Moss Review – PlayStation VR

Anyone with a PlayStation VR is probably familiar with Polyarc’s latest VR masterpiece, Moss. Ever since it debuted at E3 then appeared on the PSVR V2 demo disc, Moss has dominated any conversation having to do with virtual reality, and rightly so. Moss is a game-changer for VR, setting a new high bar for immersive gaming that will hopefully prove once and for all that VR is here to stay.

At its heart, Moss is you typical 3D action-adventure puzzle game. You play as the adorable Quill, a tiny white mouse who discovers a mysterious crystal shard that ultimately leads to her uncle’s capture by evil forces. Armed with her trusty sword and led by her firefly-like guide, she sets off to rescue her uncle, but the path is long and treacherous with all sorts of fiendish traps, brutal monsters, and a boss fight you won’t soon forget.

Moss is Book 1 of what will hopefully become a library of sequels, and is presented as a storybook. The game opens and periodically returns to a massive library where you physically turn pages in a wonderfully animated storybook to advance the story. The library also has a corked glass jar containing your Relic Dust, and a mosaic design that slowly fills in with Scroll fragments, the two collectibles that will have you replaying Moss over and over again – not that you ever need a reason to revisit this magical world.

Once you go inside the book you’ll find a fantastic and immersive world that is presented as a series of intricately detailed scenes; all viewed from the perspective of the Reader. Imagine if somebody had built the best physical model of a game world and you were standing over it, able to look around corners or over walls or duck down and peek inside a door or window. That is exactly what Moss is like, only you also get to control Quill, using the analog stick to move her about with incredible animated detail right down to these cute spin moves she does when vaulting a ledge.

As the Reader you will also get to interact with the world, pulling or pushing blocks, yanking a giant chain, opening massive doors, pulling back crossbows, lighting torches, or even interacting with enemies in real-time when Quill is outnumbered. You can take control of some enemies and use their abilities to help Quill solve navigational puzzles like standing on pressure plates or exploding walls.   You also get to interact directly with Quill, rubbing her head to restore health, even in mid-battle, offering up the random high-five, or even carrying key inventory items. While Reader interaction is probably only 25% of the mix, when the player does get to physically partake of the game it is effective and rewarding.

As mentioned above, there are some collectibles in the game; some obvious and some that require the player to seriously look around the levels. I finished the game only missing two scrolls and maybe a fourth of the jar of relic dust, and I can’t wait to revisit and find what I missed. There is a chapter select in the options, but you have no way of knowing where any of your missing collectibles were overlooked so prepare to play from the start. There are also some clever Trophies that will require some specific and not-so-obvious actions to earn…have fun.

Technically, I can’t believe Moss looks this good on the PSVR. Why can’t all VR games look this good? I’m playing on a PS4 Pro and Moss looks nearly as good as anything I have ever played on my Rift or Vive, and I can only imagine what Moss would look like on PC and dream of the day I get to find out. With only a few small objects to animate per scene the designers were able to crank up the level design and texture detail with no worry of framerate or motion sickness. There are no annoying jaggies or swimmy visuals to be had. You will find yourself in a totally convincing, living, breathing storybook world you can explore from any angle.

The audio is fantastic whether playing with headphones or using ambient home theater audio. Much of the game is played in realistic silence with only the sounds of nature to breech the stillness. The narrator will occasionally offer up a morsel of story and a wonderful score from Jason Graves rises and falls with the gameplay and storytelling. Stick around for the page-turning credits to hear a captivating closing song with lyrics beautifully sung by Malukah.

Moss is a 3-4 hour game depending on how much you immerse yourself in the world and truly explore every nook and cranny of every scene. There are a few puzzles that may stump you but nothing you can’t figure out over time, and you’ll likely die and have to retry a few of the action set pieces; especially the final boss fight, but the game never gets frustrating and you never have to replay more than the last minute or two. Even the lengthier arena fight segments checkpoint mid-battle.

The only real and minor issue I had with the entire game was that the blue orb used to interact with Quill and the environments would sometimes lose tracking forcing me to break the spell I was under, return to the main menu and recalibrate.  It was nothing major and happened maybe 4-5 times over the course of the entire game.

While I can’t possibly say that a 4-hour game is worth spending $200 on a PSVR, I can say it is certainly a powerful inducement, and if you had any urge to jump into VR now is the time. With the recent price drop of PSVR and a game like Moss, along with the hundreds of other titles currently available, now is the time to leave this world behind and immerse yourself in the endless possibilities of virtual reality.

Moss would have been an amazing game even without the VR headset, but by building this game from the ground up specifically for VR, Polyarc has achieved something breathtaking and life-changing, not only for VR tech, but for the expectations of what gamers will be demanding for future VR titles. I plan on getting lost in the wonderful world of Moss countless more times, as I anxiously await Book 2. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long.

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