‘Vader Immortal – Episode I’ Review: A Strong Start for Canonical ‘Star Wars’ VR
Earlier this week I shared a review of the Oculus Quest, a device that I believe makes at-home virtual reality more appealing and accessible than ever. You can read the full review right here, but now it’s time to move on to full game reviews and we’re kicking off this coverage with Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode I.
Back at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, I was lucky enough to give the game’s lightsaber dojo component a go. For anyone out there who’s dreamed of wielding a lightsaber (and who hasn’t?), that element is a treat with undeniable appeal, but the real revelation of Vader Immortal is the immersive storytelling. The game gives you the opportunity to step into a canonical Star Wars story written by David S. Goyerand feel what it’s like to come face to face with Darth Vader.
Steering well clear of spoilers, the story is set in between the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. You’re a smuggler and the captain of a ship called the Windfall with the droid ZO-E3 (voiced by Maya Rudolph) serving as your right hand. You’re spotted by Imperial forces and brought to Mustafar where Darth Vader himself sees something special in you, essentially launching a multi-episode experience where you’re fighting right alongside Vader himself.
As one might expect, Episode I is a set-up episode and it most certainly serves its purpose well. Strictly focusing on the story first, ZO-E3 makes an excellent guide who helps the user get his or her bearings on the Windfall and then in Vader’s castle in a way that never makes you feel like you’re being instructed on how to play the game, but rather like a natural part of the world-building. ZO-E3 is charismatic, has some serious bite to her humor and is simply a pleasure to hang out with as you make your way through the castle.
As far as Star Wars Easter eggs and important canon details go, I’ll keep this vague, but do know that there are some very interesting elements to the lore highlighted in Episode I that connect to previously released Star Wars material and also suggest that Vader Immortal might offer up some much sought after answers – especially when it comes to the state of Mustafar. There’s also an abundance of material that gave me the sense that Vader Immortal could wind up being a strong Vader character piece, in addition to being an exhilarating VR adventure.
Now on to the capabilities that the Oculus Quest provides. The sense of scale in Episode I is phenomenal. Very early on, you’re sitting in the Windfall cockpit when an Interdictor-class Star Destroyer slowly pulls into the frame from above. It’s a truly awesome sight that ups the stakes and starts to make the threat feel real. And the same is true of Vader’s stature in the game. Yes, Vader has always had an imposing presence in the films, but when you’re made to feel like you’re standing in the same room with him towering over you, it’s chill-inducing.
I played Episode I in a rather small area of play so had to use the teleport ability quite a bit to move around, but it’s still a fairly fluid way to follow ZO-E3 and never once took me out of the game. Adding to the immersive quality is, of course, the constant calls to action requiring you to interact with everything around you, whether it be a door lock or igniting your lightsaber to battle Stormtroopers. The lightsaber battles in Episode I far exceed the expectations my dojo experience at Celebration set. As authentic as that dojo training feels, it’s a completely different sensation when the story actually makes you feel like you’re defending yourself in order to complete a mission.