Is Townsmen yet another town builder on the block, or does it deliver a truly immersive virtual reality experience for the PSVR2? Get hands-on with your town-building skills in this immersive real-time strategy (RTS) wannabe bursting with potential.
Townsmen is an ongoing series that started in 2003 and brings a casual take on RTS city-building strategy games. Since then, it has been available for PCs, consoles, and mobile devices. It is currently available to multiple platforms under a freemium model. A board game is planned to be released, and Townsmen recently ventured into the VR space, with the PSVR2 version being the latest in the VR series.
The relaxing and immersive experience you might be looking for
Townsmen VR offers two game modes: campaign and sandbox. It is highly recommended to start with the campaign, as with most town-building games. The campaign has 15 levels and can take over twenty hours to complete. At first, the game can be slow and frustrating, with players waiting impatiently for Townsmen workers to finish tasks. However, after a couple of hours, the action picks up with plenty of activities to manage. Throughout the campaign, players explore larger and more intricate islands as the game progresses. A knight guides you through the game and explains your goals.
Players collect resources to build buildings to collect more resources to build more buildings, all the same as any other city-building game. The background story and characters are not exceptional, but they are charming and supportive of your progress in the game. The gameplay is straightforward and not very challenging. Players should be able to accomplish their goals effortlessly.
After finishing the campaign, Townsmen VR does not offer multiplayer, leaving the sandbox mode as the only option for additional content.
The missed potential for Townsmen VR as a true RTS game
Townsmen VR is a lightweight real-time strategy game. Its simple and charming design makes it a relaxing and pleasant game. It is slow-paced, perhaps to an extreme, focusing on VR immersion rather than action-packed RTS gameplay. You can interact with many elements of the scene sometimes to a comical degree, like moving clouds, grabbing animals and you can even throw your workers in the water just for the sake of it;. Still, that is more of an amusing novelty than actual gameplay. The game encourages exploration and attempts to delight users with its beautiful islands and towns, thriving with life and activities. However, the player is often seconded as a spectator with very limited and occasional agency.
Besides minor glitches, the visuals and presentation are flawlessly crafted, and the audio and soundtrack suit the game well. VR scenarios look stunning and are rich in detail to fully immerse you in the experience. This is definitely an impressive demonstration of the PSVR2’s capabilities. Usability and ease of use are top-notch. With comprehensive menus that are easy to navigate, you can quickly access any information you need. The campaign guides you step by step, and you will never feel lost or confused. You interact with the environment either by pointing and clicking, or grasping and dropping the workers and elements across the scenery. The game is clearly designed to work as an eye-catching static diorama to minimize motion sickness. To that end, navigation is extremely slow, which prevents nausea but is a nuisance.
The first impression Townsmen VR gives is striking, but the excitement soon fades away. The game is repetitive, with players needing to focus on chore after chore, dragging and dropping buildings here and there, and assigning wandering workers to tasks or resource gathering. It is tedious to sit and wait for workers to accomplish their tasks. The game eventually gains traction, but you might have lost patience and motivation by then. Even though it is executed to excellence, there is little you have not seen over and over again in other city-building games.
Virtual reality comes with pros and cons. The simplest interactions take much longer than using a mouse to point, click, drag, and drop. Exploring and navigating the environment is slow and frustrating. Placing elements is inaccurate and requires trial and error. It cannot be denied that the game looks stunning and is immersive and fascinating at first sight, but the novelty soon wears off. Simply put, Townsmen VR never feels like a fully-fledged fast-paced RTS game.
RTS games should remind us of old-style isometric tactical games where you explore the environment, manage resources and buildings while working towards raising an army to defend your territory. Planning, strategy, and agility are crucial. That is definitely not Townsmen VR, yet it gives you a glimpse of the potential of what a true RTS VR game might look like.
Adding more content, minor tweaks, faster-paced and solid RTS gameplay, along with online multiplayer would make this game a real winner. Hopefully, the developer is listening and will raise the bar in a future release.
Aligned with games like Animal Crossing, Townsmen VR aims to provide casual players with a relaxing and almost meditative experience. Its main value proposition is its immersive and exploratory nature, which can be a fun and satisfying adventure if you have the right expectations. The campaign story is simple but heartwarming, offering a comprehensive walkthrough of the game. If you're expecting a fast-paced, feature-rich RTS game, you'll be disappointed. However, if you're looking for a slow-paced but pleasant journey in a stunning, fully interactive, and immersive VR world, Townsmen VR should deliver a delightful and fun experience.