The Lightsaber Dojo is incredibly fun and the only reason for why you should play this. Story Mode sucks and is a horrendous waste of potential, so don’t expect much when playing through it. Other than that, and some VERY annoying glitches and game crashes here and there, the game works just fine on PSVR. I just wish all three episodes were one big game, instead of 3 separate launchers that you slowly have to load into every time.
For as long as I’ve been a Star Wars fans, I have always heard about people’s desire for the perfect lightsaber battle game. Many games have attempted it, and most of them have failed. More recent titles like Jedi Fallen Order and The Force Unleashed have done some cool things with Force powers and lightsaber fighting that have certainly elevated the standards for a good Star Wars game.
However, at the risk of sounding like a certain IGN reviewer, there hasn’t been a truly immersive Star Wars that REALLY MAKES YOU FEEEEEEL like Batma-I mean, a Jedi. We have seen some short Star Wars-themed VR experiences before that lasted a few minutes, but nothing more. It wasn’t until Vader Immortal that we have gotten the chance to play a game that resembles anything close to a full Star Wars VR game. Star Wars Squadron seems to be the only other big game to come out from the perspective of spaceship piloting; something that we got a small taste of in Star Wars Battlefront, but I digress.
From Oculus to PlayStation
Vader Immortal was originally an Oculus-exclusive episodic series that has now made its way to PlayStation VR, which is the version we will be reviewing now. Right off the bat, I already have a criticism regarding how the game is distributed. When you buy it, it’s only one 30 dollar purchase, but when you download it on your PS4, it shows up as three separate launchers for each of the three episodes. I thought this would’ve been a great opportunity to fuse everything into one cohesive release, instead of having to quit one episode and move on the to other when you wish to continue the story or try out a different Lightsaber Dojo. It’s really tedious to have to do this all the time when I don’t think it could’ve been that hard to integrate all the episodes and Dojos into one convenient menu. But anyway, before I go too hard on the criticisms, let’s talk about everything I enjoyed first.
The Lightsaber Dojo is awesome. When I was talking about looking for the perfect lightsaber fighting game, this is probably the closest we have ever gotten. The entire experience of grabbing hold of a lightsaber, turning it on and swinging it around with those iconic sound effects feels unreal. Not only that, but the Dojo throws you right into the action the moment you turn on the lightsaber, so you don’t have time to stand around and stare. You immediately get thrust into this unforgiving gauntlet of droids that both shoot and swing at you with everything they’ve got. Naturally, it’s fairly easy at the start, but it very quickly amps up the difficulty and becomes far more demanding to get all the points required for unlockable rewards. These rewards come in the form of lightsaber hilts from iconic characters in Star Wars like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin, Qui-Gon and even Kylo Ren from the more recent films. You can also unlock new lightsaber and glove colors, and even get the chance to dual wield two lightsabers at once.
These are all awesome things to unlock, but you’ll have to work for them by continually throwing yourself at these robots until you are absolutely perfect at everything. Any small mistake could cost you one of the three points possible for each of the 40 rounds. If you take damage or don’t beat the droids fast enough, the game will dock down points. There are also “Unleashed” rounds, which revolve around killing as many enemies as possible. This sounds easy on paper until you realize that you killed 20 enemies with everything you had, but the goal is to reach 70. It’s only through practice, figuring out all the enemies’ patterns and openings that you’ll be skilled enough to beat the Dojo. It’s hard, but it feels amazing when you finally beat those tougher rounds.
1st Episode, 1st Place
Out of all three episodes, both the story and the Dojo is at its best in Episode 1. This is mostly due to the limitation of only being able to use a lightsaber, but no Force powers at all until the other two episodes. This forces you (no pun intended) to really confront every enemy and know everything about them. It’s truly a game of skill and reflexes that way, as opposed to Episode 2 and 3 where you can literally one-shot everything with Force powers, making the whole thing way easier and a lot less fun. This is especially so when the Force powers aren’t as polished or fun to use as lightsaber fighting.
It’s a little awkward to Force Push things, especially in the heat of the moment when you’re surrounded by enemies and want to throw things around quickly. If all else fails, you can just dual wield two lightsabers and throw them around like tomahawks, which makes me feel like a god every time, but completely erases the nuance that Episode 1 started with. Another point in favor of Episode 1 is that you can play in three different stages during the Dojo, but Episode 2 and 3 only has one. But hey, you can change the color of your gloves! That’s cool, right? Speaking of cool things, I would’ve like it if we could fight actual characters from the Star Wars series, as opposed to only fighting droids and stormtroopers.
As much as I loved my time in the Dojo, these are a few blemishes that I want to point out, mostly revolving around glitches and crashes. In Episode 1, I raged at the fact that I tried a ton of times to beat this one particular level, and when I was about throw my final swing to win, the game crashed, and I had to attempt it a whole other bunch of times. In Episode 2, there were many occasions where my hand wouldn’t actually hold the lightsaber, but rather awkwardly float in my palm and fly around erratically. Every single time I stopped playing Episode 2 was because the game crashed in the middle of a battle. For Episode 3, it was all the issues from the previous two episodes combined, but didn’t crash as often. And finally, all three episodes had the same issue of having to recalibrate my positioning every few minutes because I kept drifting to the side after a while, which is an issue when the Dojo doesn’t let you move past a red hexagon on the floor, otherwise you automatically lose. These issues do a pretty good job at ruining an otherwise great mode that completely overshadows the horribly disappointing story, which I assume is the main draw for most people.
