When a game attempts to tackle a concept as large as morality, things tend to get a little messy. In The Assembly, players will be guided through a story that revolves around morality and the various effects it can have on people and th world around them. Unfortunately this is where the ‘messy’ bit comes out, as while the game does offer up an interesting game world and tale to unravel, it comes at the cost of player interactivity. The Assembly is so story driven that players don’t have nearly as much to do as other titles out there. This issue is slightly addressed once the game’s nature of dual story telling is revealed.
While not obvious at first, both of The Assembly’s protagonists’ stories happen at the same time. Both tales share a common theme while approaching it from different angles. First we have Caleb Pearson, an established doctor working for the Assembly. Caleb has to deal with stopping a project the Assembly is working on because he knows just how dangerous it can be. Cal’s sections mostly cover the current going-ons of other Assembly employees as he plots his escape. On the other hand we have Madeleine Stone, a doctor that has been brought to the Assembly regarding her past and her future, whether that is with the Assembly or not will be hashed out throughout the game. While Caleb is rummaging through others’ things, Madeleine will be tasked with finishing various trials that will not only test mind, but her resolve as well.
At first these puzzles felt out-of-place, it wasn’t until I realized that Madeleine’s puzzle sections were going to used to break up Cal’s walk-n-talk sections. I actually began to like this idea when I (as Cal) was tasked with preparing Madeleine’s next trial. After I completed the objective, I gained control of Madeleine and began to go through the trial while the two characters talked. Unfortunately, the puzzles throughout the game are fairly basic and usually require more time than actual puzzle solving. Most puzzles encountered will be passed when a piece of information chooses to reveal itself, making the puzzle possible. This isn’t always done poorly, however, as the game often has the player truly pay attention to things they read, conversations heard and objects seen around the environment. While the world isn’t extremely detailed, it is still detailed more than enough to keep players exploring.
Even though I say ‘exploring’, it may be more accurate to say walking since a ton of the game is simply the player walking around and listening to dialogue. Players will also be reading tons and tons of emails in order to get the information they need to progress. There are also times when players will have to go through drawers, lockers and various other containers to find things like dossiers and other items. Strangely enough, I felt more connected to my character because they could only do things that the average person could do. This isn’t as true while working through some puzzles as they get their own controls and screens for players to work with.
Not all of the puzzles pull the player out of their normal position, as there are several that require the player to find details in the environment around them. These instances had to be my favorite because it felt like the developers truly understood what makes an engaging experience. This is even better because the game doesn’t look bad enough to be distracting even if it doesn’t look as good as larger titles. While I wasn’t blown away by the visuals, the game’s voice acting made a big impact on me because it was consistent and always sounded great.
While the game’s major theme is morality and the consequences our choices have, it’s difficult to focus on it because the game never goes quite far enough to cause any lasting impact on the player. The game’s theme is present nearly all the time since players jump between Cal and Madeleine so often. With both their stories playing out at the same time, players will find themselves looking at the choices these characters have differently each time. The puzzles found throughout the game help to break up all the walking, but ultimately aren’t as fulfilling as they could be. The one benefit to having to walk so much is being able to look around at the game’s detailed environment and the secrets it holds.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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