Vader Immortal: Episode II hands-on: Feeling powerful with the Force

Minor spoilers ahead for Vader Immortal: Episode II.

When ILMxLAB released Vader Immortal: Episode I on the Oculus headset, fans of the Star Wars franchise and VR fans celebrated by downloading the experience. The game quickly became one of the top-selling games for both the Quest and Rift S, and remains there at the time of this writing.

During Oculus Connect 6, Mark Zuckerberg brought up the ILMxLAB team to the stage to announce that the next chapter of Vader Immortal was available now for the Quest and Rift S.

Vader Immortal: Episode II picks up where Episode I left off. You're still training with the powerful Sith Lord, Darth Vader, as he guides you through a series of caverns below his castle located on the tiny, fiery planet Mustafar. Being immersed into the Star Wars universe where you are playing a role in the story is as incredible as you would think it would be.

Because VR can hack your brain, I truly felt like I was in Star Wars and the characters were real. Standing face-to-face with Vader is as intimidating as you'd think it would be. His iconic breathing was menacing and hypnotic, and with Vader being 6'2", I actually found myself stepping backwards every time he took a step towards me.

To help bring some lightness to the game, your robot sidekick ZO-E3 (voiced by Maya Rudolph) is with you to provide help and sometimes snarky comments as you continue your path to learning the ways of the Force.

It's down this path that you discover a secret about a powerful being who is trained in the ways of the Force, named Lady Corvax. She is responsible for the creation of an ancient relic that could possibly bring the dead back to life. Vader is seeking this device for his own purposes. Maybe to bring back the woman he loves, Padme Amidala, or maybe to exploit its powers to control the galaxy.

Does this episode differ from the last one?


Controlling how you move and interact in the game is the same as Episode I but with one big difference: you now have Force powers that let you move objects such as rocks and levers. You can even grab your enemies and brutally throw them to the ground or into each other.

To access the Force, you use the Quest controller buttons that are located on the hilt where your middle fingers rests. Just hold the button down and point your hand at an object. Eventually you'll see the object begin to glow and shake, and the bigger the object, the longer it takes for you to gain control of it. Once you are in control, you can move it in any direction simply by moving your arm in any direction. To let go, you just release the button.

ILMxLAB did an excellent job bringing that feeling of Force power to Vader Immortal 2. You actually feel powerful when lifting a robot and slamming it into the ground, and the action of attempting to lift a heavy object will actually have you trying to focus your mind on the task. At one point when I failed to move an object, I actually found myself thinking about the wise words Yoda said to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, "Do or do not, there is no try." This motivated me to focus harder, even though I don't actually have Force powers.

Vader Immortal Force powers

Another big update in Episode II is that you can now throw your lightsaber, and since you have Force powers, this means you can then summon your saber back into your hand for your next attack. To throw your lightsaber, or any object, you physically swing your arm in a throwing motion and then let go of the trigger.

Holding a lightsaber in VR doesn't feel like you're holding an actual lightsaber.

Where it gets really fun is when you combine your fighting talents with the Force to hold an enemy in the air with your free hand and then throw your lightsaber into your enemy's chest. You can use the force to pull your enemy close to you where you can then hold them and then strike them down with your lightsaber face to face, which feels really good.

Vader Immortal isn't perfect. Though the visuals all around you look absolutely amazing and the story is wonderfully engaging, holding a lightsaber in VR doesn't feel like you're holding an actual lightsaber. The Quest controllers won't let you hold the saber with two hands, and the lack of real weight can take you out of the experience. There was no extra feeling when an enemy's lightsaber clashed with yours, stopping the momentum of your swing, for example.

To be fair, I had the same issue with Episode I, so this problem isn't new. Of course, if you're pretty good with design, I'm sure you could come up with something that you could create and then 3D print that would fix this very small nit picky issue.

It's a small complaint and one I should get over because the emotional feeling you get from grabbing your lightsaber from your belt and igniting it looks and sounds really cool, even without the physical experience. On top of that, the story and the VR environment makes you forget about that small physical complaint. I even found myself yelling and grunting during battles with my enemies.

Types of gameplay


Vader Immortal: Episode II has two modes of gameplay. One is the story mode, where you can play each chapter of the story as it unfolds. It's in this mode that you'll meet new characters, battle a four-armed Rancor, and have the ability to build your own lightsaber by discovering kyber crystals, the crystal that powers a lightsaber. You'll also uncover a new ancient powerful weapon called a Lightsword that you can use during your quest.

The Lightsaber Dojo is arguably the best part of the first Vader Immortal.

Once you've completed a chapter, you're then able to revisit that chapter anytime you want to relive a battle or maybe look for something you might have missed the first time.

To ensure continuity, ILMxLAB brought back writer David S. Goyer to write the second installment of the story with both episodes being considered part of the Star Wars canon, and it's most likely that Goyer will return to pen the third and final installment of Vader Immortal.

Another mode in Vader Immortal is the Lightsaber Dojo. In this mode you can work on mastering your lightsaber and Force power skills through a series of exercises that will have you battling an onslaught of robots and training remotes that come at you in every direction. You need to be fast, on your toes, and always looking over your shoulders because you have no idea which direction the training robots will come from. It's here that you can practice using both the force and throwing your lightsaber, or learning how to defend yourself from a series of blaster attacks and lightsaber strikes.

The Lightsaber Dojo is arguably the best part of the first Vader Immortal, so it makes sense that ILMxLAB would take that success and carry it over into Episode II. There are improvements as well, such as bigger challenges that require you to use both the Force and throwing abilities.

Bottom line

Vader Immortal: Episode II is an incredible Star Wars experience. It's a ton of fun to play because you're not only watching a Star Wars story, but because you are part of the story. For any Star Wars fan, that is the ultimate dream.

The team behind Vader Immortal did everything they could do to ensure that Episode II had great storytelling and awesome VR action. Having Force powers and being able to throw your lightsaber is a much welcomed addition to this VR series, and Goyer's writing is stellar and really captures the true spirit of the Star Wars universe.

Everything combined not only shows how far VR has come with storytelling, but shows how we can take VR entertainment into a much deeper level where your actions bring the story to life. Vader Immortal does all of that, and like in true Star Wars form, ends on a great cliffhanger that will have you impatiently waiting for the final third chapter in this amazing Star Wars VR series.

Vader Immortal: Episode II is available now in the Oculus Store for the Rift S and the Quest.

Bobby Carlton

Bobby Carlton is a contributing writer for Mobile Nations who lives in Upstate NY and has covered events such as SXSW, CES, Tribeca Film Festival, Learning, TechLearn, Comic Con, and countless other conferences that may have the latest in VR and AR news. He doesn't like raw onions, always up for a chat about Star Wars, and once met Matt Damon in an airport and for some reason called him, Ted Damon. Follow him on Twitter at [@bcarlton727.