Polyarc’s reveal of the PlayStation VR exclusive Moss was undoubtedly a highlight of Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) press conference ahead of the opening of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this week. The colourful backdrops and beautiful animation of lead mousketeer, Quill, seemed far from the stark environments and inanimate objects that virtual reality (VR) has offered in much of its first year as a consumer product. The good news? It looks just as wonderful on the head-mounted display (HMD) as it does in that trailer.
The demo VRFocus experienced appeared to take place at the very start of the videogame. The player is cast as a friend of Quill, though takes direct control of her in the same fashion as Lucky’s Tale; the on-screen character will take note of your presence, visibly offering hints to solve puzzles and a direction to follow, though here the player has the ability to interact with the world indirectly of Quill. A gentle start to the demo allowed the player to become familiarised with the combination of a traditional third-person adventure videogame control scheme and the DualShock 4’s motion-control, before providing a simple logic challenge.
The combat is basic in this early build. A three-hit combo allows Quill to get the better of enemies, even when multiple are attacking at once. Should she take damage the player can heal her by locking onto with one of the triggers and wiggling the controller. It’s simple and intuitive to control both Quill and your own interaction simultaneously, as is demanded by the aforementioned puzzle.
In the penultimate area of the demonstration version of Moss, the player has to examine the area before combining Quill’s abilities with their own. A large rotating cylinder in the centre of the room must be unlocked by pressing two switches simultaneously. Quill can stand on one, but the player must lock to an enemy and drag them onto the other, and then rotate the cylinder manually using the DualShock 4 controllers motion input. Once a path has been created, Quill and the enemy must switch positions to offer further advancement. This simple puzzle is a perfect introduction to the relationship between Quill and the player, the environment interaction the player can have and the types of puzzles that Moss will throw at you.
While no videogame should be judged on the merit of its visual quality alone, the beauty of Moss’ art direction is more than worthy of note. Created using Unreal Engine 4, Moss features a staggering amount of detail in its densely populated areas; leaves that rustle under feet, particle and water effects that bring life to the forest Quill calls home, and Quill herself is one of the most elegantly animated character models not just in VR, but in videogames as a whole. Quite simply, Moss looks stunning.
Already confirmed for release later this year, Moss deserves a place on your ‘most wanted’ list. After just one short play, the tease of more taxing puzzles and the forming of a non-verbal relationship with the adorable Quill is very compelling. The hope is high that Polyarc will carve a lengthy adventure that takes full advantage of the mechanics that have been laid out in this early demo, and VRFocus will be sure to follow Moss all the way to launch.