Review | VR Citizens – With the introduction of VR, we saw a lot of new experiences and a different take on existing genres, because the medium brings its own problems, but also new opportunities. Released in 2012, Townsmen was a classic building-focused strategy sim, and Townsmen VR aims to bring that experience to VR. It’s a genre that doesn’t always pan out like a normal console version, but Townsmen VR can still convince.

a way back

In Townsmen VR’s campaign mode, you and your inhabitants arrive on a desert island after a violent storm. With no way to return to the kingdom you are a part of, there is only one thing left for you to do: cultivate your own society by building, gathering materials, and training military forces for any ill-intentioned visitors. Of course, your main goal is still to get back to where you came from, so you’ll have to hop from island to island using visiting ships. However, this also means that you have to rebuild the island over and over again, although luckily sometimes a cross has already been made for you.

Like a god

When you first launch Townsmen VR, you are greeted by a floating head and floating hands of a knight who will show you around. You first learn how the game controls work, so you can move forward by holding L1 or R1 and moving your arm. You want to imagine, as it were, that you always have a rope in your hands and you push yourself where you want to go. Turning around is done in a similar way, then you have to move one hand away from you and move the other towards you. It’s a control scheme that doesn’t feel all that obvious at the start of the game, so you’ll have to get used to it first.

Once you’ve mastered the controls, it’s time to really get down to business. Townsmen VR is all about building, of course, but it also feels like a God game in part because you feel like some kind of “higher force” because you manipulate everything from above. You not only have to build, but also move objects and assign inhabitants to certain tasks. For example, you can turn your normal citizens into lumberjacks by placing them near a tree, make them miners by placing them near a mine, or assign them as builders by placing them near a house. Fortunately, you don’t have to watch and wait for your islanders to perform their tasks, because you can also move resources yourself to, for example, make construction go faster.

build your kingdom

You can access the various menus in the game with the left analog stick. You open the pause menu by tapping the stick on the left, the building menu opens at the top, the info screen opens on the right, and going down gives you more options for your buildings. The building menu is divided into four categories: inhabitants, food, resources and forces. Here you can select the buildings you want to place and see what materials you need for it. You can also expand some of the buildings you place, so you can build a saw in your lumber mill to process wood or a ‘forestry’ to plant new trees on the island. The information menu has information about the tasks you need to complete, your citizens and their roles, and the number of forces you have.

In addition to the campaign mode, Townsmen VR also has a sandbox mode, where you can build, grow and play endlessly on one of ten islands you can choose from. Townsmen’s campaign mode is fun and gives direction with the tasks you have to do, but it mostly works as a tutorial that slowly introduces you to new buildings and mechanics on each island. Everything you learn can be released later in the sandbox mode, where you can really lose hours and believe me: time flies by. The game doesn’t have deep systems like you might see in Cities: Skylines or Crusader Kings, but that makes it a good game to start with, and it’s certainly fun.

a simple port

It seems that Townsmen VR is a simple port in all facets. The game is cartoonish in style and looks great graphically, but it doesn’t feature any improvements compared to the previous version for PC and Meta Quest. The game’s resolution is 1920×1260 px per eye with a 120Hz refresh rate, somewhat disappointing since of course the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation VR2 are capable of much more and the game was not previously available on PlayStation VR. The game also doesn’t support almost any of the features that PS VR2 offers, such as headphone noise or eye tracking. The only features you’ll notice are controller noise and adaptive triggers, but neither of these add much. The game runs fine otherwise, although the screen jumps regularly. That’s pretty annoying when you’re gaming on TV, but even more annoying with a VR headset.

Played on: PlayStation 5 (PS VR2).
Also available in: PC and Meta Quest.