Compelling narrative meets gorgeous graphics and puzzle mechanics in “The Assembly”
The Assembly, created by Ndreams, is a built-for-VR adventure game that places you in a secret science lab where morally questionable research is being conducted. I had the opportunity to play bits of the first 3 chapters on what looked like a Crescent Bay. In the first chapter I was wheeled into the secret facility by two talkative scientists, only able to move my head, and learned of my identity as a famous female scientist who had chosen to be inducted into the facility. In the second chapter I conducted lab work as a different character, looking at samples under a microscope and talking to coworkers on the phone. For the third chapter, I resumed the role of the female scientist. As part of my induction trials I was placed into a room with mannequins around a table, one of which had been stabbed with swords, and was tasked with solving a murder mystery by looking for clues in the rooms behind each mannequin.
The thing that jumped out at me the most from my 15 minute play session was the quality of the dialogue and immersiveness of the story. Not only was the banter of the first two scientists entertaining, but I found myself hanging on to every one of their words for clues about the facility I was entering. The later chapters also contained a brilliant mix of sinister situation balanced by humor. It made those moments of unearthing a scientific conspiracy all the more potent when my concerns about it were silenced by a co-worker who wanted me to do something for him and wouldn’t let me get in a word edgewise. More than anything else, I’m excited to see where The Assembly’s narrative goes.
The controls for manipulating objects were fairly standard. In the demo I played stick-yaw was the method of turning, which made me a little motion sick by the demo’s end. However, I was told that there were several other turning methods implemented, and that players would have a chance at the start of the game to try several of them and choose the one they liked best. As far as I can tell The Assembly is more of a puzzle exploration game than an action game, so they should be able to easily implement any 1st person turning methods that developers come up with without having to worry about it breaking game flow.
In terms of actual gameplay, the third chapter with the murder mystery was definitely unique. Selecting a mannequin would have them say something about the deceased, and the player could go check out their room for clues, opening draws, rummaging through notes and computers, etc. I’ve wanted more intellectually based games for a while, so I’m excited to see what other challenges the game has in store. It’s refreshing to have a game with a solid story that requires you to think. And of course, The Assembly using Unreal Engine 4, looks gorgeous.
The Assembly definitely goes on my list of must-play titles when consumer VR launches. The combination of compelling story with problem solving gameplay and detailed environments makes it one of the most promising breathes of fresh air that 3D gaming has seen in a while.