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Unanswered questions we still have about Vader Immortal

Star Wars Celebration has brought about a ton of new, shiny things to be excited for: the first look at Episode IX, more details about The Mandalorian television show, and some information about all-new games. It's about time, too. EA's claim on the Star Wars name is up in a few years, so we're hoping that they manage to squeeze out a few new titles like Jedi: Fallen Order. But there is another game from a galaxy far, far away on the horizon that you may have forgotten about.

In Sep. 2018, we got our very first peek at ILMxLAB's very own Star Wars VR experience known as Vader Immortal. ILMxLAB is a division of Lucasfilm dedicated to making immersive Star Wars experiences. Their previous work includes 2016's Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine for the Oculus and Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a hyper-reality experience in partnership with The VOID that includes interactive sets and real-time effects as part of a location-based experience that goes far beyond VR. You can play Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1 in your living room, but the trailer promises it to be just as immersive as a "hyper-reality" experience, whatever that means. We don't know a lot about the game thus far, but the sight of Darth Vader in VR space has us more than a little intrigued.

Why are we here?

Here's what we know: not a lot. But VR experiences are all about the visuals, so much so that a mere few minutes of lava burbling ominously beneath a dour, monolithic castle on Mustafar in Rogue One is what inspired the whole of Vader Immortal.

"In the film, the audience gets a glimpse of Darth Vader's castle on Mustafar, which we knew would be intriguing to a lot of fans. This was also around the time that some of the first really compelling content for the Oculus DK2, the developer kit that preceded the Oculus Rift, came out. We recognized that VR has a unique ability to transport people to a fictional place and let them explore it. So, we thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool to let the audience visit and explore Vader's castle, and have the opportunity to learn some of his secrets?'" said Mohen Leo, director of immersive content at ILMxLAB in an interview with StarWars.com.

From the trailer, we learn that you were cruising on by when your ship was suddenly pulled from hyperspace. You're captured by Vader and taken to the fortress, where the whole of the game appears to take place. Why you're there is a wholly different question.

Who are you?

Let's get existential: who are you? In Vader Immortal, there's something apparently special about you, the player and protagonist of this VR adventure. You start the game as the captain of a smuggler ship, minding your own business, when you're suddenly pulled from hyperspace. Taken into the brutal Fortress Vader, you somehow cause some inconveniences before you meet with the big man himself. "I can tell you that the first time we did tests with Vader approaching you — it's just incredibly intimidating," writer David S. Goyer, of The Dark Knight fame, said.

According to fellow captives, now that Vader has you, he is in reach of "enormous power." This leads us to believe that you're more than just any old smuggler; you're able to wield a lightsaber after all. Another part of the trailer says, "It appears Vader has finally found his candidate." We're going to take a wild guess and say that you're his candidate — which is all but confirmed when the Dark Lord himself later says, "You are the one I have been searching for."

Sith Lords love to find successors. Inside and outside of official canon, Vader has taken on apprentices like Starkiller. The trailer suggests that you, dear player, have the choice to follow in Vader's footsteps. But until more information is released, that's just a theory.

What are you doing?

In Vader Immortal, you have a goal, because that's how video games work. Specifically, you're told by a one-armed Empire officer that Lord Vader has a task for you. We're going to venture to assume that anything that Darth Vader wants you to do is going to be nefarious in some capacity. From the trailer, we know that there's a glowing yellow cube, a temple-like structure with hieroglyphs on the wall, and some kind of destiny that you're wrapped up in. Skywalkers loves destinies.

Being presumably sane, the player instead opts to try to escape Mustafar, and thus a large part of the game is exploratory: making your way through the fortress as you and a few newfound companions dodge stormtroopers and Vader himself. At your side is droid co-pilot ZOE3, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and a gravelly-voiced alien who insists, "You must escape."

Escaping is pretty straightforward, but what's all this stuff about fate and destiny and candidacy? What does Vader want from you? How does this factor into the canon? We've got questions, but it looks like we'll have to wait for answers.

