Cities: VR is available now, bringing a reworked version of the original PC game, Cities: Skylines, to Quest 2. However, while this new version retains much of the spirit of the original, the final product leaves a lot to be desired. Read on for our Cities: VR review.
It’s a tale of two cities for Quest owners right now, with two simulation games – Cities: VR and Little Cities – releasing within weeks of each other. The former is adapted from a PC game, while the latter is a completely original title, built from the ground up for virtual reality. While Little Cities was supposed to come out first, it was postponed to early May and so Cities: VR is the first out, available this week exclusively for Quest 2.
Over the past few weeks, it’s become clear that Little Cities will take a calmer, more native approach to the genre with a pleasing aesthetic style. On the other side, Cities: VR seemed set to deliver more complex and detailed simulation aspects taken from the original PC game, perhaps at the expense of visuals.
An authentic Skylines experience
Overall, this assessment rings true. Basically, Cities: VR is a modified version of Cities: Skylines on PC. Modified for VR, the game features the vast majority of Skylines’ core Quest experience. Some features have been removed, changed, or omitted (like natural disasters or editing terrain), but it’s clear developer Fast Travel Games has worked closely with Paradox Interactive and Colossal Order to ensure Cities: VR feels authentic to the experience gamers know and love. .
The game loop remains the same – you start on a blank map with nothing and gradually build your city with roads, areas and services. You unlock more services and city elements as your population increases, increasing the complexity of city design and management. You’ll need to find the right pace of expansion, ensuring you can make a profit while keeping the population happy.
All the fundamentals of Skylines are available here: road planning (with curved roads and different sizes), zoning, budget and tax management, transport, emergency services, education, public services, etc. If you’ve played Skylines, Cities: VR will feel very familiar.
This vast selection of options and the ability to plan your city as you see fit is the game’s greatest strength. Cities: VR wants to give you as many options as possible – almost too many.
The orientation of your city is up to you. You can plan it meticulously, aesthetically aligning street grids with perfect curves, good circulation, and equidistant basic services to form a perfect city. Or, you can pay little attention to optimization and place free-form roads everywhere, fixing problems as they arise. There’s a lot of depth to be found in the vast set of tools and how you approach them.
That’s all a good place to start, but in practice the game doesn’t do as well at making that transition to VR as one might hope. Primarily, the visuals have a few issues and struggle to deliver an acceptable experience on Quest 2’s standalone hardware.
Pop-in of objects – trees, shadows, buildings, almost everything – is a constant and huge problem. Items appear and disappear regularly as you look around the map, sometimes a few seconds late. The texture quality is low and nearly all objects show jagged edges from afar, giving the maps a shimmery, blurry quality. The foveal render is also used with a heavy hand and it is extremely distracting.
It’s hard to stay immersed in all these issues, and your eyes never feel properly settled on the map. Even putting the technical issues aside, the game is still incredibly visually uninteresting and bland compared to the spectacle of Skylines. Buildings lack depth, trees are spindly, lighting is flat, and shadows are inconsistent. At night, streetlights are completely absent or turned off, and building lights aren’t enough to properly illuminate the map.
To its credit, Fast Travel has saved some tiny visual easter eggs like detailed building animations, but it’s abundantly clear that Quest 2 just can’t run something of this scale to the standard you’d hope for in 2022. As a result, the satisfaction of seeing your city come to life – a key part of what made Skylines so good – is almost completely lost in Cities: VR.
When it comes to a campaign, there isn’t much in place to guide players. There is virtually no formal structure or campaign. A 10-minute tutorial is available on each map, but all maps are unlocked from the start and each one has the exact same city stages and progression path. After completing the tutorial, you can simply choose to start a new game – with the exact same progression and conditions – on any map.
But without the ability to expand beyond the initial square grid, there’s no reason to choose one over the other. Even the addition of map scenarios – giving players the option to choose alternate victory conditions or work with different unlock progressions – would have given players a bit more to remember.
Granted, it’s the same approach taken by Cities: Skylines, but it feels more hollow in Cities: VR, especially given how many Quest players might be new to the franchise, and the fact that the game is much more limited. . The tutorial itself isn’t good enough for new players either – you’ll learn the absolute basics (controls, laying roads, zoning) but you won’t get much advice on the rest of the game.
There’s also a sandbox mode for each map (unlimited money, all items/services unlocked from the start), but there’s a lot less satisfaction in designing your dream city and seeing it come to life when the visuals are so hindered.
There are other minor omissions which are not conclusive but are nonetheless debatable. There’s apparently no autosave for example, and there’s no way to set a custom name for your city or save a file. You can bulldoze structures you didn’t intend to place, but there’s no free undo/redo, which is a problem when dealing with easily misplaced VR commands.
Omissions and interactions
Skylines had many complex menus and options for selecting tools and items. While bringing all of this to virtual reality is admittedly a difficult task, the selection of tools, menus, and controls are very clunky in Cities: VR.
The menus are displayed as giant floating boxes in the sky and seem completely unintuitive for a VR headset. The selection system and control scheme are confusing and extremely inaccurate. You will constantly make mistakes or have to double check what you have selected. You get used to it a little more over time, but doesn’t come close to zippy tools and Little Cities UI.
There’s also no way to scale the world, which is a confusing decision. There’s a Street View camera, but the main camera view has an adjustable height (which sometimes seems a little too far out of town), coupled with a camera angle that encourages looking straight down at the ground. Not only is it bad for neck strain and comfort, but it makes the city look pretty flat. Little Cities scalable isometric camera view works much better for VR.
VR Cities Review – Final Impressions
Overall, Cities: VR is a confusing release that feels a bit aimless and unfinished. It successfully brings most of the core Skylines elements to VR with some of that 3D novelty intact, and the breadth of customization options available is a real strength. But it’s not as satisfying to play in VR as it should be. In fact, there’s nothing this version does better than the original.
It’s a shame, because theoretically the genre is a perfect fit for such an immersive and tactile medium. But, with a tricky user interface and technical issues, Cities: VR doesn’t successfully leverage it, making it difficult to recommend even to newcomers to the franchise. This is a stripped down and visually disappointing version of Cities: Skylines. If you are looking for a complex city simulation game, you better play this one instead.
UploadVR recently changed its review guidelines, and this is one of our new unlabeled review categories. You can find out more about our see guidelines here.
This review was made on Meta Quest 2. What did you think of our Cities VR review? Let us know in the comments below!