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Video Game / Moss

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Moss is a first/third-person Action-Adventure game by Polyarc Games for PS4 VR, Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest.

Once upon a time, there was a storybook about a kingdom that fell to the evil of Sarffog, a fire-breathing snake; Set Right What Once Went Wrong; anthropomorphized animals, etc. It's fairly standard for a Zelda knock-off, which is what a lot of people were reminded of when they first heard of the game — a comparison that's not inaccurate. Quill, the mouse heroine, can jump, solve puzzles and wield a one-handed sword, brainsing and fighting her way through the story against a semi-stylized art direction that looks like watercolors.

What Quill has, that most other heroes don't (aside from the ones in Baten Kaitos), is the player, who exists in-game as a mask and a glowing cursor, and is called "The Reader" by characters. There is No Fourth Wall, as Quill can and does address The Reader directly. The Reader can also manipulate the game's world by moving their cursor over interactable objects, holding down shoulder buttons, and then moving the object via DualShock 4 motion inputs. The Reader must control Quill via thumbsticks and face buttons and interact with the world directly to help defeat Sarffog.

Released on February 27th, 2018, Moss has received praise from critics; it has been described as the first Killer App for PS VR, and indeed for VR as a whole, though it didn't stay exclusive for long - the game was later ported to PC and made compatible with every major PC VR headset available (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality) in June 2018. The game's sequel, Moss Book II, was released on March 31, 2022. Taking place directly after the first game, Quill is tasked with defeating Sarffog's evil superiors and bringing peace to the land of Moss once and for all.

