In the right hands, I believe any genre can work in VR – and Cities: VR is the evidence that supports that belief. Not all of the features of its more complex older sibling, Cities: Skylines, fit the bill, but playing a mayor with nigh-omnipotent architectural abilities and creating a new urban metropolis remains fun, natural, and surprisingly intuitive.
Keep in mind that it’s not Cities: Skylines with a VR mode; Fast Travel Games has built a new adaptation for Meta Quest 2 that places you in this bright and colorful world. Like Skylines, Cities: VR lets you control all the major aspects of city planning without getting bogged down in small details. You can simply plan your city without worrying about every minor detail, choosing from one of nine maps. From an out-of-bounds highway, you’ll start laying out roads and selecting buildings to go along with them. From residential homes to basic utilities, there’s a slight brake on learning based on milestones, which unlock new facilities as the population grows. It is effective in teaching you city management as if you can’t keep the citizens happy they just won’t stay.
Prioritizing commercial and industrial zoning over residential means you won’t have the staff to keep factories afloat, but doing the opposite creates high unemployment. If you need more skilled workers to fill these roles, invest in education. Do citizens complain about a high crime rate? Better to build a police station, people won’t stay where they don’t feel safe. If you prefer an easier time or feel like getting creative, unlimited money can be activated when starting a new town. Milestones can also be closed, immediately providing more advanced facilities like nuclear power plants.
Then we come to everyone’s favorite topic, taxes. As god mayor, you are responsible for setting tax rates for different institutions and areas, as well as the amount of money invested in utilities. This requires a flexible approach, so adjust them accordingly to keep citizens happy and – assuming you haven’t activated unlimited money – prevent public finances from falling into the red. Balanced books are essential and if you are having difficulty, you can take out up to three loans at a time, each with different repayment schedules.
I’m no infrastructure planning expert – it became apparent as I continued to create towns based on nonsensical road layouts – but building a fully functional town was fun. However, compared to Skylines, there isn’t much building space. You cannot expand a city beyond one space, which is x kilometers long, and for those with larger designs this may seem considerably limited. So it’s all about planning carefully with the space you have but if you make mistakes these can be quickly erased with the magic bulldozer which refunds some of your investment in the process so it’s not not so bad.
Cities: VR just doesn’t have the reach of Skylines, which is likely to fit better with the hardware limitations of Quest 2, so it serves more as an entry point to the series than a true extension of it. Major features such as terrain editing and natural disasters are not included, or at least not at launch. Cities: VR feels both more streamlined and more restrictive than its predecessor, so it’s a shame to lose some aspects, but considering the many features it includes and the benefits of VR, calling it barebones doesn’t doesn’t seem right. . As you’d expect, running a city is a lot more immersive than sitting in front of a TV. You can’t walk around town like a citizen, unfortunately, but it’s fun to dive to the surface to see daily life unfold before you, even if vehicles sometimes pass each other.
The controls feel good too. Move and build options are easy to access at all times. This works well, but if you’re looking for precision, aiming where buildings are being built can be a bit tedious. Cities: VR lets you individually fill empty zoning boxes by clicking on them, even if you’re far away, but the very nature of the motion controls means you’ll need a steady hand. If that’s no problem, you can aim your controller like a paintbrush to quickly “brush” squares like a canvas, or hit the “fill” option to immediately fill that empty area, so it’s never a major problem.
Cities: VR Screenshots
One of the benefits of never walking the streets you’ve laid out is that you don’t have to worry about getting nauseated if you’re sensitive to it. Take a chair and make yourself comfortable. But Cities: VR has some comfort options. There’s adjustable rotation for the camera, alongside a vignette filter that darkens the screen border when moving.
My only real complaint is that the graphics look plain. Cities: Skylines is seven years old, but the Quest 2 just doesn’t have the power to keep up. Environmental designs are washed out and lack finer detail, while buildings look distinctly low-res. That doesn’t deter gameplay much, but I can’t deny that those graphics made me want to be able to play Skylines’ cities from that perspective.