Moss: Book 2, the sequel to one of the most popular VR games ever, is aiming to take everything players liked about the first game and giving us more of it. The sequel dives deeper into the player character's bond with the heart-meltingly cute mouse Quill, you'll meet new allies and explore beautiful new environments, and generally, there's more to see, do, and interact with than there was in the first game. But of course, that broader scope also applies to the threat level in Moss 2, which developer Polyarc says is existential.
"In the announcement trailer, you saw we've got this huge winged tyrant that is a sort of a new Arcane threat that you're going to have to deal with," Polyarc design director Josh Stiksma tells me. "And it serves as a bit of a symbol of, you've saved Argus, but now you sort-of have to save almost the world of Moss. There's more at stake this time around. So you know, you've rescued Argus, he's with you. And now you've got to work on a plan for how you're actually going to work together – Quill and the reader – to take down this new threat and essentially save the world."
At several points during my interview with Stiksma, he reminds me that Polyarc has been actively listening to feedback about Moss to make the sequel an even better experience for players. For example, responding to requests for a clearer sense of progression, Moss 2 will have new weapons that gradually make Quill a more capable companion along your adventure.
"We heard feedback from players that they really liked the idea of progression and having Quill get stronger," Stiksma explains. "So weapons are a great way of doing that. And we see them just like we've seen any gameplay mechanic where it's something that is going to contribute to all forms of gameplay that we have, whether it's combat, or puzzle solving, or platforming. So we see those as tools in the player's toolkit, for whichever kind of player they tend to be, to help them solve those challenges that they're facing."
"And it's just, frankly, quite amazing just to see a little tiny mouse hold a giant hammer. And our animators did such a great job. It's truly inspiring to see. The way that the weight transfers around is just so cool."
Another new feature coming to Moss 2 is the player character's progression, which will open up new ways to manipulate environments and help Quill through levels. You can see an example of this in the reveal trailer, where at one point the player interacts with a stretch of vines and turns it into a grassy stone bridge for Quill to use to traverse a gap. "The team is really excited about it because it's another type of texture, or physical interaction, which is one of the big important pillars for us when creating a VR game."
If you've played the first Moss, you'll know it isn't controversial to say the tiny house-mouse-that-could is the star of the show. I tell that to Stiksma as if he doesn't know it already, and he agrees emphatically. Polyarc knows we want more Quill, and it sounds like Moss 2 delivers. Not only are we getting a more emotionally involved story connecting the player character and Quill, but Stiksma also tells me Moss 2 will take you longer to beat than its predecessor.
"Getting to probably the most important part, which is your bond and your relationship with Quill. The story is going to advance, and as you advance with that story, you're going to continue to strengthen your connection with her."
"Our writing team has been working hard at threading your relationship with Quill through this larger story, and ensuring that we can actually create a broader range of emotions, in terms of what you're feeling, in terms of what you believe Quill is feeling across the game. We want you to feel the triumph, we want you to feel the uncertainty, we want you to feel the heartbreak. And certainly they've done a great job of ensuring that that range of emotions is something that is going to really strengthen your relationship, but also potentially test your relationship."
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One thing I love about Quill is her use of American Sign Language, which is an important accessibility feature as well as an endearing character trait. Stiksma says Quill will continue signing in Moss 2 and explains that, on top of the obvious benefit to deaf players, incorporating ASL helps create a particular kind of relationship between the player and Quill.
"Our animation director is really passionate about [accessibility.] He was the one who really brought us to the realization of how great an idea [sign language] was for the first game. And, you know, your relationship with Quill is partially built by her trying to communicate with you," Stiksma says. "And ASL and pantomiming is our way of doing it, because it's lost as soon as she's just straight-up talking to you, right? There has to be that layer of communication where you're trying to interpret what she's trying to say, and she's doing the best job that she can to be able to communicate that to you. And absolutely, that is something we want to continue because we are excited about bringing more of that experience to players."
Asked about PS5 VR support, Stiksma said Polyarc is "really excited to support PS5," but for now that only means via the free adapter that lets you play the current PSVR on PS5. "Of course, we're always going to be continuing to evaluate new things as they come online because we want as many people playing Moss as possible," he teased. "And in general, the studio is always excited about new technology, and we're always going to take advantage of it wherever we can."
Polyarc hasn't announced a release window for Moss 2 yet, so it's possible it'll end up launching on PS5 PSVR, but for now, Stiksma makes clear it's being developed for the original PSVR. Either way, I'm looking forward to being transported into what sounds like a meaningful evolution of an already great VR game whenever Moss 2 launches.