PC VR Review - 'Moss: Book II'

PC VR Review – ‘Moss: Book II’

Mousse was one of my very first VR experiences on PSVR about four years ago, and it was a perfect introduction to VR. On paper, it didn’t seem like a big deal. It’s a mostly stationary VR game played seated with mostly conventional controls. It wasn’t exactly a VR revolution, but it’s still one of the best. Moss: Book II picks up right after the end of the first title and has some very big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Moss: Book II successfully continues and expands the fantasy world of its predecessor, even though it’s largely cut from the same cloth.

If you haven’t played Mousseturn around now. Book II doesn’t necessarily require you to have played the first one, but it’s still a great game and seamlessly transitions into this sequel, making it a must-have game to get the most out of part two. In the first part, players entered the world of Mousse as “The Reader” through a magical book to aid the mouse Quill in his quest to rid the earth of an evil occupation led by the serpent Sarffog.

After defeating the serpent in an epic final battle and freeing Quill’s uncle in the process, the initial danger seemed averted for now, but the land is still in danger of descending into darkness.

Signal Book II.

Once again, we’re the mystical reader assisting Quill on his new quest, which is much larger and requires him to obtain a number of shards of glass spread across the lands. What follows is a little odyssey through different regions and the occasional intertwined boss fight to save the lands once and for all – or something along those lines because the end of Book II does not completely end the story.

As a matter of fact, Moss: Book II needed some time to cheer me up. The first hour is still as good as the whole first entry, but that’s about it. The gameplay was consistent with what I had already played, and it took a little while before Book II found its groove and offered new mechanics to expand on the toolset established in the original.

Mousse is a seated experience. Every part of the world is a huge, detailed diorama, from ancient castle walls and verdant woods to icy peaks, with yourself sitting in the middle. There’s an incredible sense of scale in these environments, further emphasized by our little protagonist. Most of the gameplay involves navigating Quill from one entry point to another in these static areas, often passing through small combat and puzzle sections along the way. It may sound simplistic, and it’s not entirely untrue, but Moss: Book II is completely engaging throughout its runtime.

Quill is animated with so much detail and personality that it’s enjoyable to watch her go through every section of the game. Quill never really says a word except in narrated interludes, but the game manages to give her a lot of character and establishes a link with The Reader by the only animation. Animations are a strong point of the adventure, including enemies and secondary characters, but unfortunately there isn’t a huge variety of them throughout the six-hour story. Actual story progression often occurs outside of the game via narrated book pages, entirely disconnected from gameplay. This fits the fairy tale style of the game, but it also somewhat interrupts the immersion of navigating a small mouse through large open environments full of detail and interaction. Moss: Book II shines the most with its wonderful presentation and gameplay, and it’s a little clunky not having a way to exclusively tell the story in this environment.

While we primarily control Quill and interact with the world through her, there are certain interactions the player must do with both Quill together and alone. In the first entry, the player could heal Quill in battle, manipulate enemy movement, and move platforms around the environment. These interactions still exist in Book IIbut they were extended by a few more actions, such as throwing certain enemies at targets, creating climbing vines, or assisting Quill with special attacks during combat.

Combat is still the weakest aspect of the adventure, mainly due to its low level of difficulty. With no specific difficulty settings, many combat encounters aren’t particularly difficult. Some boss encounters are nonetheless quite fun to play, mostly due to their sheer scale, but they’re never really a barrier to progress. Enemy variety in combat is still lacking, not to the same degree as in the first title, but more variety in enemy types would have been much appreciated. Instead, the game adds additional weapons alongside the sword for combat and environmental puzzles. There’s a hammer for high damage and a boomerang-style weapon that sticks to its target and can be flipped on command. Each has a special attack that requires reloading the weapon, and the player can trigger the attack by reaching out. This means the player has a lot more options and activities to do during combat, which still makes slightly easy encounters fun to complete, as there’s little downtime and always something to do. Quill or the player.

Moss: Book II nailed the puzzle design, which is much more varied and interesting compared to the combat encounter. The game continuously progresses at a steady pace without ever jamming the player with unfair puzzle solutions. It’s not easy either. You may very well encounter small temporary obstacles while you think about the way forward, but after a few tries you usually find the solution. Adding new weapons and more player interactions to the environment to aid Quill’s progression, the puzzles are quite faceted and introduce some interesting new mechanics as the game progresses. It’s consistently smart in its design and manages to keep the solutions varied enough that you never do anything too long before the credits roll, and that’s easily Moss: Book IIis the greatest strength.

Every element of Quill’s Second Adventure adds up to an engaging and wonderful VR experience: a great story in a beautiful setting, great animations, beautiful environments, decent combat, and varied puzzles. That said, even with a more ambitious scope, Moss: Book II still plays within the same technical limits that were established in the first entry. It’s not necessarily bad, but after very good VR platformers, such as Astrobot, there is a lot of untapped potential. Although there are collectibles hidden in the environments, it’s never really difficult to dig them up. I wish the game had made more use of VR, at least for collectibles. It would be great to inspire players to search through the highly detailed dioramas until they find interesting secrets that are hidden in dark corners or can only be discovered from different vantage points. Often there is simply nothing of interest to be found. We are quite sure Book II won’t be the last we see of this fairy tale, so we’re excited to see what’s next and whether the next entry will break free from the established formula a bit more.

From a technical point of view, Book II didn’t drastically change its visual style, and that’s a good thing. Where it intensifies is in the various detailed environments you visit. From large-scale remnants of human inhabitants to smaller-scale animal population structures, there is so much to see and discover across all areas of the game. The world we traverse feels lived-in and authentic against the backdrop of the story and plays a huge part in the narrative. We didn’t encounter any bugs or performance issues, which isn’t necessarily terribly surprising considering the game has been out on other platforms for over six months. The PC version may be quite late in comparison, but it retains the same magical, polished gameplay on more powerful hardware, but it may not look hugely improved over the versions on PS4 and Quest 2. is a beautiful and fun VR game from start to finish whether you play it on PC, PS4/5 or Quest 2.

Moss: Book II does not lose momentum and directly continues the touching story of the first title. It expands the gameplay in new and fun ways and quite effectively immerses you in its fairy tale world. While it’s a fun and very polished affair, it still plays it a little safe in some ways, but that’s easy to overlook when the end product looks and plays this great. Just like its predecessor, Moss: Book II is a must-have title in VR.

Score: 8.8/10

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