We take a heads-off look at the next adventure for Quill and you, the Reader, as Polyarc readies its imminent release on PS4 and PS5's PSVR.
First thing, first. News is breaking as this is getting published that Moss: Book II will release for PlayStation VR in less than two weeks, on March 31, 2022. That will meet the recently-announced spring 2022 release window on the nearer end of the term, and therefore implies that it's finally time to tell you more about the game... before we start playing properly for review in a few days.
To get that initial look at the sequel to one of the most celebrated VR games ever, we attended a gameplay presentation by Polyarc's Doug Burton, as the game designer played an early portion of the game, which was then followed by a QA session by both Burton and eventually comms man Lincoln Davis, who stepped in to announce the game's final release date. All this complements our interview last year with artist Coolie Calihan, which already gave us a good idea of what players could expect from the new adventure which will be "1.5 to 2 times longer" and will "challenge your bond with Quill".
Before we get our hands (and heads) on the final game, it effectively seems like Book II will build upon what made the original so acclaimed among VR lovers. Other than picking up the story where Book I left, the new volume will basically expand on the premise of the first game and then "hone some of the ideas that resonated" with players.
This is an ad:
This basically means more abilities, grander scale and new ways to emphasise both narrative and interactivity, considering how Polyarc defines the series as a "semi-co-op experience" where the Reader, or the player, is present and takes an active part in the tiny diorama-like world where mouse heroine Quill deals with the oppression of Arcane in a medieval fantasy fairytale.
During the brief gameplay demo we saw some of this in place and in action. Grander outdoor environments. Different enemies that mean not only a challenge to beat, but perhaps the solution of a puzzle. New powers and tools for both Quill and the Reader. For example, the little mouse is now able to create new pathways with her brand-new vineyard power, perhaps building a bridge or painting a wall with vines that can then be climbed. Also a pangolin-like creature that seemed threatening, but once beaten could be thrown like a pinball to activate a mechanism.
Speaking of puzzles, combat and progression, Polyarc is looking for a "more dungeon-like experience", with interconnected areas (some "the size of several Moss 1 rooms") requiring exploration and several interactions to solve the bigger whole, perhaps looking for a key or coming back and forth to see how the actions in one room have effects elsewhere, a little bit like in Zelda games.
This is an ad:
In the demo, Quill couldn't get past some armoured breakables... until she took notice and alerted the Reader of a mysterious statue which was holding the Hammer, a "powerful and satisfying tool" for her and the player, as both will have to work in tandem most of the time. The mouse uses it from there on in combat against the new armoured enemies, while the Reader borrows it for bigger impact, for instance dealing with piston-like devices. These new weapons, besides, stay with both until the end of the adventure, potentially unlocking other events in previous or future situations.
After visiting "The Conservatory", which looks like an imposing greenhouse or glass building showing the new type of outdoor environments, and after teasing one of the expected bigger boss fights (basically someone or something much bigger wielding a much bigger hammer), the demo ended and we were left wanting for more, but this time inside the helmet. As it's first and foremost a PSVR release (Polyarc won't comment/commit to a potential PSVR2 release, nor on other headsets), one could already notice the more outdated graphics and wish for a better definition of the otherwise beautiful details, but it will at least load faster if you play on PS5.
Polyarc focuses on keywords such as "tactile", "presence", "larger", "more complex", and we couldn't agree more that's the way to improve an already charming VR experience (by the way, you don't have to play the first one as there's a recap, but as "we cannot recap the emotional experience", the devs strongly recommend you do). Add to that "more triumphs and some heartbreak" as they've been warning about the narrative, together with the additional length and depth "to keep the players in the helmet quite a bit longer", and we're potentially looking at the best reason to dust off your PSVR and perhaps one of the most interesting VR titles in 2022. We'd love to confirm this with our Moss: Book II review very soon.