The Assembly Review 4K

UK developer released its first person adventure game The Assembly for the PC as a regular game and offering support for VR platforms such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for a little bit extra. This has caused a bit of controversy but at the end of the day, 2D or in VR is the game worth your time and money? Take a look at our The Assembly review for the full picture.

The Assembly Review:

Today we’re taking a look at nDreams seated first person adventure game ‘The Assembly’ which takes place in a fictitious bunker, home to a clandestine organization called The Assembly. You take on the role of two different characters, Madeline Stone, a troubled doctor who experimented on her own mother before she died who has being kidnapped and enrolled into the organization and Doctor Cal Pearson, a veteran of the Assembly who wants a way out after disagreements with some of the experiments being conducted. The two contrasting scenarios offer a glimpse into the hidden world beneath the surface where groundbreaking works are carried out free from the shackles and protocols governing the rest of the world. Basically pretty dodgy stuff.

The two characters play in very different styles where Madeline goes through the process of induction whilst constantly fighting against it. There’s little room for her to move around outside of directed moments where she’s to solve puzzles of varying descriptions. None of them are taxing and seem to stimulate her moral compass.

Cal on the other hand is free to roam around various offices and labs whilst being able to log in to computers, open close draws and cupboards and generally snoop around to aid his departure. With both characters there’s little to no interactions with any of the other staff outside of phone calls and Tannoys which creates a very empty play space. Whilst each location certainly feels lived in, the lack of human interactions makes it a very solitary experience and in some instances fairly dull and uneventful.

It’s perhaps easy to pigeon hole Madeline’s side of the story as a series of puzzles that take place in one room with no deviations on the theme and for the most part they are entertaining especially a whodunnit scene where gathering evidence on several suspects is required before making a decision on who the killers are. Poirot eat your heart out. Well not quite, as the answers are about as obvious as a brick to the face. It’s a bit of a by-the-numbers experience and whilst the physicality of the puzzles is welcome it’s not really expanded enough to be given much merit. There’s also no sense of accomplishment due to their relative simplicity. It’s as if you’re being herded along the whole time without offering suitable challenge or choices.

Cal’s gameplay follows a similar pattern where although you do have the freedoms to move around, you’re basically repeating the same actions over and over. Open drawers, login to computer, read emails, look at files, find a code, open doors, have conversation and simply repeat these for the duration. It’s only the last few chapters where the game shows a bit more promise (for both characters) but sadly the game ends. It wouldn’t be fair to describe the game as a pure walking simulator because of the interactivity and freedom of movement but there’s not really a lot to do off the beaten track aside from opening and closing every draw/cupboard hoping to find something worthwhile – and due to the nature of the game there never is outside of the objective based items.

Visually the game looks pretty neat in 2D and in VR, but it’s a very enclosed game with little visual variation outside of labs and offices. You’ll enter a residential area in the latter part of the game with Cal which shows a bit of variety, but this is short lived before returning back to the labs and offices. It’s a shame, as more open or varied locales might have made the game more interesting. As mentioned, there’s few interactions with other characters who all look like clones or rejects from Mortal Kombat making for a lifeless experience.

In VR you’re moving around using a gamepad or keyboard and mouse (of which there are several options to choose from such as regular stick control, teleportation and various speeds of movement or turning). At least all bases are covered which is neat, but the lack of hand interactions using the Vive (and soon to be Touch) controllers is a massive missed opportunity for being fully immersed.

Audio is of a high standard and is perhaps the saving grace of the game. There’s good dialogue that feels realistic but it’s a purely narrative driven game where your character is constantly talking to themselves or anyone who will listen. It’s not an ideal set up for the VR experience if you want to become the character but due to the high quality it’s not distracting in any way.

In terms of length the game can be completed easily in an afternoon with around 3-5 hours of play across 12 chapters depending on whether you search everywhere when playing as Cal. Madeline doesn’t get any options to snoop outside of the aforementioned whodunnit mission. As far as replay value is concerned there’s no real incentive to try again as the main moral choices you make are at the end of the game where once completed you can use a chapter select to replay the last section again for a different ending.

To conclude, The Assembly has an interesting premise but is sadly lacking in gameplay features and variety to make it stand out. The story is good and the characters well acted, but overall it’s simply too dull for it to be given much praise beyond being an average first person experience. There’s no horror, no scares and the psychological or moral elements are vastly underplayed. If you want to be taken underground to witness a dark and not so mysterious set of rooms and characters then you’ll find some enjoyment from the narrative. But as a game it’s lacking to the point of not being universally appealing which is a shame. As a mature experience a few more adult themes such as grotesque human experiments and shameful discoveries would have given the game a bit more edge, As it stands it a very by the numbers hand holding game that doesn’t shock or provide moments of awe in VR or 2D.

Score 6/10

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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