In September of 2018, I played Asemblance for the first time. This was one of my many impulsive buys from the PlayStation store, completely unmotivated by either advertising or word of mouth. The biggest motivation, in fact, was its affordable price tag (I'm poor). The few images and videos I saw of it from the store, however, did secure my choice, as they made it appear to be a very mysterious, sci-fi, first-person puzzle experience that looked to be right up my alley (making me somewhat reminiscent of one of my favorite games, SOMA). This, mixed with the fact that you get two games in one (Asemblance and its sequel, Asemblance: Oversight), was enough for me. I was in.
Playing the game, I soon found out that it was more or less just a walking simulator/puzzle game where you spend the majority of your time exploring environments, reading papers, and piecing together a story. A derogatory description for some, I know, but I'm actually into stuff like that; games like Firewatch and Gone Home, for example, were fantastic experiences with absorbing narratives and a butt-load of feels. And if art can keep you interested, while pulling at the old heartstrings, then how could anyone complain?
Sadly, though, for Asemblance, I found a lot to complain about. While the game looked great, had a cool, eerie vibe, and was intriguingly mysterious in the beginning, its repetitiveness (the game only has four small areas to explore) quickly became more of a hassle than a fun experience. And it rarely baited me with enough story to keep me interested in unraveling its bigger questions. Heck, it never even told me what the questions are. What's my motivation? What's my dilemma? Do I have a dilemma? Who am I? Why should I care? After a while, the only thing that kept me playing was an OCD-driven desire to finish up something that I've started. And even that didn't last. By the end, I was just annoyed and didn't care anymore.
I've later read that the game has multiple endings and I believe I got at least one of them (maybe two?) before quitting. But, honestly, I'm not even sure. By the time I reached those endings, my knowledge of what was going on was no more improved than it was than when I first started the game. I don't even know if I was playing as a man, woman, robot, or soul — or if it even mattered.
Granted, much of this could be due to either my own lack of perceptiveness, the distraction of commenting over my gameply, the glasses of whiskey I was admittedly imbibing, or just my natural stupidity. But, jeez, they could have at least gave me something. Anything. One clear motivating factor. Perhaps, an objective to reach, a relationship to care about, or a horror to escape. I suspect that maybe the latter was involved, but it was never made clear enough for me to know for sure.
A good mystery is one thing. But even LOST and Twin Peaks gave you some information in order to keep you hooked and wanting more.
Perhaps after I've had time to cool down and lose my frustration, I'll come back to this game and attempt to get the "good ending" that I've vaguely heard some people talk about. After that, I may delve into the sequel, Asemblance: Oversight, which I mentioned earlier. Hopefully, after that, I'll look at the game from a new light. Until then, however, I've decided to give Asemblance a rest.
Today we begin playing Asemblance for the very first time. This is (from what I can tell) a first-person, sci-fi/mystery exploration game involving holodecks, memories, a smartass computer, and a lot of big, technical terms that I can't pronounce.
Today on Asemblance, we head back to explore our creepy simulated apartment. We find out that we had a wife (I think), we contemplate our own sex and sexual orientation, we decide to stay more conscious of clocks (too bad we don't stick to this plan), we fat shame our other half before getting in her drawers, we listen to an ominous answering machine message from someone who may or may not be ourselves, we permanently embed 55-8F into our consciousness (and my notepad), my Pac Man text tone goes off and I don't address it, I get scared by a painting of a little girl and a photo of a little boy, our computer has an attitude problem, I doubt my own reality, we head back to the office, we accomplish nothing and go back home, we theorize that Morgan may be trapped in headware (I'm an idiot), we read some books, we Deadly Premonition our coffee, we may or may not have a monolith in our bedroom, we go back to the woods, we're shoved by what I can only assume was a ghost (or paranoid expectations), we find a book in the woods, a leaf causes me to deficate myself, and I jump down a futile, time-consuming rabbit hole and decide to jumpcut over it (you're welcome). We find ourselves back in our office, I once again confuse The Office and Office Space, let me just say "office" again, and I finally make some accidental progress in the game. We wrap things up by time travelling in a simulation and abruptly jump-cutting over a digression.
Today on Asemblance, we time travel through our memories and hear an ominous answering machine message from our wife (I guess she's our wife?). We head to simulated home to find a simulated power outage and a simulated shadow of a simulated woman/predator in the doorway of our simulated bathroom. Our jerky AI companion gives us the boot, however, and we once again find ourselves confused and without direction (not that we've ever been anything but, of course). Anyone else find it suspicious that we can carry our flashlight out of one simulation and into another? Hmm. Anyways, we're forced to head back to the office to bury ourselves in our work. We check out some crossed out names, I struggle to read words, and we stumble across a hidden room courtesy of our new, compact, simulated flashlight. We find a blueprint of our holodeck place and end things off with a plan to shut that mug down. Or something.
Today on Asemblance, we travel into a dark and dust-particley new area where we press a big, red, mislabeled button. We have some more memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we follow the blinky, ghostly presence of our mysterious lady friend, we jump-cut into a dark and creepy room with a clock in it, and we take a trip through a seemingly infinite journey of repetition which, honestly, isn’t too much of a deviation from the rest of this game thus far. Somehow we transform into the Starchild and we’re thrust back to the main menu. Jumping back into the game, we ride the butterfly train to ghost town. We then have a little idle chit-chat with our slightly-less-creepy ghost lady. Mimicking my real-life encounters with the opposite sex, however, the conversation goes nowhere. After a little more fumbling and bumbling, we find “the truth” — whatever that means — and are, again, thrust back to the main menu. Don’t ask me.
Today on Asemblance, I continue to be lost in perplexity. We wander around aimlessly for a while as I ramble, vent frustrations, and lament my feeble mind. Eventually, however, we find a couple of new clues, including a letter on loss and a hole. We zip back to Woodland Ridge and sidestep our ghost wife to take another gander at our old blue butterfly friend. Surprisingly, it makes a difference and plops our little pal even further into our kooky little world. Which only makes things kookier and harder to understand now that we’re looking at like through Viagra lenses. Oh, and after a little more snooping, we encounter what appears to be a brochure from The Epsilon Program and an obituary from the Twilight Zone. Ugh. I don’t know what the hell. Kifflom.
Today on Asemblance, I conclude that I am never going to know what I’m doing. Instead, I opt for a life of alcoholism.