EGX 2015 marked my first hands on with NDreams’ chilling narrative “The Assembly”. While it only contained the first section of your arrival at the facility, we were introduced to the dual main protagonists Madeline Stone & Caleb Pearson.
A key factor for The Assembly is its accessibility. You can pick an HMD and jump straight into this experience and take things nice and slow, which is a great opportunity for anybody new to VR seeking a gripping journey similar to a TV show.
Madeline has become an inductee at the organisation known only as The Assembly. A secret establishment buried underneath the Nevada desert. Scientists and shady figures conduct questionable experiments away from the prying eyes of the law. All for the apparent “Greater Good”.
Caleb, has a well-established presence in the facility, but is starting to question the boundaries that they are crossing in the name of advancement.
This game is set to harvest your morality between both characters. It’s going to be very interesting watching the actions and consequences of your own choices, which you will either benefit from or perish, not to mention the rest of the world.
Aesthetically, the visual presentation of The Assembly is stellar. Leaning to closely inspect your surroundings reveal the incredible amount of effort paid to detail, including the excellent materials and color palette which contribute to a clean yet eerie atmosphere.
This level of visual clarity also spoke to me in terms of the motive behind The Assembly, their working environments are slick, stylish and spotless. Everything is seemingly “Perfect”. There was a distinct feeling in the back of my mind that this concept applied to me, and the journey to becoming one with The Assembly’s vision of “Perfection”.
Like clockwork, the sound design within the game runs in unison with the unsettling, sterile environments. Machinery, security doors, NPCs and equipment deliver a believable and efficient audible void to engross you further in the darker depths of the facility.
Turning to the narrative within the game, professional voice actors convey the emotion of their dialogue in a very intimate manner, it packs punches that will at times, make you feel like your heart is being squeezed.
Overall, the new demo that was shown at REZZED 2016 is quite frankly, haunting.
In this completely new experience, I was taken along for a cryptic, emotional and horrifying ride into how Madeline came to be in the position she’s in.
The following account consists of my own interpretation and speculation of what was shown.
Enter, the themes of family, Hope, and Loss.
We are introduced to the existence of Madeline’s mother, whom is also a doctor and seems to be suffering from a psychological disease. You are placed into a number of scenario’s, there is no movement for the first section, restricting you to gazing at your surroundings. A table, mannequin and sound effects of a smashing glass with remarks that you had only done that just last week can be heard in the distance.
The next few minutes of this narrative are executed in a powerful and concise manner. Instead of lengthy cut scenes, a foggy fade in and out effect consumes your vision before switching to another point in time, much like a TV show. Seated at your desk strewn with CAT Scans, Madeline and her mother can be heard discussing research, experimentation and how her mother is “Ready”.
What I can only assume next is that Madeline proceeds to conduct unorthodox research or experiments on her mother, which ultimately leads to her death in a very chilling empty hospital bed sequence, featuring a flat lining heart monitor set to the sounds of Madeline apologizing and sobbing.
NDreams On: Movement In VR
This demo also showcases the main movement mechanic, something that NDreams have been very public with in regards to their approach to navigating VR, with conferences and studies into how they have crafted their experience from the ground up with multiple avenues for comfort and control at the forefront.
Currently, there are three controller methods to choose from which are at present, subject to change after further refinements.
Option 1: Holding the left trigger Projects a transparent avatar of your character into the environment. Looking up and down move the projecting along the Z Axis and looking left and right moves it horizontally.
Pressing the right trigger will project you to the destination. 360 degree snap turning is present on the right thumbstick, eliminating the need to turn in the real world and therefore reducing motion sickness. This has been highlighted as the most comfortable option to experience the game with.
Option 2: the same as above except the left thumbstick allows forwards, backwards and strafing. Also includes the avatar projection mechanic in order to cover long distances quickly. Described as comfortable and intended for players accustomed toe exploring VR environments.
Option 3: The traditional first person scheme. Includes the same functions as Option 2 however, free movement is now enabled on the right thumbstick. Recommended for experienced VR gamers.
After finishing the demo, I spoke with community director George Kelion to catch up on the progress made since September.
“We have been working extremely hard and fine tuning a lot of the content in the game, the demo shown at EGX last year was an opportunity for players to get a taste of how the game looks and feels without giving too much of the story away.
Now that we are in a position close to launch, we have brought this new demo that expands on the background of Madeline, and the techniques we have developed to tell the story in a fluid and immersive fashion.”
Many thanks to the team for their time at the booth this year. The Assembly’s release date was recently announced to land this summer on Oculus and HTC Vive with Playstation VR following later in the year.
Keep it locked for more information as it becomes available, be sure to follow @nDreamsVR too!