Consortium may be one of the most metaphysical game I’ve ever picked up from Steam, not because of the occasional personal asides to the player, no, because the game doesn’t just break down the fourth wall, it tears the fourth wall down and turns it into a suspension bridge to reality. In fact the game’s premise poses itself as an extension of reality and the player can open declare their transdimensional interference within the story. The premise for this is rather cheeky yet simple, as Interdimensional Games (or iDGi) presents the concept that they have constructed a satellite that the player can access in order to be digitally transported into the future to take control of a host body. Effectively possessing some random individual in a parallel universe during the year of 2042 who happens to work for a paramilitary peacekeeping organization dubbed “The Consortium”. Of course whether or not you choose to be open about your real identity is up to you, but it is a consistent story element that is part of a very, very large story tree of options and plot lines.
Hang in there!! So the player finds his or herself taking control of a Consortium member operating on board “Zenlil”, a rather formidable, well-armed space plane that is buzzing over Bulgaria and seems to be in the middle of a conundrum involving a mercenary group called “The Homeless”. This introduction gives the player just enough time to acquaint themselves with their environment and crew which smoothly introduces the room for potential dialogue option as the game boasts 4,000 lines of recorded dialogue from its cast. Of course, if you’re the terse type when it comes to conversation, don’t worry, you do have the option to simply pull a Gordon Freeman and play mute vagabond as the story unfolds. As you can imagine, Consortium has a few things going on in terms of story, there’s a political/religious conspiracy, there’s a murder-mystery story as the death of a crew member is uncovered early on and the matter of your real identity is constantly in question.
In terms of immersion, there’s a lot Consortium gets right, there’s an interesting musical score from Jeremy Soule that seems almost reminiscent of John Williams and the constant contact with the crew of Zenlil seems to consistently push the story forward. Although some of the dialogue is a bit clunky at times (as is some of the animation) and the stumbling blocks are very much noticeable. This is simply because a minority of characters just aren’t written as well as others and it stands out. With most of the characters being likeable, well-balanced individuals, it’s hard to accept the ones that come off as painful stereotypes that border on childish cartoon cut outs. Thankfully the story is appealing enough and the variety in the cast of characters does help to carry the game along. However hearing characters openly refer to themselves as being in a game can be jarring at times and it also seems to contradict with the Consortium’s notion of parallel universes. It’s during these moments where we begin to see the real chinks in the armour.
Consortium designed to play as an FPS marriage of action-RPG with the player having access to guns, an inventory, resources and a layout of their armour with slots for an assortment of devices. However, the action so rarely comes in to play and even when it does the gameplay during the action segments are so basic that the action-RPG mechanics just don’t work. There’s also one device in the game that just doesn’t make any sense to me… Why would I need a super jump ability inside an airplane? The AI is also so simple that you can stand in one place, hold the trigger and wait for the enemies to waltz into your line of fire as they will always come directly to you. The action segments are undoubtedly the weakest aspect of the game, they’re just too few, not fully constructed and don’t mesh with the rest of the story.
Frankly, it seems like the wrong genre was chosen for this game. The plane serves as a fantastic set piece, there’s a well thought out universe and there’s good byplay –for the most part- between the crew. Unfortunately it fails to fit in to the genre it is designed for and risks falling in to obscure in the long run because of it. I really wish I could see Consortium remade in a more episodic Telltale-style mystery game, or maybe take some graphic adventure cues from Joshua Nuernberger’s critically acclaimed “Gemini Rue”
That said… I really like the idea of this game.
Summary: A sci-fi political-murder-mystery/thriller set in a parallel universe, in the future, on a plane with almost as many game design problems as its metaphysical dilemmas. It’s a game where the appeal lies within the idea.
- Strong replay capability due to its highly detailed conversation trees.
- Very unique story.
- If you don’t like games that focus on character interaction as a key gameplay mechanic, it may be best to avoid this one.
- The game mechanics just don’t mesh together effectively.
- The story is only 2-3 hours per playthrough
Written by Sean Fox