Review: The Assembly (PSVR)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive
  • PC (Non-VR)

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • PlayStation Move None
Title: The Assembly
Format: PSN (8.43 GB)
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Publisher: nDreams
Developer: nDreams
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The Assembly is a puzzle adventure game that is explored from two different viewpoints as the player alternates between two protagonists. Caleb is a scientist who works for a secretive underground research facility. Madeleine, also a scientist, was kidnapped and has no idea where she is or why she was taken.

The player is dropped into a story that is already underway. There are many questions about the protagonists’ past, current situations, and the whole underground bunker. The stories of Caleb and Madeleine are mostly independent and have no impact on each other, yet each new piece of information is a piece of the puzzle slowly revealing the overall world. This unique setup and approach to storytelling has so much potential for an amazing adventure but ultimately goes nowhere.

Madeleine is being tested. She is funneled from room to room solving puzzles. There is a wide array of obstacles to overcome. Some puzzles simply involve pushing blocks around. In one room, however, you plan the treatment and research in an attempt to avoid a worldwide epidemic. Then there is a room with a whole host of characters and you have to figure out who is lying.

There’s no consistency in the puzzles from room to room, nothing learned from one area carries onto the next. In the end, none of the puzzles are too difficult and none of the rooms really stand out as amazing, but all were enjoyable.

Caleb meanwhile explores whole levels of the facility looking for answers. While he is exploring and not solving puzzles, it’s not as simple as walking from point A to point B. Part of Caleb’s exploration of the secret bunker is finding access to secure areas, ways around obstacles, and gathering information.

Obviously a line on the floor or an arrow in the air leading the way would have ruined the exploration, but it’s not always clear where Caleb is supposed to go. Early in the game the player is supposed to find a computer to look up information on something they saw in a lab.

… a missed opportunity …
I tried every computer in the lab and nothing worked. Then I saw a monitor that was on in a room connected to the lab. So I spent time looking in drawers and lockers searching for a keycard to let me into the room. Eventually I figured out that they wanted me to leave the lab and use Caleb’s personal desktop. It makes sense, but it could have been made more clear.

Some of the levels have multiple hallways and it’s easy to get lost. There are maps on the walls, but it’s annoying to have to find a map and figure out how to get to the room I’m looking for. A mini map with just the room names would have been more convenient.

Along the way the player will have to make a handful of choices. Other than the last choice, these have no effect on the ending or the story in general so they feel like a missed opportunity and pointless. On the other hand, at the end of the game you will get to see all the choices other players have made as well as how successful they were at some of the puzzles.

Visuals:
I have only gotten sick two times while using the PlayStation VR. The first time was when my cat jumped up onto my TV stand and started moving the camera around. The other was while playing The Assembly.

It’s not something that shows up in pictures and not the easiest thing to describe. You have to play it to see and experience it because the graphics are just subpar. At a distance some areas look good, then you get up close and see how textured everything is. Even worse, the environment and objects are shiny and the shadows are shimmering back and forth.

At first I thought it was the free movement from using both joysticks so I turned the settings back to default of teleporting and click turning but the nausea continued to get worse. Finally it got so bad I had to turn the game off and lay there a few minutes before I was able to move.

While I only got pretty nauseous the one time, I also got headaches a few times. There are computer stations everywhere with emails that are needed to progress in the story or that give more detail to create a bigger picture of the world. Sometimes the text was sharp and easy to read but many times I had to squint or strain my eyes to be able to read everything.

… no reason that this could not have been a normal PS4 game …
Audio:
The voice acting is a little rough in the opening scenes. Beyond that, even the side characters deliver a good performance.

Timely and appropriate background music helps the atmosphere reach the highs and lows that the poor writing failed to reach on its own.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
The Assembly had so much potential but it falls short in almost every way. The beginning of the game sets up an intriguing story that goes nowhere. Not enough time is spent with either character to dive deep enough into their story and the climax fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

The graphics are not good as the shiny surfaces of every object can be nausea inducing, while the reading all the emails can cause headaches.

Worst of all, the developer does nothing with the VR technology. There is no reason that this could not have been a normal PS4 game. There’s a bit of variety to the different puzzles but no thought was put into how to create interesting puzzles using VR.

Despite all of its issues I still enjoyed the game. I will never go back and replay it, but it was an interesting experience that could have been so much more.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook