Games Review: Moss (PSVR, 2018): Magically Immersive

If Moss is any indication, 2018 is going to be a huge year for the PSVR. Moss is this year’s first major VR release in terms of hype factor and I’m happy to say it’s one I was not disappointed in.

PlayStation VR has been out now for just over 14 months and while it may have started off fairly strong with significant stock shortages due to demand during its launch window combined with showpiece titles like Batman: Arkham VR, PlayStation Worlds and the definition of interactive horror in Resident Evil VII, there was quite a bit to be excited about. And then it went a little quiet, a little too quiet in my opinion. Where were all these massive first and third-party VR games? Sure we had some cheap throw away titles such as Carnival Games and a few VR short films you just sat and watched but it wasn’t enough.

I had fears this absolutely amazing tech had just been thrown to the wayside, another passing fad like Kinect, but then in the last few months the VR genre has taken some risks and started releasing some titles that really started to bring VR into the mainstream eyes once more. Stores starting getting widely available stock of the PSVR and now in 2018 we’re sitting and waiting on some major upcoming titles. Moss is one of these titles, originally shown at E3 in 2017.

Moss is a third person platformer from a new development team called Polyarc. The team is made up of developers from companies like Bungie, Rockstar and Epic Games. In other words, some amazing creative minds bringing us interactive worlds in VR? Yeah, I was in!

Check out some of my initial playthrough in the spoiler free gameplay video:

The story of Moss starts in a library. You, the reader, finds an old book and as you flip through its pages you are transported to a fantasy world contained within the book. There we meet Quill, a gorgeously animated mouse that stumbles upon a mysterious bright green gem stone. Taking the gem back to her uncle, Quill is told to wait at home while he tries to find some answers. Uncle, however, never returns and it isn’t long before Quill is ambushed by a sprite that takes her on a journey to save her Uncle from an evil fire breathing snake named Sarffog.

The mechanics in Moss consist of physically moving your head to look around the environment. This lets you see where to move Quill next. You then use the analogue sticks to move Quill through multiple platforming areas by running, jumping, moving along ledges and solving puzzles to progress. Using your controller as the in-game Orb of Light, you reach out and move handles and levers, boulders and even freeze enemies, taking control of them, allowing Quill to attack from an easier angle or pass them entirely.

The level of immersion in Moss is incredible. If you lean forward towards Quill and try to get as close as you can to the little mouse, you will notice how fast her tiny little belly erratically breathes in and out, just like a real mouse. As she tries to calm down after a battle or a platforming sequence, Quill looks up at you and at first looks a little taken back by the huge human face staring down at her, and hides her head under her arms. Eventually she’ll look right into your eyes, raise her arm up and reaches out to touch your face. She’ll wave at you. At one stage I turned her away from me and snuck up behind her. She jumped in fright and then told me off in an angry little voice and some very well animated sign language.

It’s these little interactions and incredibly lifelike animations that make a huge difference to VR and proof that just putting on a VR headset in a 3D world is not enough to make a great game. To feel like you’re part of the world, an actual character with meaning is still important. Interacting with the space around you, seeing Quill’s ears moving with the breeze, giving her a high five when completing a puzzle together — its these amazing physics and tight platforming gameplay that forgive its very few flaws, one of which is its length!

I finished my first playthrough of Moss in around 3.5 hours. After a seriously awesome endgame and some surprisingly tough battles, I went back for a second run because I wanted to find all the collectables like picture scrolls and magic dust. Sadly, beyond gaining a platinum trophy, it was a tad disappointing to find that it achieved nothing besides seeing the bottle of dust and the completed picture from my scroll hunting sitting on the desk next to the book in-between chapters. On top of this, the game ends on a decent cliff-hanger that basically tells us this is not the end of our journey, but only the end of book one?

At a mere 3 hours long, I felt a little heartache and being told it is only a book one gave me initial feelings of anger at the fact this may very well be a money making ploy to make us all buy more chapters, but maybe it’s just the length the studio had originally planned and called it book one to make us all look forward to a possible sequel?  Either way, it makes me believe there is more coming and after this game and this promise of being able to come back with Quill, with Polyarc? I say hurry the hell up, you sold me! To every other VR developer, take note, this is the company and the game to follow after.

Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights:  Incredible VR immersion, bright and colourful worlds, amazing sound design, awesome animations and interactivity.
Lowlights:  4-hour length is dissapointing, collectables amount to nothing, cliff-hanger ending that just ends rather abruptly.
Developer: Polyarc
Publisher:  Polyarc
Available:  Now
Platforms: PlayStation VR

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro VR with retail code provided by the publisher.