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Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series review – A most impressive experience

The Star Wars franchise takes its first steps into a larger world with Vader Immortal, our Game of the Week…

Read our Vader Immortal review
4.0 out of 5 star rating

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series has finally found its way onto physical shop shelves, with a special retail edition of the PlayStation version arriving in stores last month. And now that we’ve had time to test it out, we’re pleased to report that this interactive adventure is well worth a look for fans of that galaxy far, far away.

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Originally launching on the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift systems in 2019, before receiving a digital PSVR release in 2020, Vader Immortal is a Star Wars VR experience that tells a three-part story about the Dark Lord of the Sith, as well as offering Easter eggs galore – particularly in its compelling Lightsaber Dojo mode.

We’re happy to name Vader Immortal our latest RadioTimes.com Game of the Week, as we’ve certainly had a great time playing it this week. If you haven’t played it already, now is a great time to seek it out and see what the fuss is about.

The main story is probably what draws fans to Vader Immortal in the first place, but we’d argue that the Lightsaber Dojo is more likely to stick in your memory afterwards – this mode is where the true potential of Star Wars in VR properly shines through, and it’s also where you’ll strongly feel the power of the Dark Side.

Come face to face with Darth Vader in VR.
Come face to face with Darth Vader in VR.
Lucasfilm

That’s not to say the story isn’t interesting, because it does have its moments. Slotting into the Star Wars movies timeline between Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, Vader Immortal sees the black-suited Sith holed up in his fortress on the fiery planet Mustafar, where he’s trying to use a local artefact to bring his beloved Padmé back from the dead.

This storyline may sound familiar to anyone who read Charles Soules’ excellent run of Darth Vader comics, which culminated in the jaw-dropping Fortress Vader – those final issues of Soule’s Vader arc also saw Anakin on Mustafar, attempting to remedy his past.

While the comics delved deep into Vader’s psyche, however, the Vader Immortal VR game only really scratches the surface. This is something of a shame, especially considering that Vader Immortal’s main writer – David S Goyer – has previously worked on such great films as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

You play as a Force-sensitive smuggler that Vader has been trying to locate (for reasons which probably count as spoilers), and it’s not long before the story plonks your ship on Mustafar and challenges you to overcome Vader and escape. Each of the three episodes lasts around an hour, a structure that makes Vader Immortal feel like a TV miniseries that you’re fully immersed in.

Everything you’ll need to play Vader Immortal on your PlayStation:

Visit Vader's Fortress on Mustafar
Visit Vader’s Fortress on Mustafar.
Lucasfilm

The story is almost entirely on rails, which is often the case for VR movie tie-ins like this. And to be fair, the developers are pitching Vader Immortal as more of a ‘VR experience’ than an all-out game.

Although there are a few environments in which you can move your character around, there are also heaps of moments where you need to stand in one particular spot in order to progress. (In one frustrating moment during Episode 2, we couldn’t seem to stay in this spot, and the game kept telling us off.)

The graphics are pretty great, though, which does make up for the lack of freedom somewhat. You can tell that ILM – the VFX studio that George Lucas founded for the original Star Wars – were one of the main companies that brought Vader Immortal to life.

Whether you’re looking out at the lava of Mustafar, coming face to face with a TIE Fighter or waving a lightsaber around, everything looks and feels exactly as you’d expect it to (the only exception, really, is that we thought Darth Vader should’ve been taller). More so than any previous Star Wars game, this one truly allows you to feel like you’re actually in that universe.

The voice acting and other audio work is very strong, too. Maya Rudolph plays your quip-happy droid companion, ZO-E3, while Scott Lawrence voices Vader with aplomb (doing a note-perfect take on James Earl Jones’ iconic performance). All the movie-worthy sound effects are here, too, and Cris Velasco’s score retains some of the familiar John Williams tone whilst also adding its own twists.

Play our previous Game of the Week picks:

Maya Rudolph voices your trusty companion ZO-E3
Maya Rudolph voices your trusty companion ZO-E3.
Lucasfilm

It’s in combat moments where you really see the best of Vader Immortal, though. In Episode 1, you learn how to use a lightsaber, and this virtual version of the Jedi’s super-civilised weapon just feels so perfectly done – the weight feels right, the sound feels right, and the feeling of slashing through droids, creatures and other enemies is exactly what you’d want it to be.

Things ramp up in Episode 2, where you learn the basics of pulling and throwing things with the Force. This is when Vader Immortal really starts to feel like a power fantasy done right. You can pull an enemy through the air with your left hand and then slice them up with the lightsaber in your right hand. Both of these things are easy to do, even with the PS Move controllers that have been on the market since 2010.

In Episode 3, it starts to get really wild, as you’re able to ‘borrow’ blasters and thermal detonators from Stormtroopers, which of course you can use against them. There are only a handful of moments in the story where you get to do this, but they really are a lot of fun. You’ve got so much power at this point that you can start to fantasise that you’re a true Skywalker.

We’d definitely welcome a sequel to Vader Immortal that splices more of this stuff in – as it stands, though, a Vader Immortal sequel has not yet been announced. This is something of a shame, because it feels like you’ve only just got started when the story ends, but thankfully there is more to do after each episode wraps.

Read more on Star Wars games:

The Lightsaber Dojo is worth a throw
The Lightsaber Dojo is worth a throw.
Lucasfilm

Included with each episode is a Lightsaber Dojo training experience, and here you can properly let loose as waves of enemies try to attack you. You can use all the skills you’ve learned along the way, and it starts to feel like a bit of a workout after you’ve slashed through a few rounds.

As you progress, you’ll feel more and more like an actual Jedi or Sith at the peak of their powers, throwing your lightsaber around and bending the Force to your will (you can even use Force Lightning if you complete 50 kills in one round in Episode 3).

The Lightsaber Dojo also plays host to loads of awesome Easter eggs. As you complete rounds and earn Imperial Commendations, you’ll unlock rewards – these start of simple, allowing you to change your lightsaber colour or your character’s gloves. But that’s only the beginning!

The rewards really ramp up as you get further along, with players able to unlock movie-worthy replicas of Darth Maul’s lightsaber, Kylo Ren’s lightsaber and loads of other familiar hilts from the films. You can use all of these in the dojo, as well, giving you another reason to keep on playing.

All things considered, Vader Immortal is a very satisfying introduction to VR for the Star Wars franchise, with particular praise going to the graphics, sound design, combat and the fan-pleasing Lightsaber Dojo mode. We’ll keep on hoping for a sequel, then!

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is out now on PS4 and PS5 via PSVR, and PC via Oculus. We reviewed the game on PS5, using the special retail edition, which is available now on Amazon. This version also includes a behind-the-scenes video, a digital artbook, and two collectable physical postcards.

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