|This is your boss. Try not to get on her bad side...|
- Developer: Interdimensional Games
- Publisher: Interdimensional Games
- Release Date: 9 January 2014
- Time played: 4.5 hours
I must confess that the only reason I stumbled upon Consortium is that one of my favourite game composers of all time happened to work on its soundtrack. That composer is none other than the John Williams of game music: Jeremy Soule. In fact, there's even an achievement in the game named after him, check it out:
So after hearing Soule was involved I checked the game out and it claims to be an RPG where you get to make a lot of choices that affect the story. I love RPGs like that and I was imagining an indie version of Mass Effect or Deus Ex - or an FPS version of a Telltale adventure like The Wolf Among Us. So is Consortium really as good as any of these titles I've mentioned? Lets see shall we?
Consortium is set today, right now, at this very second, with you as the protagonist, yes you. Not some wizard in a fantasy kingdom, or some space marine fighting on an alien world. You are the protagonist. At least that's what the developer wants you to think. Basically, the developer, Interdimensional Games, is not just any game developer but they've created a satellite of some sort that opens a portal into the near future - just enough so you can implant your consciousness into any person you wish in the future. From there, you're able to control the person as if you've possessed them (creepy, I know). So it's a bit like James Cameron's Avatar except you're time travelling as well as mind-controlling the natives. In the game's future, the world is more-or-less at peace and has almost become a utopia of sorts. The Consortium, which the person you've possessed works for, seems to be some future peacekeeping force that fly around in large aircraft/spacecraft which also double as Forward Operating Bases. Anyway, you arrive when some strange events start to occur in the world of Consortium and it's up to you to find out what's going on: whether you're co-operative or a complete douchebag about it is your choice.
If you can suspend your disbelief for a second concerning a satellite that can teleport your consciousness into the future, the game has a pretty interesting plot and the fact you're the protagonist means you actually get a choice of whether to role-play (i.e. conceal your true identity) or just be blasé and reveal to everyone that you're a time traveller from the past (you can imagine what kind of reaction you'll receive saying that though). The game has ridiculous amounts of background story and lore (a quick visit to the Consortium Discoveries folder that's included with the game reveals hundreds upon hundreds of pages of lore), so kudos to the developers for putting the time and effort in making the world a believable alternate future. I just wish I spent more time in-game during my first walkthrough reading about it. There's always next time I guess...
So is the game like Mass Effect or Deus Ex? Well yes, and no. All of these games are games that incorporate a shooter mechanic in resolving combat (third or first person) and all of them have RPG elements (e.g. conversing with NPCs, conversation choices altering the plot, alternate means of resolving issues, etc.). However the combat in Consortium is nowhere near as good as it is in Mass Effect or Deus Ex. Combat just involves strafing around corners and running up and down corridors while spraying and praying that you hit the enemies. Since all combat in this game takes aboard the plane you're flying on, things can get a wee bit claustrophobic and there'll probably be times where you find yourself stuck which allows your enemies to land a few pot shots before taking you out for good. Like Deus Ex, you are rewarded with respect from some of your peers if you happen to subdue enemies via non-lethal means but it's obviously much more difficult and might involve you converting most of the resources on the plane into energy - energy you use as ammo for your non-lethal weapons.
Also, while I did enjoy some of the conversations you have in the game, and there's quite a bit of it, sometimes the conversation trees were a bit clunky. One time I had to scroll through several pages of conversation choices and since picking a conversation choice is timed, I ended up just hurriedly picking the wrong choice because I thought it would take me too long to scroll back up (and I wasn't even sure if I could do that). The timing of conversations is also annoying, your crew interrupting you in the midst of training drills which you can't stop if you're wanting to work towards achievements. Ignoring them while you're fighting also isn't an option since then they'll just think you're rude. Although some may argue that's the whole point (i.e. you can't please everybody).
Overall I felt the gameplay was somewhat lacking in the combat department and was a bit clunky with respect to conversations. Having an FPS with RPG elements though is fine by me though. In fact, it actually feels more like an FPS with visual novel elements due to the considerable amount of talking you'll do and the number of multiple endings and branches in narrative that are available.
There's a mixture of good and bad voice acting in this game, sometimes occurring with the one character. For example, the pilot who I'm assuming is meant to have an Australian accent, sounds ocker enough most of the time, but there are certain words that seem to be off.
As mentioned earlier, the reason I heard about this game in the first place was because of Jeremy Soule's involvement. While the music in the game is great as you'd expect from Jeremy Soule, it's by no means his best work not to mention I think the music is too soft by default. Expect to hear the typical epic, orchestral work that Jeremy Soule is famous for.
The game has an oldschool feel with respect to its graphics, probably because it's using a modified Source engine although it actually looks more cartoony and less realistic than other Source engine games like Half-Life 2. That's all fine by me but what I didn't like were some of the animations and clipping that seemed to occur quite frequently.
|Wow. This guy managed to sleep through all the gunfire.|
The game is quite short, only taking about 4 hours to complete although as the developers have mentioned, this is the first game in a trilogy not to mention there are apparently quite a few paths you can take in this game which gives it the same kind of replay that visual novels do.
The game is unfortunately pretty buggy, and it's only today I read the game was even buggier when it was released, so I feel really sorry for those who played the game as soon as it came out. I actually managed to encounter a show-stopper bug at one point whilst dispatching an enemy crucial to the plot. Being the diligent RPG player that I am, I quickly looted the enemy's corpse for items. Shortly after I was told by the crew to loot the corpse for an item that would offer a clue - and then nothing happened, the game didn't progress. All this time I had the required item in my inventory but I guess me looting the corpse before the appropriate trigger had caused the game to get stuck at that spot, forever. I had to restart from an earlier save which was annoying since the battle took quite awhile to complete.
The game also has annoying moments where the screen gets garbled or fuzzy. I know they're doing it intentionally for artistic purposes (i.e. you're perceiving the world through a shoddy connection) but it would be nice if they didn't do that while you were looking at your inventory! Thanks to the blurry screen, you're not even able to tell what is in your inventory which means you end up not worrying about what you're carrying or bothering to find out what each item/weapon does. Not very good for an RPG.
Score – 7/10Interdimensional Games has worked hard in bringing to us an intriguing alternate future courtesy of Consortium, but unfortunately it has been poorly executed resulting in show-stopper bugs, uninspired combat and a clunky user interface. This game isn't as great as some AAA FPS/RPG hybrids out there but it's not a bad effort by an indie development house.
If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.
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[ LINK: Official Consortium website]