First-person narrative experiences mixed with alternate reality game (ARG) elements are an acquired taste, especially those as complex as Asemblance: Oversight, the second episode in Nilo Studios’ mindfuck sci-fi series Asemblance. The first episode, which was released in 2016, gave us a taste of just how deep down the rabbit hole players would have to go to discover all of the game’s endings, which were discovered thanks to the collective work of the game’s devout community. What the episode lacked in cohesive story was made up by the game’s emotive soundtrack and ability to draw you into the mystery at hand. Finally two years later the game’s second episode has released for PS4 and PC (with Xbox One to come in the near future), and while there are a few tweaks that improve on its predecessor, it’s largely the same formula as episode one and the end result is just as confusing but just as compelling.
Is there really light at the end of the tunnel?
Much like in the first episode players must explore memories to discover the truth. This time around you’re delving into the memories of a member from team of scientists who are charged with recreating the human mind. Players will access different memories via an AI-controlled terminal, and from here you must put together the pieces to unlock the various endings on offer.
There are three memories to explore: a mountaintop of sorts occupied by a flock of birds, a fairly generic office and an underground facility in the middle of a forest, each containing hidden secrets and clues that will aid your investigation. The gameplay mechanics are fairly simple, players will need to investigate areas to find clues that ‘trigger’ the next step. There are a couple of easy puzzles early doors before things start to get a bit more complex.
The episode’s first ending can be beaten in roughly 30-45 minutes, but in order to achieve Oversight’s other endings players must go over each memory with a fine-tooth comb. Clues can be hidden anywhere, such as a memo sprawled out on a desk or an email on a computer. To the naked eye things can be easily missed and it can feel more like a game of trial and error for those not wanting to fully commit to the cause. However, that is ultimately what the game is. Players need to try new things to see what works and what doesn’t. It is here where the game’s community comes together to help solve the mysteries of Asemblance. Although I wasn’t an active participant of the community, I did watch from the sidelines as they put aside their competitiveness and worked together to find the holy grail.
Not your normal 9-5 office job
One of the biggest improvements from the first episode is the quality of the visuals. Both the mountaintop and facility memories are beautiful, and in some odd way they evoke a sense of tranquillity – which is emphasised by the game’s perfectly tailored soundtrack.
Composed by Seattle-based musician Johnny Goss, the soundtrack is perhaps the game’s strongest aspect. It ranges from poignant to menacing to serene depending on the scenario you find yourself in. It’s a core component of the Asemblance experience, and as a whole it would be much weaker if it had a more rudimentary soundscape.
Where the game does stumble is in its story. It’s borderline non-sensical. Although the foundations are easy to follow, the episode’s cryptic messages fail to provide any clarity at all. Supposedly the deeper you dig the more things start to add up, however I never felt like I understood the bigger picture. In saying that though, the premise is an intriguing one and I am curious to know exactly what the whole point is. I am hoping that future episodes will help us make sense of it all.
Is this an episode of Planet Earth or Asemblance: Oversight?
Despite its brevity Asemblance: Oversight is an interesting beast. It’s not your stock-standard first-person narrative-driven adventure, it’s an experience in itself and one that requires players to go the whole hog and tear the walls down for every clue they can find. For those that aren’t going to be fully committed to the cause it’s unlikely you’ll be satisfied here. While for those that are willing to roll their sleeves up, there’s certainly a world to get lost in. Literally and metaphorically.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher