The Assembly is a first-person interactive, narrative driven story that is inspired by real-world anxieties. Originally released for VR platforms, nDreams has now ported The Assembly over to Xbox One, allowing those of us with severe motion sickness an opportunity to experience the game with our handy dandy Xbox controllers. The Assembly drops you into the middle of an ongoing story between two characters, both working in a secret underground government facility known as The Assembly. You'll play as both characters throughout the game, alternating at the start of each of the eleven chapters the game offers.
We're introduced first to Madeleine Stone, a disgraced doctor trying to make a comeback. Dr. Stone's story begins with being offered an extensive interview with The Assembly. As a result, she is given puzzles to complete throughout her campaign in order for The Assembly to decide if she's worthy of letting into the secret club. Madeleine's back-story seems a little vague, but you get the gist of why she's been recruited within the first moments of the game. In the second chapter of the game, we're introduced to Doctor Caleb Pearson, a rogue scientist trying not only to bring down the whole darn facility but also escape with his life while doing so. While playing as Cal (as he's affectionately known throughout the game) your main goal is to capture evidence from emails, tape recordings, and secret files, in order to prove that The Assembly is doing some seriously shady stuff. Cal's back-story is somewhat established, and you get a sense of why he's hellbent on throwing a monkey wrench into The Assembly's plans almost immediately.
The Assembly itself isn't inherently evil, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and The Assembly doesn't escape the trope. They work outside of the law, creating and testing all sorts of trial vaccines in order to help cure humanity of our different diseases. While some of these vaccines do indeed help the cause, there is one particular strain that doesn't, and that my friends is where we drop into the story.
While a couple of Dr. Stone's puzzles are intriguing, I must say I enjoyed playing as Cal a bit more. Outside of a murder mystery puzzle, and a couple of thought-provoking choices at the end of the game, I just couldn't connect to Dr. Stone. That's not to say there isn't merit to her story, I just felt that more time might be needed to fill in some remaining questions I have about her history. I have remaining questions about Cal as well, but I found myself more intrigued with his character arc. Maybe I'm just a sucker for digging through files and uncovering the truth though.
Thankfully, the game's art design, somber soundtrack, and inspired voice acting help immerse you while you dig through those files looking for evidence of the evil-doings. Having the game set in a secret laboratory seemingly carved right inside or underneath a mountain certainly lends to the atmosphere, and with the exception of some character models, the graphics stay sharp throughout the story. Technically, I found little to complain about within The Assembly. Barring a few hitches here and there, it's a solid port.
As I mentioned, the voice acting is well done. I had some reservations as the game started, as a few of the doctor's voices seemed hollow, but as the game went on I found myself impressed with the effort the actors put forth. Many of my favorite parts of the game involved listening to messages left on different phone logs. There is some serious workplace romance afoot between a specific pair of scientists, and although I felt a bit creepy, I enjoyed digging through their stuff and commiserating with their lack of romantic prowess.
While I enjoyed the little things the game has to offer, my main complaint with The Assembly is the story itself, and I couldn't help but shake the feeling that there could have been so much more to explore and learn about The Assembly's history. As I mentioned previously, there are some interesting decisions to make close to the end of the game, but not much came of the choices I made, and when the credits began to roll I felt a tad unsatisfied. That's not to say you shouldn't pick this game up. I enjoyed my time with The Assembly. Its overall production is solid, it looks great, and the sound design is impressive. I feel like at its price point it's worth a download if you have an afternoon to kill and want to get some super sleuthing into your life.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7/10
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