Catan VR is based on the wildly popular board game of the same name. And by wildly popular, I mean it’s sold over 32 million copies and has a pretty rabid fanbase. Well, maybe rabid is the wrong word for board game fans, but they are definitely dedicated. Aside from the occasional game of Monopoly, Life, or Risk, I’m not much of a board game player, but I figure how could 32 million people be wrong. Besides, it was New Game Thursday and they only want 15 bucks for it, so I decided to give it a try. Let’s check it out, shall we?
As I mentioned, I’ve never played the game before, so luckily there is an in-depth tutorial. I watched it once, but I was too busy checky out my sweet country-style cabin to focus, so I had to watch it again. You can change the cabin to a couple of different settings and you can even change the paintings on the wall, but I preferred the default old-timey cabin. Playing Catan VR on the island of Catan is just too meta not to be good, right?
If you’re like me and have never played Catan before, here is the basic premise: you play as a settler that needs to build cities, while trading and acquiring resources. You gain points as your settlements grow, and the first player to accrue ten points wins. In the VR version, your first decision is to select either the default or randomized game board. As a beginner, I’m still using the default. Each of the four players places two settlements (towns) and two roads on the hexagonal pieces of the board. Each hexagonal piece designates a certain type of terrain, and therefore, a certain type of commodity. For instance, the piece with hills on it will produce bricks, field pieces produce grain, and forest pieces produce lumber, and so on. You’ll want to diversify and build your settlements around multiple resources because you can’t eat bricks.
But no matter how many resources you can acquire on your own, you still need to trade with the other players if you want to win. To trade, you pull up the movable tableau that shows you which resources you currently have. From there, you simply select the goods you like to trade along with the resources you’d like to receive. The other players may agree or reject your trade or counter with their own offer. This tableau also houses the icons you’ll need to interact with to roll the dice, build new roads and settlements, and accept or deny potential trades proposed by your opponents. When you’re done with this, you can simply move it out of the way so you can focus on the game board. And it is just the game board, remember.
You’ll find no sword fights and no dragons here. You won’t even see any tiny little people building your settlements or roads. It really is just like playing a board game with your family. Aside from the occasional tiny bird circling the game board or the dust devil swirling through the desert, the game never comes alive as you play. This feels like a missed opportunity to me. The cabin looks great and the board does too, but I would have loved to see the board come to life a little as the cities and dynasties are built. Thankfully, the game is pretty damn fun. Even against the AI. For the first time, Quest players can invite their friends to play, or you can play against random strangers. And it does feature cross-play with all other headsets, so there should always be a game to play. I will say that despite playing multiplayer games with strangers almost every day for years, playing a board game against strangers still seems kind of awkward. Thankfully, the AI has provided me with all of the challenges I can handle so far. These AI characters consist of people from the Catan universe, and all have varying play styles. Apparently, Klaus Teuber, the creator of Catan worked closely with the developer Experiment 7 to make sure that the AI versions of the characters behaved and played with the right personality. So some of them will have a tendency to be more aggressive and expand quickly, while another character might choose to stay to one side of the island completely.
I love the idea of VR board games to keep family and friends connected as we all inevitably grow up and spread out around the world. I think Catan veterans will enjoy the VR version of Catan even if they are new to VR. It’s simple to control and easy to understand, even if the game itself is still confusing for a noob like me. The game is fun enough and challenging enough to play versus AI, but when you add the social element of playing with friends or family that you can’t be in the same room with, you simply can’t really go wrong with Catan VR. Especially at only $15.
Catan VR Quest Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Catan VR is my first taste of the Catan universe but I can see why it has sold over 30 million copies of the original. It’s a great way for family and friends to sit around a table and laugh at a time when that is otherwise hard to do. The cross-play functionality with PCVR and PSVR should provide plenty of players, and the AI is pretty good too. If you’re not a fan of board games, you probably won’t like this, but if you do, you should probably add Catan VR to your library.
- The charming setting really sets the mood
- Simple controls and fluid gameplay
- Decent tutorial
- I would have liked to zoom into the board to see the world of Catan come to life
- You have to act fast when deciding on trades which puts new players at a disadvantage
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Oculus Quest 2.