Why "Immortal?"

Titles are telling. They're supposed to be, anyway. We're muddling over the mystery of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series — Episode 1. Breaking it down, there are a few things we know for sure: according to ILMxLAB there will be a total of three episodes of this story. But why "immortal?" We're going to guess that this is not in reference to Diablo Immortal. Considering the taint around that name, there surely must be good reason for ILMxLAB and Lucasfilm to have dedicated themselves to terminology that doesn't get the most favorable of reviews.

We're unlikely to know the true meaning behind the name until the game actually comes out. In fact, the whole thing might remain mysterious until the final episode is released. For now, we can only speculate. Perhaps the idea of "immortality" has to do with the old Sith Lord finding a successor, someone to carry on his Darth mantle. Or maybe there's a fountain of youth, a philosopher's stone-esque Jedi MacGuffin hidden on Mustafar that he needs you, dear player, to fetch for him. Who knows? We don't, not until we get to play.

Why episodes?

We mentioned that there will be three episodes to the Vader Immortal story. They have written been by David S. Goyer, who said that writing Vader was thrilling. "As someone who watched Episode IV opening day as an 11-year-old," Goyer said in an interview with StarWars.com, "to actually write dialogue for Vader, and to be told by the Story Group that it actually sounded like Vader — that was a personal thrill for me."

His writing is now officially part of the Star Wars canon, because Vader Immortal had the benefit of the consultation and seal of approval from the Lucasfilm Story Group. In this game, more than any other before, we'll get to know more about Darth Vader. "We came up with the concept, and then we had a conversation about where in the timeline it would fit. Everyone felt very strongly that it's a legitimate Vader story and that it advances the ball in terms of who he is and what his goals are," Goyer said.

While we don't know what those goals are, we could guess that the reason behind the game being divided into episodes has perhaps to do with playability. When it comes to VR, spending more than an hour strapped into a headset can get arduous. And sweaty. Plus, with episodes, the game lives longer: you have more to look forward to over a longer amount of time.

Why VR?

Motion controls have backfired on Star Wars before. Just look at Kinect Star Wars, a simple premise made needlessly complicated, its only saving grace the meme-able Galactic Dance-Off Mode. (I'm Han Solo… I'm Han Solo.) We learned that as simple as swinging around lightsabers sounds, it's actually easy to mess up the controls. So why VR for this experience?

Goyer says that it is all about the gravitas. "VR just conveys an enormous amount of presence. You really feel like you're there. Millions of people have had a fantasy of wanting to inhabit the Star Wars universe. And you get to inhabit it in a real way and interact with Vader for a significant period of time. But also, what's remarkable about VR, is it can convey emotions. It's a different way to experience Vader. Different from the movies, different from cartoons, so that's what's really exciting."

He also said that Vader Immortal is a game that can only be experienced in VR, that the studio has no plans to ever port the series elsewhere. Maybe this is a second attempt at lightsaber motion controls now that the technology is more precise. The trailers thus far haven't shown much gameplay, and what little there was involved a lot of flailing. Until we play the game, we won't know why this story is so important to be told in this medium but for now we do know that we hope this will be a better experience than Kinect Star Wars.

When do we get to play?

Sold on the experience? We definitely want to give it a try, but we're not sure when we'll be able to. Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1 does not yet have a release date, but is set to come out at some point in 2019. We're not sure if this will be a summer hit or come out nearer to the release of Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker at Christmas.

Vader Immortal is meant to be played on the Oculus Rift S or the upcoming Oculus Quest, an entirely wireless experience set to release in spring 2019. Maybe the idea is that the first adventure on the Quest is a lightsaber-swinging, fortress-exploring, puzzle-solving Star Wars quest as never before experienced. Until the undecided date when we can strap in and play at being a Jedi, or a smuggler, or whatever we're meant to be, we'll have to mull over the mysteries the trailers have thus far provided. What's the story behind Vader Immortal?