodic experience called Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. But is it worth the hype that the franchise always generates?
Spoilers, spoilers everywhere…
If you are a Star Wars fan then you might want to stop reading now as there will be spoilers in this review, not many, but enough that you may want to experience the entire first episode in all its glory fresh and untainted by the information in the following paragraphs.
First and foremost what’s important to remember is that the story in Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is canon, making it an integral part of the whole franchise. Set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, unfortunately, you don’t get to play as the Sith Lord himself. Instead, you play an unnamed smuggler pulled out of hyperspace and captured by the Empire. Vader is looking for an ancient artefact that could possibly bring his beloved Padmé back to life, and you just so happen to be a descendant of a very old bloodline that could facilitate its discovery.
The are two main parts to the title itself. The main story campaign which can take 50-60 minutes to complete depending on how quickly certain sections are finished and Vader’s Dojo, which is all about practising those lightsaber skills. A third section will also open up once you’ve gone through the campaign, allowing you to jump to specific chapters of the story.
Before diving into the story as with most VR titles it is worth jumping into the settings and playing around with the comfort controls. Teleportation is the default with smooth locomotion available for those that can handle it, as well as rotation options.
Because Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is a film of sorts the temptation is to enjoy the experience sat down, yet it is worth noting that the lightsaber sections do benefit from being stood up; both options are available depending on your ability.
As soon as the experience starts it instantly draws you in with fantastic visuals and voice work by Maya Rudolph as ZOE3, your droid co-pilot. Flying over the volcanic planet of Mustafar evokes a sense of dread as your ship is flown towards Vader’s imposing stronghold. Once inside it’s not long before you get to meet the man himself, a tall dramatic figure who is just as awe-inspiring as you might expect.
The story zips along at a decent pace, never feeling like any moment drags on for too long, keeping that interest with regular interactive moments. This interaction is highly important in Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series as it really helps ground you to the character and the role they have to play. These can involve simply climbing a ladder, or pulling components apart in a door mechanism to open it. Never too complicated so as to ruin the flow of the story – you wouldn’t want to get frustrated and stuck – you’re never more than a couple of minutes away from something new to play with.
While these are all fun, the real joy of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is the lightsaber sections. With the freedom Oculus Quest presents you’ll want to spend all your time in Vader’s Dojo, fighting the little flying droids and repelling their laser bolts. On occasion the Oculus Insight tracking can be a little off when just the hands are displayed, however, there never seems to be an issue with the lightsaber. Combine the tracking with the design, accurate sound and feedback from the Oculus Touch controllers and Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series has the best representation of Star Wars lightsabers seen in VR.
It was difficult to decide whether to fully review Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series as it was the first episode or wait for the other two. Quite honestly it was too enjoyable not to talk about it, achieving that one all-important factor in an episodic tale; suitably stopping at a point where you instantly want more. Oculus Quest may have over 50 titles to choose from on launch day, but Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is one of the few that should be an instant download.