Virtual reality games have placed players in spy-themed escape rooms, chilled out historical cooking lessons, and galaxies from far far away; but Cities: VR was the first to make me feel like a god.
I could shape the landscape with my bare hands, create light and water for life to thrive, and even pause time at the press of a button.
Though, the overwhelming and clunky nature of my abilities, coupled with the title still feeling a little half-baked, left me struggling to truly shake free from the shackles of my mortal self and fill the shoes of my Cities: VR avatar.
A metropolitan maze
Cities: VR is a Meta Quest 2 exclusive remake of the hit city-builder Cities: Skylines. The 2015 game garnered many positive reviews and has a loyal fanbase who can still enjoy regular content updates – with the Airports DLC just dropping back in January 2022.
Given the success of the original, the growing popularity of VR, and the immersive potential of a city-builder – that already places you in a sort of mayoral position – Cities: VR feels like a no-brainer.
Following its announcement back in December 2021, and my chat with the game’s live producer Linda Kiby Zetterman, I’ve been anxious to try the game out for myself. One line that stuck with me from our chat was that the game would make me feel less like a mayor, and more like a god – and Zetterman was absolutely right.
As you spawn into your new world you’ll be hovering above the land below like Superman above Metropolis. From the clouds above you survey the green space, starting to imagine the utopia you will create – only for your ambitions to crumble as soon as you try to wield your mighty powers.
For its part, the game does its best to ease you in gently. When you go to start a new game, the Tutorial mode is toggled on by default. If left on, Cities: VR will start your playthrough by running you through the basics of creating a city – you build some roads and create electrical plants and waterworks, before finally constructing an industrial district and homes.
You’re also taught about your fiscal responsibilities – unless you turn on unlimited money mode you can’t just build endlessly without collecting taxes – but you’re also warned about keeping your denizens happy. If your budget or citizen’s welfare ends up in the red, you’ll be in trouble.
While this is all simple enough to wrap your head around – and is lifted straight from the original game – remembering all the controls can be a little difficult. A task made especially hard, as Cities: VR doesn’t completely recreate your controllers in VR, instead turning them into black silhouettes.
Beginners that have yet to mentally map the handsets will struggle to differentiate the A button from the B button without taking a peek IRL. Even VR aficionados may need a few moments to work things out as so few VR games regularly rely on anything other than the trigger and grip inputs.
Cities: VR won’t be built in a day
Eventually, you’ll get to grips with the mechanics of Cities: VR and start to feel like a deity to the city folk wandering the streets below you. But eventually, another issue will begin to creep in: there’s just not a lot to do.
Ahead of the game’s release, Fast Travel Games made it abundantly clear that this wouldn’t be a one-for-one remake of Cities: Skylines. Obviously, there’s the new VR aspect, but disappointingly the Quest 2’s reduced technical power – plus the team’s production timeline – has limited the features present at Cities: VR’s launch.
As such, if you’re someone that’s used to the breadth of content present in Skylines, you might end up feeling that your VR powers are a little lacking.
This will steadily change, though.
Much like the support we’ve seen for Cities: Skylines, Fast Travel Games has promised that new (and importantly free) content will be added to support Cities: VR in the future.
During our talk, Zetterman explained that this will include minor patches and fixes as you’d expect, but will also include larger expansions. The first of these will be a free Metro & Traffic Routing update in June that will add underground travel and gives players the chance to direct the flow of traffic.
Another improvement Zetterman predicts we’ll see is more in-depth tutorials to assist beginner players – though we’ll have to wait a little longer for that.
Eventually, as these larger content drops and minor technical enhancements arrive, we could very well see Cities: VR grow into one of the best Quest 2 games, but it’s not quite there yet.
If you’re a fan of Cities: Skylines – or other city builders – then is almost certainly a game you’ll want to check out (just be prepared to cut it some slack in certain areas). Otherwise, you might want to look for a different VR experience while Fast Travel Games tighten up a few of the game’s loose screws.