Of all the games I saw or played at E3 2017, Moss is by far one of the most impressive. Being developed exclusively for the PlayStation VR by Polyarc, a studio founded by ex-Bungie employees, Moss is an action-adventure puzzle game with some neat twists. Danny Bulla, one of the co-founders of Polyarc, helped me get set up and guided me through the playable demo.
E3 2017 Impressions: Moss
The demo of Moss that I played opens with you the player sitting down in a library. From there, you open a book that transports you to the world of Moss and begins the tale of Quill, a shy young warrior mouse. While he wasn’t sharing too much about the story, Danny confirmed that Quill’s story is being written and that she is on a quest to save her family. Moss plays from a somewhat isometric-platformer perspective, with a first-person view from your in-game character.
Danny explained that when you and Quill first meet, she doesn’t know you and acts far more timid. Throughout the game, as you solve puzzles and defeat foes together, she begins to trust you far more. One particular feature I thought was incredible was how, using the DualShock 4 controller, you can actually scratch Quill’s head. She seems very appreciative and responds to the touch enthusiastically.
The demo takes place roughly one-third of the way through the game. You guide Quill to jump and clamber up platforms and over obstacles. There are also certain blocks and items that only you the player can move. This means there’s a level of coordination required between you and Quill, with the puzzles starting off extremely simply but adding in some more complex elements as the demo progressed. You can also directly possess and control basic enemies, which is useful. Danny explained that they wanted the puzzles to require thought however they didn’t want the player to feel slowed down or frustrated by unnecessarily complex situations.
Combat is fairly simple, by pressing a single button, Quill swings her sword with elegant yet furious abandon. Combined with jumps, Quill can easily defeat the enemy beetles that made up her foes for the demo. In the event she does get injured however, you simply guide your hands in-game over her and heal her. This helps to further the bonding and relationship you form with her. In just a few minutes, I found myself extremely protective of Quill, wanting to pet her and make sure she was okay. It’s an unusual way of making the player care for a character and works extremely well.
Moss is designed from the ground up to counter many of the issues associated with VR. The scene transitions include a fade to black, giving your eyes a rest. The sounds and soundtrack are soothing and gentle and include the sound of turning pages during the aforementioned transitions. The framerate is extremely smooth, I never felt even a hint of motion sickness. The only real issue is a hardware problem that falls to the resolution of the screen. Frankly, it’s extremely low, and as a result it definitely takes some getting used to. That said, after about ten minutes, I found that while it was still noticeable it wasn’t taking too much away from the experience.
All in all, I was extremely impressed with what the team at Polyarc is doing with Moss and I’m definitely looking forward to playing it come Holiday 2017.