Ever wanted to fry-lectrocute a Nord bandit in person? I'm afraid there's still no word on when Bethesda will convert all of reality to Skyrim (opens in new tab) as the ultimate re-release, but I got to try out all three of Bethesda's big upcoming VR games at QuakeCon 2017: Skyrim VR, Fallout 4 VR, and Doom VFR (Skyrim will launch as a PS VR exclusive and Fallout 4 as an HTC Vive exclusive, while Doom will come out for both). I only spent about ten minutes with each game, but that was still long enough to have some dumb fun in all three. And dumb fun, as you may already know, is the best possible thing to have in virtual reality.
Fun things to do in… The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim VR
Shooting magic everywhere
Magic is fun and powerful enough in normal Skyrim, but there's one big oversight: you can't wave both your hands around while blasting fire and ice beams to throw an arcane fantasy death rave. You can do that in Skyrim VR. It's rad to watch and it's even a decent strategy, as you can individually aim the spells to fight multiple targets at once. I probably had the most fun with Ice Spike, when I discovered my uncanny knack for shooting draugr foes right in the chin so it looked like they had big white icicle beards.
Having a hell of a time arrow-ing anything
Turns out that actually lining up your bow shots (as in nocking the arrow, pulling back the string, and sighting down your target correctly) is way more engaging than just holding one trigger and then the other. But it's also a helluva lot harder. This means Skyrim's de facto default character build, the stealth archer, may no longer be the automatic choice for many players. It's much easier to get right up in an enemy's face and smack them around with a sword and magic than it is to carefully line up a single, sneaky bow attack.
Staring at the ceiling
Did you know Skyrim's caves have ceilings? I'd kind of forgotten, to be honest. But actually being in the head of the Dragonborn makes you appreciate stuff like that all over again, even six years after the game first came out. Stalactites are pretty!
Fun things to do in… Fallout 4 VR
Introducing ghouls to your shotgun
The demo version of Fallout 4 VR gave me access to everything from a laser rifle to a mini nuke launcher. But my favorite weapon remained the humble double-barreled shotgun. There's something special about turning around to face the ghoul who's trying to feast on your flesh, thoughtfully pressing your shotgun to the side of their head, and then watching as the brain bits and eyeballs fly. Just feels right, you know?
Foraging in Concord
Listen. I have looted so many burnt-out homes and office buildings over the course of the Fallout series. So many. I'm not going to say that doing it in VR makes it a totally fresh experience. But the physical act of leaning down to look through cabinets or under furniture does add welcome variety to the old aluminum-hunting game.
Nuking Preston Garvey
This isn't extra fun in VR or anything, it's just always good. Another settlement needs YOUR DEATH, Marcus! That sounded cooler in my head.
Fun things to do in… Doom VFR
Glory kills are out, telefragging is in. Don't be sad; ripping and tearing demons doesn't really make sense if you're not playing as the Doom Marine (you're a UAC cyborg instead), and all that first-person animation makes people super sick in VR. Instead, you can use your standard teleport ability to drop directly into staggered enemies and kill them, sending little bits of gore splattering everywhere. It's a brilliant tweak to retain the glory kills' purpose while making them work for the VR format.
Getting knocked around by a Hell Knight
Big guys, those Hell Knights. The first time one of those 9-foot, eyeless linebackers came charging my way in Doom (2016) I was a bit shaken, but I got over it by the end. Seeing how I barely came up to a Hell Knight's belly button in Doom VFR rekindled that panic response - until it nearly bashed me off the stage, I mean. Then I remembered my years of training that began with the original Doom and I shot at it until it died.
Learning what to call the little cleaning robots
"There are these little cleaning robots that you see in the game once in a while," Doom VFR executive producer Marty Stratton told me. "I don't think it's in the demo that we're showing here, but you'll actually get the opportunity to kind of take over one of those. And so you get to drive one. We call them Doombas". DOOMBAS, YOU GUYS.
While you wait for Bethesda's VR offering to hit PSVR and HTC Vive, check out the best settlements we've ever seen in Fallout 4 (opens in new tab).