Star Wars - Secrets of the Empire by The VOID and ILMxLab

Star Wars themed free roaming VR experience at Downtown Disney.

Run: January 5-Present
Experienced: January 14, 2018
Location: The VOID at Downtown Disney, Anaheim
Address: 1580 S. Disney Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802
Price: $29.95
Tickets: Anaheim, Glendale, Orlando, London
Audience Size: 4
Runtime: 25 minutes
More Information: The Void

The Void

I had high expectations going into Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire from the buzz surrounding it but had yet to be blown away by any upcharge VR experience. Aside from VR Showdown in Ghost Town my VR experiences had been limited to the haunted house and roller coaster variety. While this was, by far, the most sophisticated VR I had experienced I came away a little disappointed.

Some of my disappointment stemmed from some minor operational and technical difficulties. I had a 3pm ticket and saw a line of 12 to 15 people lined up out of The VOID. For some reason I had assumed that was a standby line for people without tickets. I had to get to the back of the line and it was about a 40 minute wait before I got in. Since I had purchased my tickets through a movie ticketing site I had, for some reason, assumed these shows would be starting on time with little to no wait.

You experience the show in groups of 4 and the space appeared to accommodate 2 simultaneous shows. Due to low capacity (and story reasons) there is a sense of urgency when suiting up with your equipment. Despite adjusting my headgear I couldn’t see clearly without using one hand to press the eyewear closer to my eyes. I mentioned this to the person helping our group suit up but it went unnoticed in the commotion. I went through the whole show with one hand on my headset.

As we rushed to the starting scene we passed by another team leaving the experience and I got a glimpse of the final room. It wasn’t really a spoiler but it felt like something we shouldn’t have seen quite yet. A lot of my comments so far can be chalked up to only being open to the public for 2 weeks and will hopefully get better over time.

While not perfect the technology itself was pretty fantastic compared to other VR experiences. The opening scene did a great job easing you into what’s possible when the VR and physical environments are in sync with one another. In this free roaming environment you can see virtual versions of the other 3 guests (matching their real life heights) going through the experience. You can see your own virtual legs and hands. The movements are a bit janky at times but everyone I was with was too in awe to even mention it.

Operations and technology aside I was hoping for a bit more story from the experience. There were definitely some cool effects I don’t want to spoil but the majority of the show felt like a video game with some repetitive shootout scenes. I’m thinking a lot of it was due to space constraints as the overall footprint for the show is quite small so you spend a lot of time in a couple of spaces.

Despite my lukewarm experience I will definitely be checking out whatever comes next from The VOID and ILMxLab as this seems like a perfect venue to showcase the latest in VR “hyper-reality” technology. I only see this type of experience getting better as time goes on and look forward to what they come up with next!