When X Rebirth came out, it had quite a bit of hype among the sci-fi gaming crowd due to its promise of a role-playing experience in the space trading and combat setting, combining the best of two worlds that seemed to be fated for marriage. Unfortunately, its technical issues were too great to ignore and it lost steam. Perhaps Consortium can take over what X Rebirth failed in, although it’s not exactly the same game.
Consortium seems quite ambitious in its aim, even when it was still a Kickstarter campaign, which was funded on April 2013. This one is a lot less like Space Traders and more like a mix of Star Trek, Mass Effect, and even System Shock and Deus Ex. It was developed by Interdimensional Games, which is an apt name for a studio that aimed to give a solid sci-fi gaming experience with this title.
You play as Bishop Six, who is a part of a peacekeeping contingent that names the ranks of its members after chess pieces. Later on, you find out that you are actually not this man, but merely someone controlling him from a satellite, with him as your puppet from an alternate universe. You can then look around the ship and perform tasks to satisfy the retinue. Exploring the ship you’re in and interacting with all the NPCs is quite fun, which makes this game far from boring. It occasionally breaks the fourth wall with its story, which is handled gracefully and makes the narrative more fascinating. The characters are voice-acted very well, and the soundtrack accompanies your exploits in space nicely.
Unfortunately, it seems that Consortium fell into the trap that made X Rebirth suffered in the first place, which is the myriad of technical issues that greatly hurts immersion. They include big framerate drops, characters talking over each other for no apparent reason, and even some game breaking bugs for the “lucky ones”. It’s easy to say that patches will help fix things up, but even that’s no guarantee as time passes. Interdimensional Games has actually owned up to these mistakes though and has released patches to alleviate the problem, but it’s still quite a drag.
There’s also the matter of the first-person shooting mechanics, which are quite basic and derivative from most other FPS games. But with the choices you can make in the game, you can actually avoid combat and get into the real substance of this game, which is the investigative and interactive parts. Perhaps players can take the weakness in the combat as encouragement to play the game as more of a smooth talker who solves problems through more peaceful means.
While this game draws comparisons to Mass Effect with the choices you can make in the game, Consortium actually takes it a bit deeper. Instead of just letting you do what you wish at every situation, NPCs notice when you are acting out of the ordinary and will criticize you for your mistakes and lapses in judgment. When you suggest something when you’ve previously discussed something else, you won’t be taken seriously.
If you do get yourself to play this a second time and so on, you can actually uncover new stuff that you may not have seen in your previous playthrough. However, while the in-game world and its characters are quite cool, the writing of the story may not have enough meat to it. Just as when things start getting interesting, the game ends quickly. But then again, that’s mostly if you play it as a traditional FPS, which makes you miss out on the more substantial role-playing parts of the game.
This is one of those games that players would really want to like, but may have stumbled along the way. If you’re prepared to contend with the bugs, or get it at a time when technical issues have been fixed, then you can actually take a liking to this game.
It’s just unfortunate that it came out in such a seemingly unfinished state, but perhaps those who are able to see past the faults can appreciate it for what it aims to do, which it actually does achieve for the most part.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6.5/10