There’s an appeal to the “god game” genre that’s easy to understand. As early on as the days of the Black and White series on PC, I’ve always enjoyed being the omnipotent ruler of entire civilizations. Their entire existence is in the palm of your hand, what’s not to love?
Enter Townsmen VR, a launch title for PSVR that tasks you with tending to and growing an entire village either on a series of islands in the story mode, or freely in a sandbox mode. Combat also comes into play, which should satisfy the RTS fans out there. Does it all come together to surpass its 2D counterparts? Let’s put on our PSVR 2 headsets and find out!
An Excellent VR Title That’s Also Perfect for Impatient RTS Fans
There are those who have criticized the launch lineup for PSVR 2, but I myself have more than I know what to do with. Townsmen VR is easily one of the best launch titles though, with an experience that slowly unravels its complexities over the course of several missions.
At the beginning of the Townsmen VR story mode, you’ll find yourself floating over a wrecked ship and facing one of the characters in the game that can communicate directly with you. Despite his name, Sir Clunksalot is actually a quite capable advisor and kicks things off with an explanation of how to move your camera and interact with the world.
Given the sheer amount of mechanics and options at play here, Townsmen VR showcases a remarkable ability to keep the controls intuitive throughout. Zooming in an out is as simple as pressing the side grips and pulling or pushing the environment horizontally, much like you would to zoom in or out on a smartphone.
You also reach out and grasp the space in front of you to pull yourself around the world. Grabbing in two places and rotating lets you spin yourself as well. You can use the left analog stick to handle rotation as well, but I found the interactive controls more than adequate for getting around quickly.
Nearly everything that’s not built or part of the environment can be interacted with as well. In the opening mission, this is as simple as plucking resources from the water and placing them on the ship for repairs, but the interactivity carries over nicely into the main portions of the game.
If there are two things fans of this genre are used to, it’s being patient and navigating a lot of menus. Townsmen VR manages to circumvent both of these potential frustrations in creative ways by leveraging virtual reality to do things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do easily.
Opening build menus is simple and quick with a flick of the analog stick, and using your hand as a 3D pointer, you can quickly click through and place structures or dive into their build options and commission add-ons and upgrades. Once you’ve placed the outline, you can physically pick up your residents and place them near resources like trees and stone to assign them the role of gathering.
Residents will store resources at the appropriate locations, but perhaps one of my favorite moments in Townsmen VR was when I realized that they stacked up their resources in the open beside the structure. This means that you can reach down, pick up the resource, and then physically drop it on the structure where it needs to go.
This is excellent for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I didn’t have to wait for the residents to casually walk from the resource to the structure, and instead could drop the logs, stones, or planks needed and then assign a worker to it in seconds.
While not a primary focus in the early missions, Townsmen VR also features combat that allows you to pick up, gather, and command units as you see fit. This also means that you’ll unlock structures to train and upgrade your combat abilities. Thanks to VR, the passive action of watching RTS-style combat becomes more interesting when you can zoom in and watch it play out like living action figures beneath you.
Little realizations like that were a fun treat during my time with Townsmen VR. Of course, this level of interactivity does some with its minor downsides. For starters, it’s insanely easy to smack small objects or people with your virtual hands, especially as you’re turning around or crawling across the landscape.
Knocking your villagers out cold with the back of your godly hand or punting them into the water on accident is funny the first few times, but when it starts happening because you want to pick up a tiny wooden plank without nearly ending a life, it’s less funny.
Another issue that I ran into was partially my fault, but I felt it worth mentioning. Since the story missions take place on islands on various sizes and shapes, I often found myself running out of space to place buildings or add-ons to existing structures. The game requires buildings to be placed on flat surfaces with adequate space, and the terrain of the islands doesn’t lend itself well to that in a lot of cases.
It makes for a weird give and take surrounding the available real estate on your island. Again, it’s not a huge issue, but between my poor planning and my growing reputation as a clumsy god, I had a few frustrating moments in my time with Townsmen VR, but not nearly enough to dampen my enjoyment of the game.
Pristine Graphics When Examined Up Close
From a graphics and tracking standpoint, Townsmen VR is excellent. The world looks bright, colorful, and sharp inside a PSVR 2 headset. Not only that, but the details are even better when you zoom in and really look closely. In fact, I would argue it’s best to play the game with a close view of the world beneath you. Zooming out and trying to spot details from far away removes a lot of the sharpness and detail you get otherwise if you’re closer to ground level.
Tracking is pretty much perfect from my experience. I had maybe two or three brief moments where my hands got caught on the environment or lost tracking, but have otherwise had zero issues. Some haptic feedback in the Sense controllers also lets you feel connected to the world, particularly when splashing water for example.
Townsmen VR is an excellent PSVR 2 launch title, and a great example of how genres like the god game or RTS can really shine in virtual reality. It has enough depth to warrant its price tag, and the experience overall is incredibly polished. If you fancy yourself a clumsy god like me and you don’t mind accidently smiting some of your subjects when you swing your hands around, Townsmen VR is absolutely worth your time.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 3/09/2023