Now I am the Master
When Disney said they wanted to “take a break” from Star Wars films you knew it had to be a few years, tops (Ron Howard voice: it was). But even with that scant hiatus they’re absolutely not taking a break when it comes to Star Wars related television projects, cartoons, toys, video games: you name it.
Star Wars is never truly on a break, you can only break from it forcefully. But given that Vader: Immortal VR episodes are slated to clock in at under an hour each, it’s an easy way to spend some time in a galaxy far, far away without getting burned out.
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series: Episode 1 (Oculus Quest [reviewed], PC)
Released: May 21, 2019 (Oculus Quest) / TBA (Oculus Rift)
I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us have mixed feelings on Star Wars in just about any medium. Take games: you have a ton of shoddy licensed projects juxtaposed to masterpieces like Dark Forces, Star Wars: TIE Fighter, KOTOR, and Jedi Knight that can still be considered high points of their respective genres. But there’s something that a lot of good Star Wars games have in common: a focus on the force and the mysteries within. That’s the kind of magic Vader Immortal is trying to rekindle, as brief as it is.
In this 45 minute-ish first episode, things kick off fairly quickly. You’ll step into the shoes of a voiceless smuggler en route to deliver goods only to be intercepted and captured by the Empire. Your wisecracking Maya Rudolph-voiced droid can’t save you as you enter Vader’s employ on the fiery planet Mustafar and find out (gasp) you’re force sensitive. With little bits of fanservice peppered in (I mean, the presence of Vader in general is key, as are several shoutouts to the original trilogy and episodes one through three) you’ll make your way through the depths of Mustafar, stumbling through ancient ruins, battling enemies with your lightsaber.
While developer ILMxLAB could have played it really safe here, they actually created a compelling little micro-verse. Mustafar’s origins are heavily explored in the inaugural episode, and sith/force motifs are present throughout. This is extremely expanded universe territory: the kind of stuff a lot of you were pining for when Disney first announced they were cooking up another trilogy, and only got via vague platitudes in Rogue One.
The VR controls (compliments of the Touch remotes) actually help accomplish this goal. There’s a few cipher puzzles to solve, ladders to climb (I only had a slight camera issue once, which cleared itself up after a few seconds), and of course, a lightsaber to wield, all with plenty of comfort or non-toraining wheel options (the whole kitchen sink is customizable, with individual sliders). Witnessing Vader towering over you really adds credence to his threat, and blocking lightsaber attacks as your remote is subtly vibrating is a thrill.
So far there’s only a few story combat scenes to judge (and a wave-based mode that mirrors this iconic scene), but I dig the simplistic flow of deflecting strikes and swinging back in counter. I can’t help but think how interesting it would have been to add in a blaster holster option (since you can physically duck into cover), but with the lighsaber and force focus, I get that it would fundamentally change the core of what the series is trying to accomplish. As long as we acquire more force powers (which Vader hints at as the story comes to a close) I’m good.
Despite just offering a taste of what’s to come with Vader Immortal, the first episode has me hooked and I want more. More opportunities to witness Mustafar’s glory without the need to gain the high ground, more lore dumps, and more Vader being Vader.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]