The secrets of the Empire are about to be revealed to you in a brand new VR experience in Downtown Disney Anaheim and at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World.
Earlier this week, we were able to attend a preview of Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire at The Void in Downtown Disney (located in the space vacated by Fossil and Vault Disney). All we knew about Secrets of the Empire beforehand was that it was a virtual reality Star Wars experience.
Here’s how the VOID explains the story:
“Under the orders of the budding rebellion, your team will travel to the molten planet of Mustafar. Your mission is to recover Imperial intelligence vital to the rebellion’s survival. Alongside the pragmatic droid K-2S0, your team must navigate through an enemy facility walking into danger at every turn. Disguised as stormtroopers, grab your blaster, solve puzzles, and fight giant lava monsters in an effort to fulfill your team’s orders.”
I was happy with the characters encountered, and where it fits in the Star Wars timeline. I was part of a three-person team; each of us got to select a color for our virtual Stormtrooper before putting on our gear. It is a time-consuming process getting properly strapped into vests that house a computer system and making sure the virtual reality goggles fit snugly. All three of us were excited when we put on the goggles and could see our Stormtrooper “hands.” It was a bit cumbersome sitting down with the gear on since it is hard to determine how much room is around you. I could hear my teammates in my helmet, but there was either a glitch so that they could not hear me, or else they were so immersed in the game that they did not notice what I was saying. When I kneeled to take cover to avoid being shot, one teammate knocked into me since everyone was concentrating on their own reality.
Taking off the gear at the end and walking into the real world was disorienting, much like when you get off of a cruise ship and have to shake off your sea legs; my back also felt out of alignment. The computer system allows you to feel heat and the vibration of getting shot (I only felt it minimally; maybe my vest was not tight enough?) – there are supposed to be smells as well, but I did not notice any.
There’s a moment on a skiff at the beginning of the experience – be sure to take a 360 degree look around you, it’s spectacular and sets the tone for the adventure to come. If you are a Star Wars fan, the environment is familiar and you don’t have to be told what to do in advance. My favorite part was picking up the blaster and shooting away. Since it was a preview, we did not get any photos or virtual rewards, but I believe paying guests will get something along those lines. I would like to go a second time, because knowing what to expect, and being more comfortable with the gear should make an already fun time all the more awesome.
UPDATED (More info and photos from Scott Attula):
The entire experience end to end was approximately 20 minutes. About 10 minutes to suit up and get briefed and another 10 minutes to play. Photos were not allowed in the experience itself. However, most of what you’d want to see takes place in your glasses and can’t be photographed anyway.
What blew me away was that there were actual tactile things to touch and manipulate. If there was a button to push, I could reach out and push it. If there’s a lever to pull, you can see it and actually pull it down to cause an action. So there are real sets! There are also environmental feelings. If it’s hot, you feel the heat. You might experience steam. There are rattling effects. You’ll also feel things on your body. If you get hit or shot, you’ll feel that (in a non-painful way) on your front or back. It’s really impressive on a level that other VR experiences I’ve done haven’t felt. I just did a 45 minute VR experience in Vegas which I really enjoyed, but it wasn’t REAL in the way this was. This is true story immersion.
I’m not going to give away any story, but there are moments of intense action. A certain villain walked into the room with me and I almost pooped my pants. Especially since there was nothing that my blaster was going to do to this guy and he let me know it. Scary and awesome at the same time.
There were some growing pains. I was confused where to go when I entered the facility. There were other players standing around. I wasn’t sure where to sign in at first. Never did a staff member ask me if I needed any assistance. I saw an iPad on at the front desk (which had three people standing behind it) that said “Scan QR Code HERE,” so I scanned the QR code from my ticket assuming that’s where I needed to check in. But that crashed the iPad. Turns out that iPad is for redeeming your photo later. They should just have one of their many staff members stand at the front door to direct folks in and out. But those are all things that can be worked out and fixed with better signage for the facility and better training for the bewildered staff.
Is the experience worth $30? It’s certainly on the upper end of what I’d be willing to pay. I’m glad I did it. I’d recommend it to you as well. But I don’t think I’d pay for it again unless they ran a special or one of my friends bought it for me as a gift. Hint, hint friends, this would be a great gift for me.
Tickets are $30 per person. You can schedule a visit to the VOID and find out more information here – Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire