Cities: VR is a virtual reality take on the popular citybuilding franchise that is Cities: Skylines. It’s exclusive to the Oculus Quest 2, and was developed by the VR specialists at Fast Travel Games. Here’s our review.
The arrival of the Quest 2 headset came with a number of surprising announcements – games that we didn’t think were due for a stab at mobile/wireless VR already, like Medal of Honor and Resident Evil 4. Cities: VR definitely fits into that category as well, as the game that it’s based on can struggle to keep up on even a decent gaming PC and it doesn’t feature a very motion controller-friendly UI as well. This isn’t Cities: Skylines though, so you’ll have to go into this one with a bit of an open mind.
If you look at Cities: VR beyond a surface level, then you’ll quickly realize that it features a lot of the simulation mechanics that made the PC original so popular. This makes the game feel like a genuine Cities game despite some obvious differences – most of which have no doubt been made for technical reasons. While the PC version features visually impressive natural disasters, those aren’t here – and the landscape is a little less dynamic as well in terms of your ability to sculpt it to your liking.
For the same reason, the game map is also quite a bit smaller, but the core remains the same – a blank slate on which you plot your roads, buildings and services. Once people move in, you’ll also need to balance their happiness with a need to make a profit, or your expansion will come to a standstill. This involves managing taxes, utilities and even educational options for your population, so Cities: VR definitely has many of the trimmings of a full-fledged city builder inside a VR package, which is impressive in its own right as it brings a lot of depth and replayability to a platform that used to be known for more casual and gimmicky experiences.
But while the scope is impressive, the visuals are not. Despite this being a Quest 2 exclusive that won’t run on an original Quest, there are quite a few issues. You’ll notice a lot of textures that pop into and out of the screen when you’re not zoomed in on the action, and that’s with an already heavily reduced texture quality. This makes buildings look rather plain, and the heavily reduced lighting and shadow effects are also noticeable. Of course it doesn’t help to use the PC version as a benchmark and we try not to, but even when you completely ignore Skylines these are issues that hurt the experience. A Cities game thrives when you start to feel your city come alive, and the VR adaptation struggles to do this for the player.
And while you can try to not compare Cities: VR to Cities: Skylines, it helps the gameplay experience if you’re familiar with the PC game, simply because the tutorials in Cities: VR aren’t in-depth enough to let you use everything that the game has to offer without a bit of trial and error. That means it’s smart to make use of the game’s manual (!) save option regularly, which is also smart because you can make mistakes because of a somewhat unwieldy control scheme and UI – which uses floating menus that feel like a PC layout ported to VR rather than something native to the platform.
We definitely still had fun playing Cities: VR, as we enjoy the multi-faceted approach to city building that Skylines offers and Fast Travel has managed to carry that over to a VR environment very well. The whole package feels a little like a proof of concept though, make for a platform that’s not quite ready for it yet. If you’re looking for a great city builder then this won’t replace Cities: Skylines, but it’s an admirable take on the genre in VR despite its shortcomings.