Moss 2 Review: The second part of the masterpiece
The VR game Moss: Book 2 brings a new story, clever mechanics and a lot of heart. If you haven’t played it, you have missed VR (again).
There are games that form a person. Back when I was young, they were called Gothic or Baldur’s Gate. They awakened my love for video games, and that continues until now.
In 2016, Virtual Reality expanded my gaming horizon with exciting experiences. I was convinced about VR from the beginning and could literally “see” the potential. But it wasn’t until the end of 2018 that I got my personal killer app for VR: Moss showed perfectly that VR doesn’t have to be first-person, that there is much more to VR than zombies and rail shooters.
Four years later, Moss: Book II is the follow-up title. Will Polyarc manage to work its magic on gamers again?
Moss 2 Review in a nutshell: You’re finally back, Quill!
Moss 2 is one of four VR titles that I have played through in just one session (Moss, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice VR, Half-Life: Alyx). For seven hours, I accompanied the little heroine Quill – in between, my wife told me the time “for my information.” That’s how well I was drawn into the VR world of Moss.
The story is excellently told. Moss: Book II continues the story of the first part with careful additions to the gameplay. That’s what makes it so strong: instead of adding any gimmicks or implementing entirely new mechanics, the game relies on story, a fantastic protagonist, touching moments, great levels and sometimes tricky puzzles.
Moss and Moss: Book II are absolute must-haves for VR, and perfectly suited to demonstrate the enormous (storytelling) possibilities of VR to other people.
Note: Moss 2 is currently only available for Playstation VR.
You should play Moss 2 if you …
- you own a PSVR,
- already loved the first part and missed Quill,
- want to experience fantastic worlds and levels in VR,
- you want to enjoy lavishly detailed scenery and
- solve clever puzzles and
- love boss fights against giant enemies.
You should rather not play Moss 2 if you …
- are not into diorama or tabletop VR,
- expect an entirely different game than part one,
- you are bored by the same enemies over and over again or
- have a stone instead of a heart.
A story of heart
As a reader, I take on a special role in the world of Moss: I am a kind of superior, ethereal spirit being who has a special bond with the little mouse lady Quill. She can perceive me and I can help her.
Quill continues to search for her uncle Argus after our first adventure. He’s pretty shaken up, so Quill now sets out on her own to find five fabled relics that will save the world of Moss from destruction by the Mysterious Ones. On the other hand, if the relics get into the claws of the creeps, it’s all over.
The story is once again excellently voiced. Some surprises await me: the story has twists and turns, and I am no longer led linearly from level to level. Some areas Quill can only enter later, when I have learned the needed ability. These include a dash across gaps, the ability to grow tendrils that Quill can climb, or using a ghost hammer to trigger certain actions.
Moss 2: Tricky puzzles and great level design
At the beginning, the puzzles are basic – but always require a close look. Later on, I literally have to think around the corner. Where do I have to place the Ghost Hammer and Quill before I can trigger the hammer blow? Solving an area puzzle triggers euphoria every time – not only for me, but also for Quill, who does victory dances or gives me high-fives. In the context of the story, there are also some truly touching moments that significantly strengthen the bond between me and Quill.
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I was particularly impressed – again – by the level design. If you like to marvel at detailed environments, you’ll get plenty. Among them are some scenarios that immediately trigger the desire to experience a real role-playing game like Baldur’s Gate or Divinity: Original Sin in VR levels like this.
This desire is reinforced by the unfortunately rare but even more impressive interactions between Quill and other NPCs, such as her uncle Argus. I can’t go into detail for spoiler reasons – but anyone who has seen these fine animations in 3D won’t want to go back to a flat screen anymore.
PSVR proves comfort and sucks at tracking
A VR headset is much too uncomfortable for such long VR sessions, isn’t it? Not in this case: I played with the PSVR for seven hours straight – and this now technically outdated VR headset is still incredibly comfortable thanks to the excellent head mount. However, the DualShock controller’s light tracking remains an annoyance and likes to fail at the edges of the tracking cone. The cable design can also only be described as highly annoying. This will change with Playstation VR 2 – and Sony’s upcoming VR headset also relies on the highly comfortable and proven head mount.
Moss 2 proves that this type of VR game remains completely underrated and underrepresented, and that virtual reality deserves much more and much richer content of this kind. Sure, there’s still a lot to be done for this, especially in terms of VR’s adoption in the market. But the point is made for the second time: Moss 1 and 2 are bold and convincing statements for the genre of diorama or tabletop games.
I do have some criticism in the end. Three times I had to reload the game because Quill got stuck, or the VR view shifted without the ability to reset. Technically – apart from the already mentioned problems of the PSVR platform – everything else was fine. I missed the option to dodge in the fights. Towards the end, I also had the feeling that the story ended a bit too quickly – and I don’t mean the intended dramaturgy. Furthermore, I would have liked to see some cutscenes told through the illustrations in the book implemented directly into the game.
Moss 2 review summary: Adorable, exciting, clever
Sure, you have to like this kind of game to be as enthusiastic about it as I am. But even if you’re not that much into the genre, the details, animations, and excellent VR craftsmanship show you what’s possible with virtual reality. The sceneries are real jaw-droppers and never cease to amaze.
Of course, Quill remains the center of attention. Whether she’s getting angry, celebrating, grieving, or simply attempts to provide clues to solving a puzzle, there are few video game characters that are this endearing and have worked their way permanently into my memories as this mouse. It’s therefore especially hard to accept that the end of the game feels like a farewell.
Moss 2 skillfully builds on everything that made the first part great. Polyarc has developed the VR game with sensitivity and didn’t attempt to squeeze in any fancy features such as voice control or a loot system. I think cautious advancement is generally better, and the wheel doesn’t always have to be reinvented. Often it’s quite enough to simply make a good sequel.
That’s the case here, too, and I was totally impressed. Moss I and II are influential for VR for me, just like Baldur’s Gate was for gaming on the PC. I’m already looking forward to a new playthrough, this time on Playstation VR 2. Sony just needs to get going.