When Polyarc’s Moss originally released on PSVR all the way back in 2018, i instantly became a hit amongst critics and gamers alike. The game’s protagonist, Quill, could also be seen as a mascot for Sony’s first VR headset, (alongside Astro Bot, of course) until it made the transition to PC then later Oculus’ Quest headsets.
Its much anticipated sequel, Moss: Book II, launch just last year, again, first on PSVR before making its way to PCVR and then Quest headsets. Lightning struck twice for Polyarc with Moss: Book II following on the same fan and critical adoration as its first instalment, even going on to win ‘Best VR Game’ at 2022’s Game Awards.
Now, with the launch of the PS VR2, Polyarc has gone back and revamped both titles to take full advantage of the new headset. Just to note, we’ve previously reviewed Moss back in 2018 so we’ll be focusing our review on last year’s title as both have received similar graphical and gameplay improvements. So, the question is; if you’ve already played Moss: Book II on PS VR, PCVR or even Quest, is it worth your time a second time around? Read on to find out in.
As the name suggests, Moss: Book II is a sequel to the original game, simply entitled Moss. You are bestowed the role of “The Reader,” an ethereal entity bound to Quill through one of five magic artifacts, each separately and collectively referred to as “Glass.”
Quill lives in Moss, a fairytale land filled with creatures like her warrior mice tribe, manic wood fairies, and more. All of the creatures are more or less at war with the Arcane, mechanical monstrosities looking to combine the Glass in order to subjugate Moss.
As an immersive experience, Moss: Book II shines bright thanks to its captivating lead, Quill and how the player both witnesses and interacts with the many and varied realms of Moss. Part of this success is due to the original game. Like its predecessor, Moss: Book II has the player moving Quill through diorama-like landscapes, witnessing everything from a fixed and forced visual perspective. When Quill runs over a hill or through a door, there is the sound of a page turning, with another, different landscape appearing before the player.
In the original game, opportunities to interact with Quill were limited. She would provide hints through arm gestures and occasionally offer a paw for a high five. While those interactions return in Moss: Book II, there’s greater variety and depth. This is partially due to an expansion in the cast of characters, which we won’t get into too much as to avoid spoilers. Prompts to interact with other characters begin quite similarly, but quickly prove to be vastly different. This variety makes Quill and other characters feel alive, as if the player is interacting with live performers.
The PS VR2’s Sense controllers are also used to great effect when interacting with Quill and the environment with haptic feedback giving a real sense of touch when moving pieces of the environment around and the adaptive triggers adding realistic resistance which adds to the overall levels of immersion when playing through the different levels.
Throughout Moss: Book II, many of the landscapes require solving a puzzle. This, too, is a carry over from the original game. The player moves a piece of the landscape or an enemy, creating a path for Quill to move forward. But in the sequel, many puzzles require the player to manipulate the landscape several times in several different ways like creating a vine or breaking a stalactite.
Occasionally during these puzzles and one boss fight, Quill and the player actively work together to complete a task. By constantly interacting with the landscapes along with Quill, my input as “The Watcher” has real effect and meaning on the outcome of the fight, not just controlling Quill’s movements in the battle. I’m less of a passive observer in Quill’s journey this time, actively leaning forward when playing.
Speaking of which, combat is exactly the same from the original game for the first third of the sequel. Enemies are dispatched with Quill hitting them with her sword one to three times, depending on the enemy type. While the addition of new weapons later on is greatly welcomed, the only difference to defeating enemies is how many times you have to hit them. This generally makes combat feel like nothing more than filler half the time.
Additionally, the player becomes required to change Quill’s weapon to defeat certain enemies. To do so, the player has to hold down a button to open Quill’s inventory, go to the weapons section, grab the required weapon, and then hand it to Quill. I’ve encountered far worse item management in other VR games but it’s still not terribly intuitive and it was only in the last hour of gameplay when I finally got a handle on the weapon management.
That said, the combat gameplay shouldn’t stop immersive theatre fans and creators with a VR headset from playing Moss: Book II. It’s an excellent example of how placing focus on character and environment elevates the experience.
When it comes to visuals, Polyarc’s work in breathing life into Moss itself elevates the entire experience, with this being even more apparent when playing on PS VR2. There are six realms featured, each dynamically different from the other. The first third mirrors the majority of the original game, featuring only stone castles and wooded forests.
Quickly, and thankfully, those realms are replaced with snowy mountains and smoldering caves. As each realm is visually distinct, creating variety, the points of interaction for puzzle solving are different as well.
Again, like the original, Moss: Book II returns the player to the library hall several times. It’s there where the story largely unfolds examining pages of still images while listening to the narrator talking you through the story. There’s dynamic lighting used to draw the player’s attention to the page.
But it’s how the library hall changes throughout that’s stunningly mesmerizing. When visiting Moss’ snow-covered realm, the library hall’s roof is gone, showcasing a shimmering night sky. Snow is falling, adding to the snow banks through the library hall. With the boundaries between the player’s world and that of Moss blurred, it heightens the immersion quite successfully.
If you loved the first Moss title, you’ll love Book II, it’s just that simple. With this sequel, the Moss franchise has established itself as one the best you can play in VR and a title which non-VR fans should be jealous they can’t play.
It’s a beautiful game unlike any other with charming characters, an engrossing narrative and some the most endearing storytelling you can get in modern gaming. It’s then elevated by the amazing visuals and gameplay functionality only capable on the PS VR2 and PS5. If you love VR, than you owe it to yourself to play Moss: Book II.. just make sure you play the Book I first.
Moss: Book II Pricing & Availability
Moss: Book II is available for PS VR2 on the PlayStation Store for €26.99 and also as part of a two game bundle with the original Moss for €38.95
REVIEW: Moss: Book II (PS VR2)
Moss: Book II is a beautiful game unlike any other with charming characters, an engrossing narrative and some the most endearing storytelling you can get in modern gaming.