Moss: Book 2 takes the logical steps to improve upon the first game, resulting in a stronger sequel. But there’s still much more room for Quill and friends to grow. Read on for our Moss: Book 2 review.
Moss: Book 2 moves the needle on for Quill and developer Polyarc. It’s a stronger, longer sequel that better explores the connection between our minuscule protagonist and the player, who returns as the ghostly ‘Reader’. It’s still not quite the sweeping epic this series seems capable of, but it’s another important chapter in that story.
If you played the first game in what’s quickly become a fan favorite VR series, you’ll likely remember it for its strong, Zelda-like gameplay, fantastic diorama worlds, and, above all, the unique ways in which the player could reach into levels to aid Quill on her quest and form a more personal bond with her. All of this remains intact right from the start with Moss: Book 2, which starts just moments after the end of the first game. Moreso than your usual sequel, Book 2 feels like the continuation of a larger journey rather than starting out fresh on a new adventure, and it shows as you slip right back into the familiar sword combat and puzzles.
In fact, for the opening hour or so you might worry it feels a little too familiar, with an abundance of returning enemy types and the same simplistic combat that sees Quill swinging her sword based on single-button combos. But the further you get into the game, the more ideas it throws at you. You get the power to make bridges out of vines, for example, but the biggest additions are the expansions to Quill’s arsenal. Throughout the course of the game, she gains the ability to dash over long distances and wields two new weapons in the form of a heavy-hitting hammer and a throwable glaive.
Whilst these additions help change up the combat, they’re also put to incredibly inventive use when it comes to the puzzles. Quill can stick the glaive into a wall, walk to another area of a level and then recall it to hit targets that are initially out of reach whilst the hammer can summon a mirror version that the player can reach in and drop down whilst Quill stands in another location. This results in some memorable brain teasers that initially left me stumped, making the satisfaction of solving them all the more rewarding.
At their best, these puzzles are even integrated into the action. One new enemy type rolls up into a ball, allowing you to reach in and grab it, then catapult it across the arena and knock out other foes. The hammer’s secondary ability, meanwhile, gets you physically involved in battles and adds a slight tactical element to encounters. They’ll come into play in late-game boss battles, too, which are a little long in the tooth and rely on some well-worn cliches but effectively mix in some weighty moments of human interaction, too.
That said, more could be done to smooth out some of the gameplay. Quill’s core animation set is the same as the first game, for example, and some of the platforming is still a little sluggish, including a jump that doesn’t cover much ground and is hard to judge, especially against environments that often leave gaps to accidentally slip through or objects you might clip into (one bug even let me hover Quill around the environment, stuck in a climbing animation).
My biggest takeaway, though, is that Book 2 still left me wanting much more from the world of Moss. It’s a longer game, yes, but not by an order of magnitude; I was able to clear the campaign in four and a half hours with roughly 75% of the collectibles, and going back to grab the last pieces would likely take an hour or so. It’s not that ‘length equals better game’ so much as the game ends just as its best ideas are starting to be put through their paces, with further potential left unexplored.
There’s also some ideas that could be pushed further. You can find new armor sets for Quill throughout the game, for example, but these are purely cosmetic and won’t buff her abilities or defenses in any way. It wasn’t until I discovered these costumes that I realized just how well suited the series might be to a deeper RPG experience.
Generally speaking, though, Book 2 is a very polished and logical expansion of what you saw in the first entry in the series. Even visually, the game goes beyond the original with a wider array of diverse environments filled with lush vegetation and visual easter eggs for those that lean in to explore. Special credit goes to the vistas; you’re almost always rewarded for leaning back to take in a view or poking through a nearby window to take in the castles and mountains in the distance.
But all of this is the box-ticking stuff, the things you’d expect from a sequel as it looked to flesh out the foundations. It’s all very welcome, if not entirely surprising. Where Moss: Book 2 did catch me off-guard was with its story. Or rather, certain story beats.
There are certain elements to the world that have a lot of potential, mostly surrounding the concept of the Reader character players embody. For starters, the warmth of the connection between you and Quill is alive and well in the sequel and pushed to new extremes. Again, some of these are the highs and lows you’d predict of a darker, deeper sequel, but more compelling are the playful moments where Quill pretends to surf as you taxi her across levels on platforms, or breakdances in celebration of taking down a boss. There are moments of celebration, admiration, and even those cold instances of awkwardness where you feel some sense of intrusion. Capturing these moments is no small feat and it’s a powerful reminder of how intimate and personal Polyarc’s VR storytelling can be.
That goes for the environmental storytelling too, where cinematic moments of boss foreshadowing remind you of the real power of VR. These instances are far stronger than any of the direct storytelling.
Truthfully I’m never been a big fan of the game’s overarching lore of warrior mice and squirrel steeds that wear leaf helmets. It’s like shipping Sylvanian Families off to war, and the storybook narrative structure can drag on when you’d rather be playing. There’s also hints of an MCU-style wider potential for the universe, which I’m not entirely convinced can work outside of VR, although I do have to award points for the appearance of a guinea pig character raising a stein of beer in one cutscene (there’s your protagonist for Book 3).
Moss: Book 2 Review – Final Impressions
For the most part, Moss: Book 2 is the satisfying sequel you’d expect. It adds brilliant new gameplay mechanics that make for some innovative combat encounters, whilst puzzles prove to be a surprise highlight. More impressive, though, are some of the ways the game catches you off-guard with both the story and that series-defining bond you establish with Quill reaching new heights. But, just as with the first entry, you’re left wanting more of just about everything; its a longer game but still on the lean side, ending just as its best ideas start to get fleshed out. Greedy as it may sound, this still isn’t the sweeping epic you know this series has in it, but instead another reassuring step towards getting there. I’m convinced Polyarc has that game in its future but, for now, Moss: Book 2 is another excellent chapter in a wider story for Quill that drives home that familiar feeling that the best is still to come.
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This review was conducted on the PSVR version of the game. What did you make of our Moss: Book 2 review? Let us know in the comments below!