I Got A Bad Feeling About This (HA! YES! HE SAID THE THING!)
As I alluded to before, Episode 1 is the best both gameplay and story-wise. You start as an unnamed silent protagonist that is accompanied by a sassy and quippy droid that I hated the moment she started talking. I found her horribly annoying, but also found great joy in seeing her get thrown around, get shot at and have things explode in her face many times. Anyway, your ship gets stopped by the Empire and get taken to the Mustafar system, where Darth Vader is waiting to use the hidden power within you for his own selfish purposes. The atmosphere, along with seeing Vader himself imposingly stand in front of you, leaves a really good impression.
The problem here is that most of the game is spent with the annoying robot and other boring characters that don’t matter, while the titular Vader is barely in the game. He comes back for a pretty exciting ending and an incredibly well done teaser for the next episode, but for the most part, Darth Vader appearances are very few and far in-between.In the first two episodes, Vader shows up for a bit at the start and at the end. In the last episode, he only shows up at the very end for a boss battle that lasts what feels like 20 seconds, and then the story ends. It’s very disappointing to see practically nothing of substance be done with the character, let alone see him at all.
Darth Vader’s involvement in the story is nothing to get excited about either. They try to bring up his motivations through brief glimpses at his backstory as a way to somewhat humanize him and add more complexity to the man behind the mask. However, this falls flat on its face on account of the fact that there’s already three prequel movies that do exactly that. I see absolutely no point in making a story like this when anyone that knows anything about Star Wars is already pretty clued in on how Darth Vader came to be. If you are one of the two people that have been living under a rock and don’t know what Star Wars is, then maybe this will intrigue you a little bit. But, there’s so little detail involved in these segments that the only way that you would know what any of it means is if you have already seen the movies; so what’s the point in doing any of this in the first place? Why not show a different side of him that comes out as you interact and train with him? Oh wait, you can’t do that either because Vader is barely in the game at all. It gets to the point that it even feels like false advertising when all the marketing material has Darth Vader’s face plastered all over it, but the actual game is 80% not Darth Vader.
Based on the trailers and other reviews I’ve read online about this game, there was always this implication that Darth Vader himself would be your master that would train you in the ways of the Force, and by extension, the Dark Side. Even the ending of Episode 1 heavily implies that Vader will train you and mold you into someone that will be powerful enough to survive the harsh challenges ahead of you. None of these things happen in Vader Immortal at all. What ACTUALLY happens, is that in the beginning of Episode 2, Vader teaches you to move rocks around for about 2 minutes, and that’s literally it. There is no other training beyond that. There’s a big enemy that shows up that ends up separating you from Vader, and then you keep doing the same crap you were doing in Episode 1: staring at uninteresting characters talking and walking around without any of the cinematography that would usually enhance the experience, because its in VR. With all that said, I think I have a slight suspicion over why the story is so shallow and doesn’t take any risks at all.
Pics Or It Isn’t Canon
I don’t understand why every single Star Wars property has to somehow be canon and can’t just be it’s own thing, or at least get framed as some sort of alternate timeline where things turn out differently. Because of this insistence in trying to squeeze this VR game into the main story, there is nothing interesting that is done here. You can’t defeat Vader or join the Dark side with him. No alternate endings or freedom of choice that can let you tell your own story in this series. This created a lot of frustration for me as I waited for something interesting to happen, since the Story Mode lacks in the combat department as well. Aside from one cool fight at the end of Episode 1, there is practically nothing you can do that’s on the level of the Lightsaber Dojo. The gameplay itself is so horrendously lacking that I would recommend you not touching the Lightsaber Dojo at all until you finish the entire story. Otherwise, you’ll be left wandering when the story will end so you can go back to killing more droids and unlock that cool purple lightsaber you want.
All the different mechanics and fun things they introduce in every episode is never brought back again either, like using the heat from the lightsaber to melt off steel pipes, or using the Force to activate switches. I saw this as an introduction to some sort of mechanic that will then expand to puzzle solving or many different ways to defeat enemies, but I was giving the game too much credit with those thoughts. I was almost baffled by a part toward the end of Episode 3, where you take control of a special lightsaber that commands an entire army of robot soldiers. They have you learn some motions that act as commands to direct your forces. At this point, I’m excited. I’m thinking there’s going to be a whole level dedicated to using my army to defeat different waves of enemies, and possibly even learn new commands. In reality, you only do the commands once, and then point at some ships to shoot, and then never use it again. It is this exact feeling of squandered potential that looms over the entire experience. I hate thinking about this game, because it’s a tragic, non-stop marathon of everything that could’ve been. Why they didn’t commit to anything that was introduced in the story, I have no idea, but all it did was left me wanting for a new VR series that actual cares. While I wait for that day to come, I’ll keep improving in the dojo and getting all the points in every round, because that’s where the fun is at.
In conclusion, if you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan, then you’ll most likely find some enjoyment in the Story Mode, but you’ll definitely get an orgasm out of turning on a lightsaber for the first time in the Dojo. I even read some reviews that complained when the game made things more interactive and acted more like…y’know…a video game. It’s clear that some people are perfectly okay with just letting a movie play out in front of their eyes in VR, but I still think that there is so much, and I mean SOOOOOOO MUCH more that could’ve been done here, but the developers simply couldn’t be bothered.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Lightsaber Dojo is a hell of a lot of fun, so just play that and ignore the story. I’d rather have you get a headache over the many hours you’ll spend perfecting your skills fighting droids than getting a migraine over the sheer level of mediocrity on display with the Story Mode.