nDreams’ The Assembly has been in the public eye for some time. The initial announcement of the title came before VRFocus‘ inception, and since then efforts have been made to ensure that the videogaming public are aware of the virtual reality (VR) dependant unique features. A continuous drip-feed of information has finally brought us to a tipping-point: no longer is The Assembly a gentle walk-through a VR environment as is the case with so many competing titles. nDreams is finally offering a slice of a real videogame.
The third chapter (played on the PlayStation 4’s Project Morpheus, though also coming to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) offered as a vertical slice from the final videogame, The Assembly has now proven that it offers more than just exploration-based gameplay by moving on to mental challenges. Specifically, a puzzle that involves the player discovering the culprit in a fictional murder: a test for both the player and their in-game persona.
Upon entering a room the player will be confronted with a long table set-up as if prepared for a dinner party. Around the table sits a series of mannequins, one with two knives in it’s back. Each of these mannequins represents a character in this deeply dark play, and the player must explore their stories to determine who has committed the crime. Removing the knives from the suggested deceased, they must then place them in the backs of their chosen guilty parties to state their judgement.
Each mannequin offers a small amount of backstory via an audiolog accessible on their back, but exploring the room holds much more information. Behind each mannequin is a themed area representing their profession and further audio clues. Furthermore, digging through the mis-en-scene could easily add to your suspicions: a seemingly inconsequential note here, a strewn series of objects that implies further connection. It’s not hard to join the dots between each of the characters represented by the mannequins, but be warned: it is easy to assign guilt to each and every one of them.
Despite the inherent possibility of failure, The Assembly has been designed as a very modern ‘no fail’ videogame experience. The player is penalised by halting progression, but restarts or checkpoints don’t factor in the videogame. Instead, the player simply has to have another stab at the right combination of killers. It’s likely that this kind of encouragement will be exhibited throughout The Assembly as nDreams has frequently discussed the fact that it intends to make their first desktop-based VR title as accessible as possible.
Many who have experienced VR up to this point will now be deep in an overabundance of experiences – simply being given an environment to gawp at with very little interactivity – The Assembly had previously been guilty of this. Now however, nDreams have finally seen fit to offer a taste of the real meat of the videogame: mentally taxing puzzle-based gameplay. For that, VRFocus considers The Assembly to be a contender once again. If nDreams can manage to deliver fresh new challenges seen in this third slice of The Assembly gameplay throughout the intended 5-or-so hours the final release will offer they’ll have a top tier launch title on their hands.