CITIES: VR LETS YOU BUILD FROM THE GROUND UP AND MANAGE THE INTRICACIES OF GROWING BUSTLING NEW CITIES. HERE’S OUR CITIES: VR REVIEW.
What is Cities: VR?
Cities: VR is the latest addition by the world-renowned Swedish VR studio Fast Travel Games. Best known for their other VR hits Apex Construct, Budget Cuts 2, Virtuoso, and many others. Based on the Cities: Skylines property, this adaptation of the city-builder was made specifically for the Quest 2 and delivers on what makes a great city-building game. Although the hardware limitations are sometimes apparent, the game does a good job of doing what it can to make this a feature-rich experience. Cities: VR offers a more simplified, beginner-friendly experience than Cities: Skylines, adapting nicely to virtual reality with a few key drawbacks.
Before starting your experience and your first city, the first option you must make is to choose between 9 immediately accessible landscapes to start your city from, an impressive variety of starting areas keep things interesting for many playthroughs. Also shown in the world generating screen the player is presented with options for a Tutorial, Unlimited Money, Day/Night Cycles, and more. If you’re looking for something low-stress and want to hop into something more akin to a “Creative Mode” – the Unlimited Money option is a great stress-reliever.
The premise is simple – You start off with two freeways entering a large open space with a unique topology for each selected location. From there you start building your roads – branching off into streets and cul-de-sacs to build out your residential zones, to building power grids, commercial and industrial zones, and water and waste systems. As you get all of your services up and running, more citizens will want to move to your city and you get to collect that sweet sweet tax dollar to expand and make improvements.
Don’t be mistaken, this is a management game. Yes, this game has a bit of a learning curve but if you like to dive into the details of city management this is for you. No matter how good you think you are, I would advise that you still check out the tutorial so that you don’t set everything on fire. You know, just in case.
Managing Game Difficulty
When you start playing, it’s not uncommon for your first few attempts at building a city to seem disjointed. If you go into the game with a good attitude, it can be quite the learning experience as you may not be aware of the best practices or the layouts yet needed to get all your city services running and flowing through your city. This brings us to the Planning features, which allow you to plan what you want to build before investing your cold hard tax dollars. The ability to Pause and Unpause time can help plan your roads and zones so that you can get the correct things built at the same time or alleviate some of the pressure if your city is losing money.
Building Your City
If you’re the type to completely skip tutorials, here are some of the key game loop items to look out for.
- Zoning Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Office, Parks, and more in multiple density options!
- Water and Sewage need to be connected and adequately separated unless you like having loads of sick citizens.
- Emergency Services need to be managed so that you don’t lose citizens to high crime areas or fires.
- Education Services help build citizens for higher-paying paying jobs (leading to more tax income)
- Electricity to connect neighborhoods to the power grid.
- Garbage Management, you know, so that garbage doesn’t pile up.
- Transport Services, such as Ferrys and Bus Lines. This allows citizens to get to their jobs in greater numbers.
How do I get rid of stuff? Bulldozing helps eliminate your mistakes so that you can build anew. You don’t get all of your expenses back, but you do get a portion refunded. The key thing that appears not to have been implemented is any kind of quick Undo feature. It can sometimes be easy to make a small mistake when placing zones or roads and having to break the flow of the gameplay to correct mistakes can be a bit tedious.
Overall, not bad! People are going to invariably compare it to the sheen of the high-quality graphics of the PC version, and if you are comparing them it truly shows the limitations of the VR headset. But looking at it through the lenses of a Quest 2 game, I have to say that where the graphics truly shine is the vast amount of models, textures, and animations throughout the game that gives it variety. Sometimes the animations can look funny or become desynchronized depending on the game speed set, but similar to that of a Ubisoft or Bioware game, the animation bugs are harmless and only add to the charm.
Although not a huge part of the game, the sound design and music are easy to listen to and don’t distract from the rest of the gameplay. When navigating around your city, the sound changes depending on what kind of zoning or building you are next to. Some examples of which would be busy office background sound when near office zones, people chattering and the sound of playing in residential zones, dogs parking, and traffic, overall the sound helps with immersion but isn’t something to emphatically praise.
Controls and Movement
Overall, the controls were adequate. I wouldn’t say great, but the tedium of having to force yourself to navigate multiple tiers of menus to find what you are looking for can be well, tedious. Thinking about the issue critically though, I can only correlate that it is due to the depth of the game and the options available. It can sometimes feel like a maze, but after sinking some time into the game, it does get easier. In retrospect, it would be a futile effort for the developers to somehow simplify it.
Is Cities: VR like Cities: Skylines?
Having played and fallen in love with Cities: Skylines and several of its expansions on the PC, I was ecstatic to try out the VR adaptation for the Meta Quest 2. Although unsurprising, Cities: VR is not a 1:1 experience to Cities: Skylines. It would be unfair to criticize a standalone VR game against a fully-fledged PC game that has had 7 years to mature and improve upon. However, even when comparing the VR game to Little Cities, it’s still one of the most relaxing VR games I’ve played, even when my city is overrun by a crime spree and I’m frantically trying to get police services up and running.
