Bethesda's promised trilogy of virtual reality releases in 2017 actually came to fruition, with the company's Doom, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls series each getting a VR port by year's end. This release schedule, unfortunately, came with one caveat: in Skyrim VR's case, that version would be limited to a PlayStation VR launch as opposed to a more modular release on powerful gaming PCs.
That situation changes next month. On Wednesday, Bethesda formally announced the April 3 launch of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR for SteamVR on Windows PCs.
This marks the ninth discrete SKU for Skyrim. Its 2011 launch landed on Windows PCs, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, while its 2016 remaster landed on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (along with a wholly new SKU on Windows). The following year saw Bethesda launch the aforementioned PSVR version, which came out on the same day in November as the game's Nintendo Switch version.
Should Skyrim fans be excited? Possibly, if only because everything we least liked about the PSVR version will be remedied by default thanks to the standard HTC Vive control suite. Ars' Kyle Orland was kinder to that version's motion control scheme, but I never quite latched on to its combination of oddly mapped PlayStation Move wand buttons and iffy motion controls. Either way, we're hoping that updates to Doom VFR's Vive motion suite land on Skyrim VR by default. Additionally, the lower resolution and muddy textures did little to endear us to yet another Skyrim dive, and we know that standard SteamVR performance scales higher than what PSVR offers.
Oculus olive branch?
If you're not excited by the news as either a Skyrim or HTC Vive fan, there's also the matter of an interesting tidbit in the game's Steam store listing: the game will ship with Oculus support baked in. With other Bethesda VR games, Valve has had to implement an override function, used to defeat Bethesda's admittedly weak "no Rift" trigger in Fallout 4 VR and Doom VFR. Now, Skyrim VR includes an explicit "this will work on Oculus" tag.
This marks the first time that Bethesda has ever formally supported an Oculus Rift product, which adds a wholly new wrinkle to the lengthy legal battle between Oculus and Bethesda. The game does not appear to have a dedicated Oculus Store page, but, based on the Steam listing's page, Oculus headset owners will be able to buy the game via SteamVR and boot it on Oculus hardware that way—and possibly use motion-tracked Oculus Touch controllers, too. (Windows Mixed Reality headsets will also be supported.)
The greatest question as of press time is how mod-friendly Skyrim VR will turn out on PCs. Both of the game's Windows SKUs were given new life pretty much entirely by Steam Workshop contributors who slaved away at texture packs, recoloring efforts, and other quality-of-life tweaks. We have reached out to Bethesda with questions about Steam Workshop support and will update this report if we receive a response.
Listing image by Bethesda