As witnessed last year, Assembly is a Covenant-crafted platform undergirding the production line of Halo’s largest terrestrial vehicle: the Scarab. Presumably in the warrens below High Charity’s surface, here, the player can peer up at the massive gaseous skybox with Covenant architecture the size of skyscrapers looming down toward their position. Then they can bear witness to one of the most impressive sights in the entire Halo trilogy.
High above the map’s surface a Scarab carapace is hauled from one side of the environment to the other. Half way across, it pauses directly overheard, where a cradle connected to the platform the player stands atop sends electrical current coursing upward into the vessel’s hull. With the assistance of the Lekgolo creche found contained throughout the map, the Scarab is powered. And while that visual effect is undeniably awesome, the true beauty in this map comes from its functional playability.
In the past, we’ve used maps like Sanctuary, Midship and Derelict to describe how Assembly plays, and to be certain, there are definite comparisons to be had in the bunch. But it should be said that the more one plays Assembly, the more its intricacies and complexities are brought to light, in many ways making it a completely different experience than anything we’ve really seen in Halo.
Assembly’s one-way windows give base dwellers a tactical advantage when an opponent advances on their position.
Under cursory inspection, the map is divided into five critical points of interest: there are two, multi-tiered bases, one veranda looking out over a pit of factory coolant, a hammerhead-shaped tower and a central, nexus structure which has been described by the map’s designer as the “tea pot.” Below, both connecting and dividing these locations, are walkways, ridges, balconies and a basin with an intricate series of walls that don’t necessarily enclose and restrict as much as they logically guide and protect.
And therein lay the centerpiece to this map’s unique brand — what makes this map so special compared to the others of its size class in Halo 3. Yes, it does have brilliant cross-map combat with beautifully executed lines of sight and cover made specifically for infantry. Yes, it does have the eloquent atmosphere of the Covenant aesthetic, while still maintaining impressively predictable geometry. Yes, it does have a complexity which rivals most maps, but its organization is simple enough for any Halo player.
It has all of those much-lauded elements, but easily the best thing about Assembly is its flow.
Unlike most maps, which the player pushes through open and closed areas with a sense of explorative restraint, movement on Assembly — even during the heat of the battle — has the feel of a naturally flowing river. Just as water is governed by a shore with eddies and currents surging throughout, players in Assembly will hunt in its environment gracefully tailing enemies through the matrix of geometry, sometimes dropping down and sometimes rising up almost as though the map is a naturally kinetic extension of the players themselves.
The bottom floor of each base on Assembly showcases a Covenant control console similar to those we’ve seen in assault carriers and battle cruisers during campaign, as well as a pair of large, flesh-encapsulating tubes where one can see the Lekgolo creche swarming with worm-like organisms that make up the Hunter race.
Even base movement has a flow to it, where players round corners, hop ledges and sling grenades down curved hallways; each path feels organic and right. There are no abrasive dead ends or disjointed open areas without cover points — every lift, wall and walkway feels purposeful and useful to some degree. As it stands, there is not another map like this presently in Halo 3 and for those familiar with the brilliant symmetrical layouts of now ancient Halo 2 lore, this map will in many ways represent their form perfected.
The only drawback of Assembly is the cold reality that it is the only map of its kind. Understanding the competitive community’s wanton lust for these types of maps, we hope that the second half of the Mythic Six sees more of this brand later this fall. It is sorely needed.