When we were kids, we used to love reading storybooks and having them read to us as we dozed off to sleep. Moss, from the amazing team at Polyarc, captures the magic of hearing a fairytale and mixes it with an interactive experience like nothing you have seen on PSVR to date. Built from the ground up for VR, the game takes full advantage of all of the VR mechanics such as motion controls (via the DS4), being able to interact with the environment, and being able to look all around yourself – all whilst playing in 3rd person, which is something I was skeptical of at first. Moss also takes full advantage of the PS4 Pro to deliver the best VR experience you can buy. So, grab a hot cup of chocolate and snuggle up as we begin the first chapter of our story.
Moss begins with you sat in a great hall, or a library, with a giant storybook, laid out in front of you. You carefully turn the page, with the DS4 controller, and our story begins with a single narrator taking us through a picture book. We are introduced as ‘the reader’ and our role is briefly explained. Also explained is the fact that this story isn’t ours alone; for we are tied to another on this amazing journey we are about to undertake. The peace across Moss, which had settled across the land had been broken in just one night – first, the king was killed and then the castle was ransacked by a horde of evil beings as they searched for the fabled Glass Relic.
Unable to find the treasured item, the sprites sent out their great champion, who was powered by his own Glass Relic, in order to fend off the evil beings. Meanwhile, the Knight and castle-folk who managed to escape had found refuge in a clearing in the trees. The Knight ran back to help the sprite, and the two of them were able to fend off the oncoming evil and seal off the passage to the clearing; however, the champion was injured badly and was unable to remain alive for much longer. Upon departing from our world, a large tree instantly grew upon his body where it stood for many years and safeguarded the Glass whilst it awaited its next hero.
This is where our adventure truly begins, we are taken inside the book as we see a small mouse, so fragile and timid, named Quill, appear from behind a bush. Quill discovers the Glass Relic and instantly creates a bond between yourself and her (which explains why you can control her) and, if your anything like me, you’ll instantly fall in love with how cute she is! Now you have control, you complete a few basic puzzles and you run through a non-obvious tutorial on the mechanics of the game as you venture back to your uncle’s house. Once there, your Uncle realises she has the Relic and decides to go himself to the castle to take on the evil which resides there. He knows that Quill, with the help of the reader (you), is now destined to be the one to save their kind from the creatures who inhabit the castle and he refuses to let this be the case.
Unhappy with this outcome, Quill befriends a sprite and heads out on a journey to not only vanquish the evil and free her people from their enclosed hideaway but also rescue her uncle who she loves dearly. As the reader, you have direct control over Quill, some enemies, the environment, and are there to overlook everything which happens in front of you in full VR. You will solve puzzles together, laugh, cry, and cheer as you head out on a Quills biggest adventure ever – big things really do come in small packages!
As mentioned above, you play the game in both first and 3rd person – at the same time. Using your DS4, you control Quill as she moves around the landscape and fights evil bugs, performs platforming, and smashes crates (those damn crates!) yet as a 3rd party, you are a faceless deity (a bit like noface from Spirited Away) who can peer around corners, lift and move various environment objects and even see yourself if you are currently placed over a pool of water. The mechanics in play in this game are amazing, yet if you look at them from the outside – there isn’t really anything new, Moss just simply does it better than the rest.
The combat and movements of Quill are really, really smooth and so adorable. If you are climbing up on medium height ledges then you see Quill do a little roll as she squeaks, every now and again she will stand there with her hand in the air awaiting a high-five from you (which you simply slap her hand with your controller), and she will even wave back and say hello if you wave – it’s so cute! Combat takes a bit to get used to as the enemies are brutal in some areas – slash with the square and then instantly jump back with X is the way to go – you can also grab the enemies as the reader and hold them still whilst Quill attacks.
The major thing that drew me to Moss was the puzzles. I loved the demo (which is available in the PSVR Demo disc 2 – go download if you haven’t already) yet the retail release feels like a brand new game. Some areas are simple – use your DS4 to reach out and grab items, move them into place and traverse with Quill to the next scene. Others get more complicated, such as needing to flick switches, grab an enemy and move them with your reader abilities over to another area, then do some platforming with Quill followed by using the controlled enemy to hit another switch to allow Quill to reach a new area (and breath). Every puzzle is solvable without any help and you can tell a lot of care has gone into creating them. They can all easily be worked out by just grabbing things and experimenting.
The game also thrives on exploration – yeah, each of the scenes are quite small as in VR it looks like it is a big dolls house that’s been opened up for you to peer in. However, being that it is VR, you can literally put your head in and take a look around every nook and cranny. There are hidden scrolls/stain-glass pieces to find around the world and they are usually quite well hidden so I would ensure I had smashed all crates in an area and manually looked around before moving on. This is one of the things which you wouldn’t be able to do if it was on the TV as you would be stuck to the perspective of being side on. The way I play platformers is, if there is a path that’s not leading the exit then it must be leading to a collectable – I took the same advice here and managed to find most of them on my first playthrough.
Yet, beyond all the amazing level design, the beautiful scenery, and the clever puzzles, the one thing that stood above everything was Quill. From the very first moment I got control of her, I knew this game was going to be something special. To build up a character as much as Polyarc has done in such a small amount of time – to the point that I was so attached to Quill I actually screamed when I accidentally ran off an edge and killed her – is simply amazing! I was rooting for her the whole way and I even cared if she lived or died, even though I knew if I died it was a quick respawn. At the end, I even shed a tear when she had her moment and shown us all just how brave she was – which isn’t the best in VR as it requires you to take it off to wipe it!
Each time Quill walks off the screen, a new scene appears as if it’s a diorama, each with their own hidden collectables, puzzles and/or enemies. The game looks simply stunning in VR and the level design is so well crafted and detailed that I found myself lost within some scenes for a very long time as I sat there and just looked around in awe – especially the later part with the castle. At some points, I would just sit there and wave to Quill then watch her run around and leave tiny footprints in the sand and then ruffle her fur as I stroked her head. The little things that have been placed within this game all come together to create a true PSVR masterpiece which screams quality and craftsmanship every second you play it.
The sound design is quite possibly perfect in my opinion. I played the game with my Turtlebeach headphones and the 3d sound coming from the PSVR was so good – I can’t remember the last time a game sounded like this, VR or not. Everything from the echoes in the halls, the turning of the pages in the library, the wind blowing around, and even the sound of Quill’s footsteps tapping on the floor as you run around – it just all comes together perfectly. The narrator was a perfect choice, she reads the story, along with the various voices she puts on, perfectly and with real emotion. Also, the soundtrack is spot on for this game – calm and relaxing yet also adventurous and exciting.
Before I get to the trophies, there is one thing I wasn’t a massive fan of – the arena-style battles. There are some sections where you are trapped in a room and four or five enemies will come at you at the same time – the simple way to take them out is to grab one (usually the one that fires plasma bullets) and hide Quill and use the enemy to kill the others, then kill that one. However, some of these areas get really busy with enemies and up until this point you haven’t really encountered as many enemies as this at once so you are a little thrown off. They are doable and they aren’t that hard – you just have to both grab an enemy by reaching out and holding R2 whilst also moving Quill and watching her as the enemies are instantly drawn to her natural beauty (I presume).
In regards to trophies, Moss is an easy platinum and an extremely fun game to go back and play over and over again. Your first playthrough will be about three to four hours with subsequent ones being shorter, so it isn’t a very long game. However, you won’t find all the collectables on your first go so you can jump into any chapter you want once you have completed them and continue looking (no indication on which chapters have missing items though). Other trophies are doing certain actions as both Quill and the reader and even beating the game without dying – the rest are all story based. So with that said, if you are a trophy hunter with a PSVR headset – Moss should be on your list as it’s so much fun yet you will also have your platinum in no time.
Moss has simply raised the bar on all PSVR games going forward. Among its beautiful landscapes, pleasant music, clever puzzles and great narration is a story about a cute mouse name Quill who you will instantly fall in love with and be willing to do anything for by the end of the story. Some say we have been waiting for the definitive game to buy a PSVR for, I believe Moss has just stood up and taken that position. Be aware though, this is only part one of Quill’s tale, so don’t expect a grand finale as I’m sure we have plenty more still to come; however, what an introduction! I’m a #Quill4Life guy now and I believe you will be too as we eagerly await the se-Quill…
- Beautiful environments
- Great voice acting by the narrator, the sound effects and the soundtrack
- Lovely story which will have you hooked right til the end
- Lovable protagonist, Quill, who is bursting with personality
- The interactive puzzles are great and the level design is perfect for VR
- Combat can get a little overwhelming without any warning (I had no issues though)
- Some may say it's a little short (I thought it was perfect)