Okay, this is one of those soapbox moments that I’m not particularly proud of, but this is what this platform is for and I’m going to use it sometimes. Especially for moments like these, when I actively see a trainwreck happening before my eyes and feel powerless to stop it, but not powerless to fling my hot take onto the pile with everyone else’s. I have a bit of a problem with Skyrim. Not the game itself; Skyrim is fine and its ridiculous longevity is proof enough of that. It’s the usual grandiose, buggy mess that Bethesda has come to be known for, but there’s no denying why people love it. But it’s been years, and Bethesda is still finding ways to milk Skyrim for every penny it may or may not be worth. And, frankly, it’s getting annoying. Skyrim is not DOOM; you can’t smash it onto whatever platform you want and expect people to be impressed.
This moment of shameless opinion-having is brought on by reports of Skyrim VR demos at Quakecon being a “dumpster fire,” as branded by YouTube Person Super Bunnyhop. Apparently, by most accounts, Skyrim VR doesn’t feel like Skyrim. It feels like a bizarre, nonsense tech showcase that doesn’t do anyone any favors and has Skyrim painted over it like a quick, dirty, and easy way to make people pay attention to it. You teleport around, as is popular in navigating VR spaces, fight one-on-one in massively stripped-down combat scenarios, and the infamous world of this monstrously successful open-world RPG is apparently whittled down to a Cliff Notes version of its former glory.
This is not going to endear the concept of VR gaming to anyone who gets their hands on it. This is especially true for RPG fans. There are expectations when people who love RPGs have when they sit down to play an RPG, especially when that RPG is ostensibly a AAA game experience from a developer that brands itself as a delivery mechanism for AAA game experiences. And if Skyrim can barely function on this platform, what in the world does that say for Fallout 4 VR? Who knows, honestly. It’s hard to tell with this space. The bottom line is it ain't stable, and RPGs need stability.
But the problem could have been alleviated fairly easily, if Bethesda just dialed it back on the branding a bit, right? Strip it down, make it a bit more generic or something, and just slap the Elder Scrolls logo on it. In my mind, that’s a quick recipe for more measured expectations from the fanbase. Just call it Elder Scrolls VR and people might treat it as more of a technical novelty than something that comes with an expectation of quality.
Just look at the Switch version of Skyrim. People are absolutely chomping at the bit to dump on that thing at every opportunity. As soon as the E3 footage hit, people were comparing every nut and bolt visible to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Skyrim. Turns out it’s most likely somewhere in-between, and if it wasn’t for the Switch’s portability and baked-in Zelda content, this port would likely be just as derided as the VR one seems to be turning out.
Porting games to whatever platform is not an easy feat, and when a company is not exactly known for its quality assurance, maybe it isn’t a wholly recommended feat. Is the hyperbolic announcement pop really worth the onslaught of inevitable scrutiny the port will get when hands are on it? Especially with such an “old” and revered game like Skyrim, is wrestling with it until it fits on bizarre platforms worth the bad PR when it comes out of the oven soggier than it was on the PlayStation 3? Maybe the bottom line, the numbers at the end of the spreadsheet, disagree. But until then, this is a bad look that could have been avoided.