Memory is a weird phenomenon, from a grand personal achievement that warms up your insides to the chilling and sometimes depressing recollection of bad times that you ultimately want to forget; memories are something that stays with you your entire life till the moment of your passing. Now, what if a memory could be changed to suit your personal needs, altered to forget a past you no longer want to endure or believe, what if your memories were not your own? this is what Seattle based developers Nilo Studios have tried put together in a walking simulator thriller where observation is key and all logic and sense seems to have been thrown out of the window.
Upon launching Asemblance you are giving the sole option to start a new game. You are instantly met with an abrupt combination of alarms, flashing lights and an AI system warning you of an emergency only to ask you to take part in a questionnaire about your feelings. After then telling you there is no emergency, the building lights up to place you in some type of science lab with only a terminal and a doorway which will act as your entry point to the upcoming memory sequences you are about to experience.
The AI system warns you that you have been here for far too long and questions your mental state before guiding you to activate your first available memory from the terminal. You enter the now activated door that lights up and you enter to find a lush green scenery and nothing much else apart from a tutorial that tells you to zoom with your right trigger before pressing the Y button which exits the simulation. The AI, which feels and sounds like a weird hybrid of Portal’s Glados and Destiny’s original Peter Dinklage voiced Ghost, explains that your responsiveness to this particular memory is always positive and it reminds you of a time before you questioned your decisions in life and how you got too caught up in whatever happened before you came to this moment in time.
You carry on activating the terminal which opens up portals to your work office, (that the AI points out and hints that you keep going back there over and over), the flat you live in with your wife and a fourth strange corrupted memory, passing through each one multiple times following the breadcrumbs that will hopefully find out why you are here and help to find an escape, that’s only if you want to leave or are even able to. Early on, you are made aware that memories may not be exact and may change thus setting you up for the strange and downright bizarre situations you are going to be finding yourself in. Each time you visit your offices and apartment, minor or sometime major changes can occur, not only to the scenery but to the little details you must search for to understand the story Asemblance is trying to tell. What sticks out for me primarily is the number of objects and details that feel like they don’t belong or are, out of time.
For example the office computer looks to be running a Windows 95 OS whilst your main labs computer wouldn’t look out of place in the Fallout universe, not forgetting to mention the modern flat screen TV in your apartment and an ancient answering machine (if you are too young to remember them, then we didn’t always have voicemail in our pockets). This all gives a major hint about the mechanics of the game and how to advance the story, but to really get into the meat of things and fully understand everything that is going on, you need to look at every little detail and trying multiple routes through memories whilst piecing together whatever you can find, although it doesn’t take long before you get the feeling of clutching at straws just trying to make sense of the story that is trying to be told. Even after multiple playthroughs and seeing all the different endings that are available, I did not feel as if I was ever too bothered or even remotely satisfied about the way the story was going (and I am a massive fan of the Sci-fi thriller genre). From weirdly timed activations that I feel most will struggle to understand how to activate, to the constant toing and froing between the same areas over and over left me feeling a little empty and dissatisfied with the final product.