'Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series' First Impressions: Wielding A Lightsaber Never Felt So Good

At Star Wars Celebration 2019, fans can try out Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series, a new virtual reality video game from ILMxLAB coming to the Oculus Quest headset and Oculus Rift headsets this spring (watch the new trailer). But before Vader Immortal becomes available to the general public, I was able to get a sneak preview of the experience, and let me tell you, wielding a lightsaber has never felt so good.

Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series is one of the most fun, immersive video game experiences I've ever had, and even though it seems rather simply executed when it comes to player participation, it really shows the potential of virtual reality to bring us into the worlds that we love to escape into on the big screen. Find out more from my Vader Immortal reaction below.

First of all, if you've never experienced virtual reality in an Oculus headset, here's what we're dealing with:

Oculus Quest

That's the Oculus Quest headset, a new wireless version of the virtual reality hardware that is being released this spring for $399, which is when Vader Immortal will launch. The headset straps onto your head and face, immersing you in a 360-degree environment that you glance around via the screen technology right in front of your eyes. Meanwhile, one controller goes into each of your hands, representing your left and right hand in the virtual space. You'll use them to grab items, push buttons, and yes, swing a lightsaber. There's no wire connecting the controllers to the headset, and no console for the headset to plug into. It allows for easy, free-roaming to effectively experience virtual reality. So how does this work with Vader Immortal?

Starting the Story

The Vader Immortal sneak preview begins with an interrogation droid staring you in the face before a partially metal-faced, bionic-armed Imperial admiral comes in to brief you. This admiral isn't confident that you'll be the person Darth Vader is looking for, and it's clear you're one of several candidates that the Dark Lord of Sith has considered. It sounds like the previous candidates didn't fare too well in assisting Darth Vader, and they were dispatched with in a rather messy fashion.

Suddenly, Darth Vader emerges from the background out of an elevator. The villain has always been intimidating on the big screen, but Vader Immortal makes him that much more imposing thanks to the virtual reality format. Vader towers over you, not in a cartoonish way, but just enough to make you feel like you're dealing with someone you don't want to cross. That makes his testing of your skills all the more important.

Vader hands you an ornate cube which looks like it could easily be a Jedi holocron. He tasks you with figuring out how to open it, which is considerably easy since you merely have to push what appears to be a glowing button on one side of it. It's not even a puzzle, which is a little disappointing, and feels a little too simple. But the cube opens up intricately to reveal a glowing blue crystal inside.

The once skeptical admiral is impressed and Darth Vader is satisfied, telling you, his counterpart, that you are exactly what he's been looking for. But first, you must become more in tune with the Force. And that's where your training comes into play.

Lightsaber Training

This is where the bulk of the Vader Immortal experience really impressed me, though it's not exactly part of the narrative since it's part of the lightsaber dojo you can play around in outside of the story. Using the controls in your hands, you pick up a lightsaber hilt in the middle of a room with one hand. And with the push of a button, you ignite it. The controller vibrates slightly as the hum of the lightsaber fills your headphones. The way the Oculus Quest reacts seamlessly to your movements makes you feel like you're really wielding this elegant weapon. And then you get to use it to defend and attack.

In a three-round series of training, you must use your lightsaber to deflect laser bolts from the same kind of floating orb that Luke Skywalker used in Star Wars: A New Hope. After you deflect a certain number of laser blasts, then you must face-off with a droid armed with a lightsaber-esque red blade. The droid waves its weapon around, gearing up for an attack, and you must be prepared to have your lightsaber in the right spot to block. If you block the first blow, then you keep defending until the droid gets flustered, giving you the opportunity to slice right through it.

Using a lightsaber to deflect lasers and spar like a Jedi is more than satisfying. I found myself rolling my wrist in a taunting fashion as I waited for the next laser blast or blade strike. The training orb and droid move around you at the same time in the third round of training, forcing you to multi-task in your defense, moving in a 360-degree space, feeling like a total badass. No video game has captured the exhilaration of wielding a lightsaber like Vader Immortal, and even though the gameplay is still quite simple, the experience is still thrilling.

The Way of the Future

With only experiencing a small part of Vader Immortal, it's hard to say how much better the gameplay gets as the story continues. Any gamer will tell you that the training is always much more simple than the actual game. But what excites me most about Vader Immortal is the potential this has for future immersive experiences in video games. This kind of technology is only going to get better, and if virtual reality can take off with engaging gameplay and narratives that take us into our favorite worlds, then the future of VR entertainment is bright.

Vader Immortal will be a lot of fun for people who give the Oculus Quest and other Oculus headsets a chance to impress them. I can't wait to see what else the ILMxLAB comes up with, especially when it comes to continuing Vader Immortal. After all, this is only Episode I, so this story will likely be continuing. But I'm sure ILMxLAB has plenty more Star Wars experiences up their sleeve.

Oculus Quest launches this spring for $399, and Vader Immortal will be released at the same time. But it will also be available on the other Oculus Rift headsets at some point. Stay tuned for more.