The PlayStation VR launch may have been full of new titles, but it also saw it’s fair share of games previously released on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. The Assembly released on PC during the Summer and can be played using the aforementioned VR devices, but also as a standard 2D title. The PSVR version however only can be played as a VR experience, which is disappointing as the game exists on PC in both forms. The Assembly plays much like a classic point-and-click title, set in a first-person wrapper. The game was designed for mature audiences and includes narrative overtones of experimental secrets and cover ups.
Players take on the role of two very different protagonists; a veteran scientist of The Assembly Caleb Pearson, and reluctant newcomer Madeleine Stone. After having her scientific career ruined after doing her own questionable experiencing leading to family tragedy, she finds herself sent to The Assembly. A mysterious organization that has its hands in conducting secret experiments deep underground, it operates outside of the public's eye and the scrutiny of any government. Caleb Pearson is already a Doctor at the dystopian facility when we first take control of him. After what promises to be a typical work day, quickly turns into him and his partner undercover some of the secrets they were not supposed to know about. Interaction between the two characters is kept to a bare minimum, leaving you with two separate stories to experience
The narrative is meant for players to think about everything they have learned about, and for that reason, there isn’t a clear indication of right or wrong. A lot of what you will experience treads down the fine line of moral gray areas, leaving the tough decisions up to the player. There are two sides to every story, and the game leaves many open questions unanswered. With multiple endings, both good and bad, it’s a game that players may have to play through multiple times to experience everything the game has to offer.
Madeleine’s and Caleb’s sections of the game offer different gameplay perspectives. While Caleb’s focuses on exploring the research facility, Madeleine is tasked with solving puzzles to prove herself as part of the hiring process (although she is forced into it). Caleb and his partner stumble upon their existing research being used for a malicious virus through some rather unethical means. It’s his sections that feel more like a traditional point-and-click, as you attempt to collect enough evidence without rousing suspicion and to take it with you to expose the organization. I never felt lost or wandering aimlessly, as he is considering talking to himself, letting players know what they should be doing. You won’t see waypoints or arrows on the screen, so you are free to roam around the offices and laboratories at the facility to find what you are currently looking for at any given moment.
The puzzles and trails that Madeleine is tasked with completing are well designed but aren’t too difficult to solve. Parts of the trails include basic tasks, such as moving blocks around or ensuring that you pick the right shape to advance, while other parts are much more complicated, requiring the use of audio tapes and terminals to understand what is being asked.
There are different comfort options available for player movement, allowing for traditional analog stick movement or through teleportation methods if you are prone to feeling uneasy by analog movement in VR. Object interaction is done by aiming your head at anything you want to interact with. Caleb, for example, will have a lot to say regarding anything you're allowed to interact with, proving tidbits into his personal or work life.
When compared to the existing PC version of the game, the PSVR build comes nowhere close to the clarity needed. Many aspects of the game rely on reading text or looking at visuals scattered about the environment. Perhaps it’s due to the lower resolution of the headset itself, but the textures are in definite need improvement. Maybe developer nDreams can sharpen the visual quality with a PS4 Pro compatibility patch. I also experienced my save data becoming corrupted around the midway point through the game, forcing me to start over. It only happened once, so I can't say if this is something that will be widespread or not.
The Assembly is a decent attempt at crafting a world that should make players think about their actions. Just as I was thoroughly enjoying the narrative, however, and the secrets within the organization, the game comes to a close. The moral gray areas ensure that good vs. evil isn’t clearly defined and since there are multiple endings, you'll want to play through it more than once. The game’s length will vary depending on the player’s level of exploration, as I spent roughly four to five hours on my first time through the game..
Note: The review for The Assembly is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.