PC VR Review – 'Moss: Book II' – WorthPlaying.com
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Moss was one of my very first VR experiences on PSVR about four years ago, and it was a perfect introduction to VR. On paper, it didn’t seem like a big deal. It’s a mostly stationary VR game played sitting down with mostly conventional controls. It wasn’t exactly a VR revolution, but it still stands as one of the best. Moss: Book II picks up right after the ending of the first title and has some pretty big shoes to fill. Luckily, Moss: Book II successfully continues and expands the fantastical world of its predecessor, even though it’s very much cut from the same cloth.
If you haven’t played Moss, turn back now. Book II doesn’t necessarily require you to have played the first, but it’s still a great game and seamlessly transitions into this sequel, making it a must-play to get the most out of the second part. In part one, players entered the world of Moss as “The Reader” through a magical book to assist mouse Quill in her quest to rid the land of an evil occupation led by the snake Sarffog.
After defeating the snake in an epic final battle and freeing Quill’s uncle in the process, the initial danger seemed averted for now, but the land is still very much at risk of slipping into darkness.
Cue Book II.
Once again, we are the mystical reader assisting Quill in her new quest, which is much larger in scope and requires her to obtain a number of glass shards spread across the lands. What follows is a little odyssey across different regions and the occasional interwoven boss fight to save the lands once and for all — or something along those lines because the ending of Book II doesn’t fully put an end to the story.
Truth be told, Moss: Book II needed a bit of time to reel me in. The first hour is still as lovely as the entire first entry, but that’s about it. Gameplay was in line with what I’d already played, and it took a little while until Book II found its stride and offered up new mechanics to expand the tool set established in the original.
Moss is a sitting experience. Each part of the world is a huge and detailed diorama, from ancient castle walls and lush green woods to icy peaks, with yourself sitting in the middle. There’s an incredible sense of scale to these environments, further emphasized by our small protagonist. Most of the gameplay consists of navigating Quill from one entry point to another within these static areas, often going through small combat and puzzle sections on the way. That may sound simplistic, and that isn’t entirely wrong, but Moss: Book II is completely engaging throughout its runtime.
Quill is animated with so much detail and personality that it’s enjoyable to watch her make her way through each section of the game. Quill never really speaks a word except in narrated interludes, but the game manages to give her a lot of character and establishes a bond with The Reader through animation alone. Animations are a strong point of the adventure, including enemies and side characters, but sadly, there isn’t a huge variety of those throughout the six-hour story. Actual story progress often happens outside of the game via narrated book pages, entirely disconnected from gameplay. It fits the fairy-tale style of the game, but it also somewhat interrupts the immersion of navigating a tiny mouse through big, open environments that are full of detail and interaction. Moss: Book II shines the brightest with its wonderful presentation and gameplay, and it feels a bit clumsy to not have a way to exclusively tell the story in that environment.
While we mostly control Quill and interact with the world through her, there are select interactions the player has to make both with Quill together and on their own. In the first entry, the player could heal Quill in combat, manipulate enemy movement, and move platforms in the environment. These interactions still exist in Book II, but they were expanded by quite a few additional actions, such as flinging certain enemies at targets, creating climbable vines, or assisting Quill with special attacks during combat.
Combat is still the weakest aspect of the adventure, mostly due to its low difficulty level. In the absence of specific difficulty settings, many of the combat encounters aren’t particularly challenging. Some boss encounters are quite fun to play nonetheless, mostly due to their impressive scale, but they are never really a roadblock for progression. Enemy variety within combat is still lacking, not to the same degree as in the first title, but more variety in enemy types would’ve been much appreciated. Instead, the game adds additional weapons next to the sword for both combat and environmental puzzles. There’s a hammer for heavy damage and a boomerang-style weapon that sticks in its target and can be returned at command. Each has a special attack that requires charging up the weapon, and the reader can trigger the attack by reaching out. That means that the player has a lot more options and activities to perform during combat, making the slightly easy encounters fun to complete nonetheless, since there is little downtime and always something to do for either Quill or the player.
Moss: Book II nailed the puzzle design, which is much more varied and interesting compared to the combat encounter. The game continually progresses at a steady pace without ever blocking the player with unfair puzzle solutions. It’s also not easy, either. You may very well run into small temporary roadblocks as you’re thinking through the path forward, but after a few tries, you usually figure out the solution. Adding new weapons and more player interaction in the environment to aid Quill’s progress, puzzles are quite faceted and introduce new interesting mechanics as the game progresses. It’s constantly clever in its design and manages to keep the solutions varied enough so that you’re never doing anything for too long before the credits roll, and that’s easily Moss: Book II‘s greatest strength.
Every piece of Quill’s second adventure adds up to an engaging and wonderful VR experience: a lovely story in a great setting, great animations, beautiful environments, decent combat, and varied puzzles. That said, even with a more ambitious scope, Moss: Book II still plays within the same technical confines that were established in the first entry. That isn’t necessarily bad, but after some truly great platformer games in VR, such as Astrobot, there is a lot of untapped potential. While there are collectibles hidden around the environments, it’s never really a struggle to unearth them. I would’ve liked the game to utilize VR more heavily, at least for the purpose of collectibles. It’d be great to entice players to search through the highly detailed dioramas until they locate interesting secrets that are tucked away in obscure corners or only discoverable from different viewing angles. Often, there simply isn’t anything interesting to be found. We’re quite sure Book II won’t be the last we’ll see of this fairy tale, so we’re excited to see what’s next in line and whether the next entry will break free from the established formula a tad more.
From a technical perspective, Book II didn’t drastically change in visual style, and that’s a good thing. Where it does step up is in the various detailed environments you visit. From large-scale remnants of human inhabitants to smaller-scale structures of the animal population, there is so much to see and discover in every area of the game. The world we traverse feels lived-in and authentic in the context of the story and plays a huge part in storytelling. We did not encounter any bugs or performance issues, which isn’t necessarily super surprising given the game has been out for other platforms for well over six months. The PC release may be quite late in comparison, but it retains the same magic and polished gameplay on more powerful hardware, but it may not look tremendously improved compared to the versions on PS4 and Quest 2. All in all, it’s a beautiful and fun VR game from start to finish, whether you play it on the PC, PS4/5, or Quest 2.
Moss: Book II doesn’t lose any momentum and directly continues the touching story from the first title. It expands gameplay in new and fun ways and immerses you in its fairy tale world quite effectively. While it’s a fun and highly polished affair, it still plays it a bit safe in some regards, but that’s easy to forget when the end product looks and plays this well. Much like its predecessor, Moss: Book II is a must-play title in VR.
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