Moss contains the following tropes:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Once Sarffog is defeated and Quill's uncle Argus is rescued at the game's end, the narrator says that while this first volume of Quill's journey is over, your journey together is still just beginning, something which is followed up on in Book II.
  • Behind the Black: Averted. Though each room of the game is oriented towards The Reader for best viewing, they are still 3D; The Reader can stand up and look around to get better angles on the action, or find hidden treasures.
  • Big Bad:
    • Sarffog in the first game, the snake who used dark magic to conquer the kingdom that the animals once inhabited before they fled into the forest.
    • Tylan the owl is the main villain of the second game; he is not only the creature responsible for Sarffog, but is the one who waged the war that sent the land of Moss into chaos to begin with, and now he's hunting for the magical Glass pieces that the player is also seeking out. He stops serving this role once his Reader takes full control of him in the climax, as now his Reader is the Big Bad.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Though Quill uses American Sign Language to communicate, she doesn't use much of it, and there are no subtitles for it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of Book II, Quill has defeated Tylan, avenged her uncle's death, destroyed the Arcane, and sent away the Glass so they can never be used to threaten Moss again. However, in sending away the Glass, she had to say goodbye to her Reader, whom she considers her closest friend, forever.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Before long, Quill is equipped with a second Glass, a gauntlet on her right paw that becomes her sword.
  • Book Ends: Literally, as the game uses a magic storybook as a framing device. Even moreso with the fact that the first and last pages of the book feature a map of the world of Moss and a butterfly flying over it. The map on the last page, however, features a dotted line indicating the path that Quill and the Reader took on their journey from the forest to the castle.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Through the medium of the Glass, an artifact created by the Arcane, a Champion and a Reader join forces to save the day.
  • The Chosen One: Quill, by The Reader. (Of course, the player doesn't get a chance to choose anyone else, so this is more of a case of Because The Developers Say So.)
  • Collection Sidequest: Scrolls are littered around the game which, when collected, put together a stained-glass portrait of the Reader and Quill. The second game continues this with a stained glass mural, viewable in-game, which is slowly pieced together as you collect different scrolls color-coded to each area.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The end credits for the second game have the five Glass pieces appearing one after another, followed by Aderyn—revealing that wherever he went, he's not dead after all.
  • Eaten Alive: Near the end of the first game, the Starthing Aderyn is eaten by Sarffog after having led Quill right to him. At the beginning of the second game, he crawls out of the dead Sarffog's mouth, revealing he'd been swallowed alive.
  • Evil Counterpart: In the final battle, Tylan's own Reader reveals itself and takes control of Tylan, becoming essentially an evil counterpart of the player. Underscored by how Tylan's reader is red and angry-looking, while the player is blue-coded and has a more neutral mask face
  • Foil: Sahima is this to Quill. Where Quill is more than willing to accept the player's guidance, Sahima is reluctant to do so, having seen the destruction caused by Tylan and his reader.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The player is, according to the framing device, experiencing most of the game in a grand-looking library while they "read" it. In the second game, the library begins to be warped to match whichever setting Quill is exploring at the time, which culminates in the entire front being destroyed by the rift in The Pinnacle chapter. Even once the player has beaten the game, the game ends on the revelation that Tylan's Reader is also in the library with you... and they might not be very happy that you ended the story.
  • Framing Device: The player starts off flipping pages in a storybook in some sort of giant library. This is why everyone in-story refers to the player as The Reader: you are actually reading the book of Quill's story. Additionally, each time Quill travels between rooms, there's the sound of a page in a book being turned.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Sarffog role was to serve as an obstacle Quill has to face to save her uncle, but other than that doesn't really establish a fleshed out personality.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The owl Tylan in the first game, being the one who killed the Animal King after trying to steal all five of the magical Glass, as he is essentially responsible for Sarffog being in power to begin with.
  • Hint System: Quill herself. If you've been frowning at a puzzle for a little too long, she will try to explain to you how to solve it. Of course, she's limited to squeaking, pantomime and ASL.
  • The Heavy: The Narrator mentions that Sarffog has masters of the Arcane that he serves, but they don't appear while Sarffog is the front and center bad guy driving the plot, instead showing up in the second book.
  • Humanity's Wake: Midway through the game, Quill travels through a forest littered with human-sized helmets and swords, implying that there were once humans in this world, but they all died out. Nobody comments on them.
  • Immortals Fear Death: Aderyn the Starthing's motivation for his behavior in both games is that, as punishment for helping Tylan steal a Glass, he has been cursed to die after 100 years after having previously been immortal. He hopes that someone with the power of all five Glass could cure him of this curse.
  • The Lost Woods: The primary setting for the game is a gigantic forest in which Quill lives, with the player gradually leading her to a forest at the edge of it. The sprites also live in a large, enchanted forest.
  • Meaningful Name: A "quill pen" is an old-fashioned kind of pen, thus Quill's name is an allusion to the fact that the player is using her to "write the ending" to the story as requested of them in the beginning.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Quill's uncle Argus, who provides most of the initial exposition on the stones, ends up kidnapped in the first game to facilitate Quill's heroic journey to rescue him. In the second game, he's killed partway through in an event which triggers Quill's darkest hour, sets up Sahima as a second player character, and introduces the player to the Big Bad Tylan.
  • Mook–Face Turn: The Reader can actually take control of the various mechanical beetle enemies in the game. This is primarily intended for use in solving puzzles, but can also be used to help Quill deliver a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Narrator: There is one any time there's a Cut Scene, which is handy because none of the animals can talk.
  • No Fourth Wall: Played with, as the player is fully acknowledged by the game as a "Reader" who can interact with the world using their cursor, and whom Quill will occasionally communicate with. As is made clearer by the second game, however, "Readers" are themselves beings in the story of the game that exist in a world outside of Moss, whose interactions with the world via books make them akin to gods.
  • Notice This: Downplayed. When The Reader's cursor nears an object that can be interacted with, it will glow with blue highlights. (It glows even more when you actually start pushing it around.)
  • Refused the Call: In contrast to Quill, who immediately bonded with the Reader upon finding her Glass that lets her see them, another Glass-holder named Sahima is said to have actively refused to follow the lead of any Reader, and even tries to avoid you for a time.
  • Regenerating Health: Quill wears her Glass orb on her back. Interacting with it will heal her, though this takes a few seconds.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Late in the second game, the Starthing Aderyn realizes that Tylan's Reader is stronger than Quill's and turns on you, trying to gain Tylan's favor for having "brought" Quill's Glass to him. He is thrown into the Rift by Tylan in short order.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: In the second game, the character Sahima sarcastically claps at you every time you get her killed while playing as her, mockingly congratulating you for it.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Sarffog is a giant, hellish iron serpent that wouldn't be out of place in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
  • Some Dexterity Required: Some puzzles require you to interact with objects and control Quill at the same time.