Consortium PC Review
Consortium is a game just begging for me to like it. In many ways it is an inspired and innovative addition to narrative driven RPG’s, but an overly-short length, decade old graphics, and a mountain of glitches bring the overall experience down well below Consortium’s lofty aim.
The concept of Consortium is very unique and that is one of the game’s strengths, but in the end the convoluted fourth wall breaking design choices don’t really serve the narrative. At its core, Consortium is a murder mystery set on a futuristic flying fortress. But then things get meta. When the player loads Consortium, they are meant to believe they are playing themselves, playing a game called Consortium that is in fact a gateway to an alternate reality set in the future taking control of an actual person named Bishop Six, where your actions have actual consequences to real people’s lives in this alternate universe. Confused yet? I certainly was, and even after reading supplemental back-story I couldn’t completely wrap my mind around what I was supposed to believe or feel. If that was the goal, then mission accomplished, but a good mystery should have the answers buried somewhere in the narrative. Consortium fails to do that, and the desire to invest in the world is hurt by it.
Setting aside the sci-fi meta gobbledygook, the story of Consortium follows a futuristic bad ass generically named Bishop Six. The entire game takes place on what looks like a modified Boeing 747. You are the newest member of the crew who’s first day on the job goes straight to hell. You’ll have a murder to solve, a ship to put back together, and an angry psychopath to contend with. Each play through is relatively unique as your choices in conversations have very broad impacts on what parts of the story the player will actually experience. You simply cannot see everything in one go.
Consortium is heavy on conversation and light on combat. In fact, it’s VERY light on combat. I played through the game four times and only once did I ever fire a shot outside of the unnecessary virtual training room. But the virtual trainer is just one element that seems out of place. The inclusion of shield boosters, leg enhancements to jump higher, and several gun and ammo types are never fully realized in a game with at most one combat and no need to ever jump. Instead, the player uses branching conversations to move things along. One of the bullet points for Consortium are conversations that don’t require the player to stand in one place; they are dynamic and can happen between multiple characters at once while the player does other things. In reality, there is so little to interact with and so little to do that there is little need to do anything other than stand in place and go through the dialogue options.
Fortunately most of the voice acting is at least decent. There are a few characters that are particularly monotone in their delivery, but the variety of accents and personality give the impression of a worldly group of troops. The score is dynamic and good enough, the sound effects are a fair mix of sci-fi and practical; everything here is just sort of serviceable.
The graphics, however, cannot be considered anything less than disappointing. It’s hard to forgive such a rudimentary look when the player is supposed to believe they are controlling real humans in a parallel dimension. NPC’s slide up stairs rather than walk, facial animations barely match the dialogue, shadows are pixilated, and water looks like liquid mercury. The game doesn’t even correctly support 16:9 aspect ratios, leading to stretched faces on the sides of the screen. Graphics rarely make a bad game good, but they can absolutely sink a decent game when there is no clear art design to enhance the narrative. Consortium is unfortunately a case of the latter.
Consortium is a game with a lot of good ideas, but lacking the time and budget to realize them. The game is pitched as a fully immersive world with full player freedom and choices that matter. It delivers on, at most, one of those promises. This game will beg to be remade in a decade by a developer with the resources to fully realize some of the innovative ideas Consortium purports. As it stands, Consortium is a game who’s ideas are worth exploring for yourself, but be forewarned you may be left feeling a little short changed.
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