Moss: Book II

Review: Moss: Book II

Last year, Polyarc launched the follow-up to Moss and it was a satisfying follow-up that sadly stuck on aging hardware. Now, you’ll be able to play, the sequel on new hardware later this week as one of the most wonderful VR experiences I’ve ever had with PlayStation VR,  launches on PS VR2.

Speaking with Polyarc’s Doug Burton at a press event last year, I was able to attend a guided tour through a look at gameplay and what we saw looks to improve on its predecessor in several ways. As this is a VR-only experience, you do not play directly as Quill, the star of Moss, instead, you take on the role of the Reader, a fourth-dimensional assistant to Quill, working together to save a relative.

Moss: Book II is bigger in scope and in emotion

The sequel continues the story told in Moss putting you back in the role of the Reader, who wants to help Quill in their journey. In Moss: Book II, the developers want to do several things including expanding on the scope of the game — Polyarc says that the sequel will be near twice the size of the first game. More importantly, the developers tell us they want to make the relationship between the Reader and Quill the main takeaway, building a stronger connection between the player and their furry friend.

How do you do that? Well not only are we facing a new threat with the Arcane but Polyarc expanded what the Reader can do to help the protagonist accomplish their goals.

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You can move objects, create new paths for Quill to use to maneuver the environments, and help solve puzzles — there are new ways to interact with the world to help Quill as she handles new enemies using new weapons and skills. While the formula hasn’t changed much between games, the scope has improved and been fine-tuned to make a more compelling experience for players.

Bigger environments, bigger heart

As you encounter more of the Arcane army, Quill will have more tools and weapons to deter them. An example is a new hammer introduced in combat. In our preview, the Reader is essential to ensuring Quill’s survival and by recommending the right weapon in action, Quill is able to defeat a wave of armoured enemies with the use of the hammer. We only saw a sliver of what players can expect with upgrade combat but it already looks promising.

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In one section, Quill will need to visit an Arcane foundry at some point as the enemy uses the space to forge new enemies. We need to defeat the Warden as a team, we see Quill trying to find a key to get to the boss. One of the rooms we saw was a puzzle where the Reader needed to use positioning and timing to get through to the next area. Quill uses the hammer to progress while you maneuver the environment — the pairing of the Reader and Quill is easily a highlight when things go well as it shows how smooth the gameplay is.

The added hardware bump the PlayStation VR 2 offers is easily the best thing that could have to happen to Moss: Book II. From the high frame rate, which makes the entire campaign play better, to the visuals which make you feel like you’re in this magical storybook, it’s hard to think this was the same port I played last year.

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The structure of the entire campaign is similarly traditional to Moss, with six chapters to complete. Also similar to its predecessor are hidden collectibles hidden throughout each level — you’ll find yourself exploring the corners for hidden items, sometimes these are linked to your weapons and their secondary ability so returning to access a once unreachable area is something you’ll be doing. Elsewhere, you’ll find secret doors that only open if you’ve collected a sufficient amount of dust which often reveal armour for Quill.

A Miniature Bundle of Greatness

When you’re not spending time working through the puzzles in Moss: Book II, that usually means you’re probably fighting the Arcane. These are somewhat dialled-in sections, in the sense that the small arenas where the fights take place are immediately recognizable in comparison to the platforming sections. For most of the six chapters, these sections are good but not implicitly memorable. And I’m not saying it’s a bad system but there is limited enemy variety paired with a limited move set so it feels like you’re making the rounds to move to the next platforming or puzzle section.

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Throughout the entire six chapters, there are only three boss battles, but ones that really make the best of the platform. Each boss is a great way to showcase how well you and Quill work together as a team to overcome the challenges in front of you. This means you require coordination between Quill’s movements and the direct involvement between you as the Reader. But don’t let me spoil how much fun these sections can be because I wish there were more so I could gush over how smartly implemented the bosses are.

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Verdict

Moss: Book II is an elevated sequel that improves on its predecessor in all the right ways. The inclusion of new weapons like the glaive and hammer makes for a more combat-focused sequel with some competent puzzles sprinkled into the mix.

[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PSVR2

Summary
Liked
Great visuals and animation work
A wonderful storybook feeling
Great puzzle design
Didn't Like
The combat is simplistic