ILMxLAB’s three-part series officially comes to a close with a solid, but flawed final episode.
Last week developer ILMxLAB released the third and final episode of its original episodic series, Vader Immortal – A Star Wars VR series. Available on Oculus Rift/Rift S and Oculus Quest headsets, this final entry marks the end of a year-long adventure in which players battled waves of Imperial Stormtroopers and long-dormant sentinel droids, solved a variety of ancient puzzles, and explored the tangled labyrinth that is Vader’s Mustafar castle, all while mastering the ways of The Force and learning to wield the legendary lightsaber.
For Star Wars fans, the series offers a rare look into the personal life of Vader post-Return of the Jedi, as well as the opportunity to realistically wield a lightsaber and feel the power of manipulating objects using the Force. For VR enthusiasts, it marks the first genuine attempt at a full-fledged VR trilogy. And while the series isn’t without its fair share of flaws and setbacks, it’s hard to ignore the potential impact this groundbreaking franchise could have on the industry. That being said, let’s take a closer look at Episode III:
**WARNING: EPISODE III SPOILERS AHEAD**
Following directly after the events of Vader Immortal – Episode II, Episode III has you taking controls of your newly-acquired droid army and preparing for a final assault on Vader’s castle in the hopes of stopping the aeon engine from tearing the galaxy apart. The trailers leading up to the game’s release promised large-scale battles and an epic final duel; and while the episode did deliver on several of those promises, at times it felt like a watered-down version of what could have been.
At the beginning of the episode, players use their ancient lightsaber to take control of the droid army. When a handful of Stormtroopers come bursting into the cavern, you must direct the fire of the army by pointing your saber at groups of troopers, at which point your legion of mechanical soldiers will open fire. Unfortunately, your command is short-lived. Once the sequence is completed, you’re immediately forced to pass the reigns to the Mustafarian Priestess, who commandeers the droid forced for the remainder of the experience.
From here, you then travel by shuttle to the heart of Vaders castle and lead the final assault on his forces. For the first time players are able to wield both Imperial blasters and thermal detonators, though the situations in which you’re able to use them are fairly bland and overall generic. While an epic battle ensues in the hanger below, players battle a handful of Stormtroopers throughout a series of linear catwalks, similar to previous skirmishes featured throughout both Episodes I & II. While the new weapons do a decent job at changing-up combat — there are few things more satisfying than taking out a Stormtrooper and Force grabbing his Blaster mid-air — a majority of the battles are mostly forgettable.
After several skirmishes and a few genuinely funny moments from your robot sidekick ZOE3, you finally reach the peak of Vader’s castle. There, you throwdown against the feared Sith Lord in one last epic duel. It’s a moment the series has been hyping since Episode 1, an epic clash of the titans on par with Luke and Vaders final battle in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Instead, however, you are presented with a heavily-scripted fight sequence that, somehow, feels less exciting than your previous battles with generic sentinel droids. Despite facing the most feared figure in the galaxy, it’s a fairly quick and relatively easy final battle. Even after wiping the floor with the legendary Sith Lord, Black Bishop arrives at the last second and pauses time, allowing me to destroy the aeon engine with zero interference. It was an overall disappointing final battle, especially considering the far-more engaging lightsaber fights featured throughout previous episodes.
Lightsaber Dojo III, on the other hand, improves upon Lightsaber Dojo II in nearly every way, offering players what is hands-down the best lightsaber simulator currently available. Whereas version II of the Dojo included Force abilities, new enemies, and environmental traps, version III ups-the-ante even further with the introduction of even more enemies, Force Lightning, the ability to dual-wield lightsabers, and numerous other additions. While Episode III’s story may be the weakest, Lightsaber Dojo III is, without doubt, the definitive version of the three.
All-in-all, Vader Immortal – A Star Wars VR Series is a commendable attempt at a AAA VR trilogy. By harnessing the power of a recognizable property and partnering with a leading immersive hardware provider, ILMxLAB has created VR’s first commercially-successful VR trilogy, signifying a new dawn in immersive entertainment.
For those who’ve yet to experience Vader Immortal, Oculus is currently running a deal in which those who purchase an Oculus Quest headset between now and January 31st will receive all three episodes 100% free-of-charge. For the best possible experience, might I be so bold as to recommend playing through all three episodes in one sitting if at all possible? While each episode excels on its own, they’re still relatively short. Experiencing all three at once makes it feels as though you’re playing through an entire Star Wars film; a sensation I’m sure many of us would love to experience.
Feature Image Credit: ILMxLAB