Incredibly proud to be launching @CitiesVR today! What a journey it’s been, and so many mountains climbed! Getting a game with incredible depth and complexity to run on standalone VR hardware has been a challenge for sure, while at the same time modernising controls for players to be fully immersed in their creations has been tremendously rewarding. Now we’re looking forward seeing what amazing cities players create, and to continue supporting this game with tons of content and QoL improvements over the weeks and months to come – we’ve got so many ideas!Oskar Burman, CEO @ Fast Travel Games
Guardian Settings? Play However You Want!
Full disclosure, I played and found the game most comfortable in a seated position. However, for the review, I tried all player modes available, and I’m glad to report that Cities: VR makes it easy to play however you want! In the living room, in your small office, in your bed? You betcha! The Official Supported Player Modes are Sitting, Roomscale, and Standing.
Left-Handed Controls a Work In Progress
Fast Travel Games has confirmed on their Twitter feed that Left-handed support is coming to Cities: VR on June 9th! Although very surprising that this wasn’t in the game from the start, they’ve apologized and acknowledged that this accessibility feature should have been implemented at launch.
Although I can not vet the accuracy of localization for most of these languages, the game currently supports all the most common languages and more! It’s always extra special when a game has the resources to support more than just English, and the supported languages are almost a mirror of the EFIGS localization standard (Italian appears to be missing).
The game currently supports English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.
How Do I Choose Which City-Builder I Want to Invest In?
Now with these two games coming out so close together, this poses the ultimate question for any city-builder fan. Which game do I buy? Although there is a good chance that people who are fans of this genre are likely to pick up both, if you had to choose, or simply just want to make a more informed decision, these are the key differences between them.
Little Cities Is a Good Passtime
If you’re looking for something less of a challenge or involved, and more something that is chill with low-stakes to play between other games, Little Cities is the VR city builder for you. Luckily we have been afforded the chance to play both of these great games. (Check out our full-game review of Little Cities here.) It’s simply unfair to compare these two games on anything but the fact that they share the same genre and some of the features but they are clearly meant for completely different audiences. Fast Travel Games is a much larger studio that has been in the space for much longer, and with the resources to make Cities: VR a more complete and featured product.
Cities: VR Is a More Complicated Game
Cities: VR may not be visually appealing as Little Cities in some regards, due to the timelessness of the stylized art direction they went with, but the complexity and detail beat Little Cities hands down. With the different variety of vehicles in the streets, additional zones, and people walking around, it’s truly a marvel at everything they’ve included. Also, while not as hard-core challenging as Cities: Skylines or most other PC city-building AAA games, this does a very good job for the limitations they would have developing this kind of game in VR.
This game easily keeps me occupied and engaged throughout my play session without wanting to take breaks and feels less like the mobile game trope of “I’m waiting for timers to finish for income before I can continue.” when compared to Little Cities. If I have to pick one that I prefer, it’s this one.
Review Rating: Winner of the City-Builder Battle 👑 80/100
With so few games in the genre available on VR platforms, which is better is always the question asked in forums or Reddit threads. I truly hope that this article helps steer the VR gaming community towards the right game for them. Personally? This feels more like a game to me and less of a proof-of-concept when compared to other VR city-builders. Ultimately, your enjoyment of Cities: VR will depend on how committed you are to watching your city flourish up close and personal. I give it my approval and can easily recommend the game since it had its hooks in me on multiple occasions until my Quests battery died.
Store Details, Pricing, and User Reviews
Cities: VR is the first city-building game released by Fast Travel Games based on the Cities IP. The game is now available for purchase through the Meta Store for USD $29.99/CAD $34.99 only on the Meta Quest 2. So far the user reviews have been mostly mixed with only 54% of the User Scores being 5 Stars. It seems as if many users either loved it or hated that it wasn’t as close to the Cities: Skylines experience as they expected or wanted. A shame, really. As the game does deserve praise for what it did within the range of its hardware limitations.
What’s Next for Cities: VR?
As noted in a Fast Travel Games tweet, they have pledged to create free content updates, feature additions, and more! We can’t wait to get our hands dirty and find new ways of building and remodeling our cities. The Metro and Routing update is also slated for a June release.
About Fast Travel Games
Fast Travel Games is a VR game developer and publisher based in Sweden, founded by industry-leading veterans. We’ve created critically acclaimed games such as Apex Construct, The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets, and Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife, with Cities: VR out now on Meta Quest 2.
EXTRA! Cities: Skylines Collection (PC) on Sale! via Humble Bundle
If you’re a fan of this series and of this game on Quest 2, at the time of this review, the Cities: Skylines Colossal Collection is on sale via Humble Bundle for the PC. This includes:
- 9 expansions—everything up through 2021’s Sunset Harbor
- 21 add-ons—featuring Content Creator packs, new music, and the Deluxe Edition Upgrade
Build the city of your wildest imagination, and help support The Trevor Project and charity: water with your purchase! Bonus deal! Complete your collection with 20% off a pack featuring the most recent expansion Airports & all add-ons released this year so far. The Humble Bundle Offer ends on June 15th, 2022.