Vader Immortal: Review

Ever since virtual reality has hit the main stream Star Wars nerds across the galaxy started fantasizing about being in X-Wing cockpits and wielding laser swords. Well I have good news and bad news. If you want to pilot an X-Wing for a brief period you need the PSVR headset (not to mention a PS4). Star Wars Battlefront on the Playstation 4 offered an exclusive VR mission so you can show off your PSVR to your friends. It was just a tech demo but a fun one and if you’re a Star Wars geek like me you get giddy over the details in the X-Wing cockpit.

If you want to wave around a light saber you need the Oculus Rift or Oculus Quest (not to mention a decent gaming PC). It’s not a tech demo but an actual game? I think? One of VR’s problems is that they keep billing their products as “experiences” and that is hurting it. I’m a gamer and I have VR and I want games. Not experiences. Experiences should be free demos. Games offer mental stimulation from the completion of objectives in exchange for your time and money which equals value.

I apologize for getting off topic. I’ll save my rant for later. So their’s finally a Star Wars product on the Oculus. Is it worth it? Well lets talk about, Vader Immortal.

I am a virtual reality defender. When I was a child in the 16 bit era, playing a new game was extremely exciting. When the SNES was new every game I tried was amazing. Even Pilot Wings blew my mind because all I knew was 8 bit. That is how I feel every time I purchase a new VR game. Even if it’s crap when I try it for the first time there’s always a goofy smile on my face. Now I finally had a Star Wars game to play.

Vader Immortal is an episodic adventure coming in at $9.99 USD per episode. I waited until the last episode was released to purchase the whole series. Presentation-wise it starts off strong. In Episode One you are travelling through space while listening to Maya Rudolph’s sometimes cringy dialogue. You look around your cockpit and flip random switches and pull a lever to punch it through hyperspace. It all looks and sounds amazing.

Suddenly you are pulled out of hyperspace in orbit over a red planet. A massive Star Destroyer flies overhead which is a nice nod to the beginning of A New Hope. You are ordered to surrender your vessel and you are boarded. Stormtroopers board you and hit you with the stun shot. Another nod to A New Hope. I’ve just realized that’s the only time in the entire saga they’ve used that.

So now we are in a Mustafar prison awaiting Lord Vader and wondering what the hell he wants with us. His introduction is awesome. A door slides open and we see his silhouette as the light behind him blinds us to his features. As he makes his approach we realize how intimidating he is.

Vader pretty much explains the plot and he needs you to find a thing to make him more powerful. It also happens to be the McGuffin that will save the planet for the natives and one of your cell mates happens to be one of those natives. He helps you escape and now we are playing the game.

Again, are we playing a game? A lot of it seems to be: walk from this point to that point and enter a cut-scene. If you are unfamiliar with VR games a typical cut-scene means you’re frozen in one spot and can’t do anything except look around. When Vader was talking to me I tried to push one of his buttons on his chest but sadly nothing happened.

There are sequences when you experiment with the force to solve super easy puzzles. You climb on ladders or any ledges that are colored red. You unlock doors by twisting and turning stuff. It’s fine. But eventually you get your hands on a light saber and that’s when my giddiness took over.

I loved holding it close to my face and inspecting the detail on it. Then with a press of the trigger a snap-hiss noise is followed by a brilliant colored blade. Moving the light saber around and hearing that “vroom vroom” sound feels great. I’m sure I looked like that Star Wars kid video that went viral over a decade ago but I didn’t care.

Me but with an Oculus Rift strapped to my head

Now for the rest of the game it goes like this. Action sequence followed by cut scene followed by action sequence and the end. The episodes are really short and that’s a shame. I feel like it was more story driven than game play which might be ok if it were longer. It’s a Star Wars game so of course I want to know where the story is going but some of the game play sequences felt awkward and some felt really good. Fighting multiple ancient droids along with Vader was great. A speeder chase deflecting stormtrooper gun blasts felt like it went on and on. I thought the game glitched out and wouldn’t go any further but it just went on for too long. It felt like filler.

There are actual boss fights including a four armed rancor and a tie fighter but they’re easy and followed by more cut scenes. I want to make this a spoiler free review so I want tell you what the last boss is. I think you can guess who it is.

As far as the campaign goes I’d say it’s fine. It won’t break the mold. The Star Wars detail in the game is top notch but after playing through the story once I have no desire to play it again. I can only take Maya Rudolph’s cheesy dialogue for so long.

Now lets talk about what did have me come back. The Jedi Dojo mode. This is the actual video game portion of this game and it’s very addictive. It’s pretty simple. You stand in a small octagon and use the power of the force, a light saber and a few extra weapons lying around to destroy enemies within a time limit. It sounds simple but boy oh boy its satisfying. As you progress through the rounds you start to unlock some cool stuff. At first it’s different colored kyber crystals but then you start to unlock light sabers used from different characters in the films. So far I’ve unlocked the light sabers of Obi-Wan, Qui Gon Jin, Anakin/Luke/Rey, Darth Maul, Luke’s green saber and dual light sabers. Grabbing these weapons and looking at them close up is awesome. I’m interested in seeing if Mace Windu’s light saber is available and has BMF engraved on it. (UPDATE: I did unlock Windu’s light saber and it’s not on there 🙁 )

A typical round will have those little hovering training spheres, some sort of flying creatures, stormtroopers and four different levels of training light saber droids. You have to kill all these bastards and quickly. My strategy is using the force to whip those spheres and creatures into each other and then dueling the droids. If you look behind your left shoulder there’s a crate of stormtrooper rifles that you can shoot everybody with when it gets overwhelming. Uncivilized I know but I’m under a time limit. When you use the force you build up force lighting and then the real destruction begins. You can also throw your light saber into enemies and it will return to you effortlessly. I can’t think of a greater Jedi simulation.

Also, I found myself sweating quite a bit because I unintentionally did a little workout moving my arms and turning around. If you’re playing with friends be sure to have some protective VR hygiene eye covers. I didn’t setup my guardian wall well enough and ended up knocking my white board off of my wall. No other VR game has made me do that.

If ILM just released the Jedi Dojo mode for 9.99 and forgot about the three episodes I’d be happy. There’s a lot you can do with this and I wish you could fight Jedi or Sith. This game had a some hype around it and I was hoping it would be a classic or a killer app but it’s not. It is a solid Star Wars…experience that has an addicting arcade mode. I’d also love to recreate some classic moments from the films like Vader’s Rogue One sequence or battling Darth Maul on Naboo. One can dream right?

3 out 5 Stars ***

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