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Vader Immortal: Every Nerd’s Wet Dream

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Flip the lever once in a lifetime, when the falcon accelerates to the speed of light, elegantly swing the lightsaber or face Darth Vader in person – things that I dreamed of as a small child. With Vader Immortal, it all finally comes true thanks to virtual reality. And to say it straight away: Yes, it's about as awesome as it sounds. So far, the Star Wars VR game has been PC exclusive. Now it is also available for Playstation VR.

Vader Immortal is pure fan service for Star Wars fans. Even the entry takes you not only literally into the galaxy far, far away, but also gives you the feeling of being there in person via VR: In the cockpit of a smuggler spaceship similar to the Millennium Falcon, we are allowed to completely remove the flashing lights of the fittings Marvel at the proximity, listen to the snappy chatter of our droid ZO-E3 in the copilot's seat, operate a few buttons and finally flick the lever to accelerate to the speed of light: the stars stretch into long lines, boom, we are in the blue-glowing tunnel of hyperspace – woohoo!

In terms of play, Vader Immortal is not particularly important – although the lightsaber fights in particular were implemented extremely cool, which we will talk about later. It is primarily about the “experience”, the experience of feeling qua virtual reality in this fantastic world, in which one has secretly felt at home since childhood: once through the black corridors of an imperial base walk with their white light ornaments and red-rimmed computer consoles, feel like a mighty Jedi who nimbly wields his whirring lightsaber through the air, hurls rocks with the power of thought and fends off laser shots like a baseball bat.

When a gigantic star destroyer descends over me in the opening sequence and goes on an intercept course to my spaceship, it feels like the big bang that started it all in 1977: the very first scene in the Star Wars saga that made cinema history at the time – only that This time you don't see it in front of the screen, but actually experience it first-hand. German sports television once advertised with the slogan “Right in the middle instead of just being there” and hit Vader Immortal's slogan like a nail on the head.

The phantom menace

You play a smuggler who is captured by the empire and taken to Mustafar, the lava planet on which the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan took place in Revenge of the Sith and who has housed the black fortress of Darth Vader since Rogue One. In the caves below, the dark lord searches for an artifact from an ancient civilization that has the power to overcome death and should finally enable Vader to bring Padmé back to life. As descendants of this native people, you will be forced by him to assist him in the search, for which he will even initiate you into the secrets of power.

But that soon puts you in a dangerous bind, the grip of which gets tighter with every step. Because in order to pull your own head out of the loop, you enter into such a pact with the devil, to whom you play a weapon with limitless destructive power, with which he can finally subjugate the galaxy. You're secretly just waiting for an opportunity to stab him in the back. But deceiving the most powerful villain in the universe – how do you go about it as a poor smuggler?

Vader Immortal is, for the most part, what is called a “VR experience”. Every now and then flipping a lever, climbing a ladder or cracking a door lock by simply pulling the power cable out of the switch box – to call such actions “puzzles” would be vastly exaggerated. But that's exactly what makes this type of VR experience so special. After all, Luke Skywalker didn't have to solve a switch puzzle to break free from the junk press. Playful demands would only hinder the illusion and stand in the way of the experience, which is aimed entirely at immersion in a world that one has always wanted to travel to.

Despite this simplicity, Vader Immortal proves to be astonishingly varied and extremely entertaining every second. Sometimes you fend off the laser shots of stormtroopers while you whiz through a crystal cave on a glider at breakneck speed, then again you command an entire robot army like a general with a finger pointing. And then the fight against a huge rancor, which you have to master with the lightsaber and rocks thrown by telekinesis. Thanks to VR, it feels as spectacular as it sounds.

A more elegant weapon from more civilized days

If there is anything like a playful centerpiece of Vader Immortal, it is the lightsaber fights, which were implemented in an amazingly intuitive and technically excellent manner. The actual combat system behind it is extremely simple: Basically, it simply consists of fending off easily predictable attacks by opponents with gestures to the left, right or up, and then striking back at the right moment. What would certainly lead to dull Quicktime reaction tests on the TV screen with the controller and degenerate into silly waving on the Wii, actually feels almost like a real sword fight here.

Vader Immortal succeeds in giving an intoxicating feeling of empowerment, not in spite of, but precisely because of its easily comprehensible design. In an admirable way, it always walks the fine line to be controllable at any time purely intuitively, as is typical for video games, but successfully creates the illusion and always maintains it that everything can at least theoretically be real. In any case, after a very short time, Vader Immortal succeeds splendidly in believing that as a player, even without years of training, but with a bit of a flourishing imagination, one can lead real sword fights like a fully trained Jedi knight. (Or maybe just because the game's difficulty level is so easy that, to be honest, I don't even know if you can even die.)

While your knees shake when you first encounter Darth Vader just because of his imposing appearance, in the final duel against him at the end of the game you actually feel like a mighty Jedi knight who can take him on. I strongly recommend playing Vader Immortal standing up because it increases this feeling of omnipotence enormously when you stand with your legs apart and deal blows in all directions, as you could otherwise only admire from a distance from Luke on Jabba's sailing barge.

Unfortunately, the game is very, very short with around two hours of play time. Each of the three episodes only lasts 30 to 45 minutes. This is marginal even for the moderate 27 euros the game costs on PSN and the overall very high quality of production. Especially since the rather carelessly implemented wave fights, in which you can still let off steam with the lightsaber after the story campaign, only laboriously stretch the playing time, but do not enrich it.

After all, they give you the opportunity to feel like a powerful Jedi a little longer. Because the sword fights come a little short in the actual game. Like some other things. If the developers have to put up with one reproach, it is that they have made far too little of their actually successful and sometimes quite complex game ideas. That the extremely cool hurling of the lightsaber is only used in the inconsequential wave mode, but not in the real game, seems downright strange. Some players may not find out at all or only by chance that the game even includes a shooter mechanic with the blaster. The fact that this is only used briefly for three minutes towards the end seems completely incomprehensible. From this alone you could easily have made three of your own sections before it wears out. If the developers had made a little more of what they already had, the game would have been twice or three times as long.

Like many other VR games, Vader Immortal leaves the impression of a tutorial or a feasibility study for a game that, strictly speaking, still owes it. Perhaps we will experience this with a successor who, in the end, will at least move into the realm of possibility. Or in the next game from the developer, which has already been announced and which will again be a Star Wars VR experience: Tales from Galaxy's Edge, which takes up the location of the Star Wars park at Disneyland with the planet Batuu and revolves around a group of rogues. I can not wait any longer.

Since I had my first console when I was 10, I've never stopped playing. I'm a multiplatform player and my favorite genre is RPG.

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