Consortium: The Tower Prophecy Trailer Falls On London

I haven’t played Consortium [official site], but I’ve read enough to know I should. Consortium was an RPG which favored social interaction over combat, a story that could turn out a dozen different ways, and an ambitious attempt to create a lot of the things people say they want.

So maybe you also want a follow-up, set in a new place, with new characters, but expanding on the same ideas. That’s what Consortium: The Tower Prophecy [official site] aims to be, and there’s a teaser trailer below.

It’s, perhaps sadly, not a game about freefalling on to skyscrapers. Instead the game takes place entirely in that one futuristic building in London, called The Churchill Tower. You’re there to rescue hostages, but through unexpected Events and Drama things naturally become more complicated – and depending on your choices, more shooty, talky, sneaky or rebellious and so on.

Although Consortium sounds wonderful, the reason it didn’t find a larger audience was in part due to the buggy state in which the game was released. RPGs with branching narratives and social AI are hard to make, I suspect. There’s reason to hope The Tower Prophecy might not fall to the same problems, however: the original Consortium was gradually patched to fix those bugs over its lifetime and this new game is designed to build upon the same systems.

Perhaps more worrying are those most terrible words on the game’s website: “CROWDFUNDING LATER THIS YEAR”. There’s no hint on how much they’re asking for, but hopefully it’s enough to replace the voice acting. Otherwise I remain quietly hopeful for a futuristic spy RPG that might be geographically narrow, but which should consequently be far deeper than its genre equivalents.

30 Comments

  1. Lim-Dul says:

    Consortium was a bit rough around the edges but still brilliant. I finished it in a single sitting (for the first playthorugh). The voice-acting was surprisingly solid for an indie title that relies on it to such a degree and the characters were fleshed out really well.
    It is one of the few games that do really offer consequences depending on your choices.
    I’m looking forward to the sequel (or second episode, as it were).

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      gritz says:

      Agreed 100%. It will be great to see what they can do with better funding and production values.

  2. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Sweet… I loved the first Consortium – in part because it was the game I always dreamed of making. The idea of a tightly scripted narrative (that still allowed for non-linear approaches and solutions to problems) set in a contained but exquisitely detailed space is immensely appealing to me. I always wished there were some lengthy quest mods for some of the Bethesda games that were set in, say, an active vault, or a castle under siege. It allows the author to develop and emphasize character relationships in a way that is borderline impossible for “journey” based adventures.

    Also, I just recently started a new Consortium game with the aim of being the worst Bishop ever. It’s been pretty fun, but has oddly resulted in my becoming BFFs with the Kieron, the creepy doctor with the television fetish. Oh, and if you’ve never done it before, take Pawn 12 up on his offer to get you coffee. It’s hilarious.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Wow. Just completed that runthrough and accidentally stumbled across John Wilconson for the first time (which is pretty rare, according to Steam – only 2.5% of players have found him). That’s some trippy shit, made even more interesting if you’ve been reading up on what’s been going on at the K-1 project in Xalapa.

      For those interested (semi-spoilery bits follow), I’ll give you a hint to find him – you have to wait until after you jump from Xenlil. Don’t be in a hurry to rush towards the light.

      A website also comes up in dialogue with him – link to johnwilconson.com If you visit it, it confirms some of what you might suspect if you’ve made a detailed study of Xenlil’s database.

  3. Zallgrin says:

    Although Consortium sounds wonderful, the reason it didn’t find a larger audience was in part due to the buggy state in which the game was released. RPGs with branching narratives and social AI are hard to make, I suspect.

    Actually the devs said that they made a really, really bad choice in choosing Source as their game engine. Source was never meant to have so many NPCs in such tight quarters, and IDGI had modified the engine to such degree that some unexpected issues had surfaced.

    Anyway, even with the bugs, Consortium was a delightful game and I cannot wait for the sequel! I’m pretty sure the devs have learned from the experience and we won’t run into such egregious problems as the first time.

    • greatbird says:

      Dev here. That’s not quite right. Source was definitely the best choice of engine to make Consortium, considering when we started production (2011). It’s true that we had major difficulties getting it to do some things, but in general Sourcer’s “Face Poser” tool was a god send and is the only reason we were able to pack so much detailed and intricate NPC interaction into the game.

  4. iambecomex says:

    Tucked away at the end of the video – Consortium 65% off on Steam. And bought!

  5. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Yes, I will play Consortium But Not On A Plane.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      A train! A train!
      A train! A train!
      Could you, would you
      on a train?

  6. InfamousPotato says:

    Brilliant. I loved the first, and I’m quite glad that it wasn’t the last.

  7. Anthile says:

    Good. I still have my insane-looking mindmap from the first game lying around, just for this. You haven’t played Consortium until you’ve spent half a day reading the database and tried to make sense of the crazy lore.
    It’s fascinating because that part of the game is completely optional. You can play through the entire thing and only scratch the surface of the surface.

    • EhexT says:

      I have 3 post it notes in small script fulled entirely with “Character Name”: Trustworthy?, likes Character Y, dislikes Character X, was at location X at moment Z, Liar!

      Untangling the web of half truth and he-said-she-said on that goddamn plane was amazing. And there’s so many options and forks in the road. The first time you get to the dialogue with the asshole Knight from the other plane who KNOWS is incredible. And the fact you can do a Gordon Freeman run where you never say anything.

  8. RogerioFM says:

    What’s wrong with the voice acting?

    • thripper says:

      I was sort of wondering the same thing. The first game has mostly excellent voice acting, and the voices in this trailer are some of the better characters from that game. Color me confused.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        Seconded. Or is it thirded? Whatever. I thought the voices were great.

  9. epmode says:

    Consortium is one of the best recent games that was overlooked by virtually everyone but RPS. How many immersive sims do we even get per year? They’re practically endangered. Consortium is no Dishonored, mechanically, but it did some fascinating things with narrative design and actually ran with Warren Spector’s One City Block idea.

    While it was a bit of a mess at launch, the latest version’s a lot more stable. Thankfully, the team’s switch from Source to Unreal Engine 4 is really helping with the sequel’s development.

    I didn’t back the first game for all that much. I figured there’s no way a small, no name developer could pull it off but it sounded too interesting to ignore. Now that I know what they can do, I’m backing the sequel for sure. These guys are ambitious as hell and I’d love to see them with a real budget.

  10. Lethys says:

    this looks rather interesting.

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    syllopsium says:

    Magnificent trailer – right up until the point where they fly through scaffolding. sloppy. Still, lookinf forward to more detail..

  12. Llewyn says:

    I really need to get around to playing Consortium. I bought it enthusiastically (though in a sale) but haven’t made time for it. If it’s as good as RPS and our discerning commenters suggest then it might be time to break my crowdfunding embargo for the sequel.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Do give it a shot – it’s, IMO, one of the most interesting games in recent years, and it’s pretty thoughtful to boot! Like others said above, putting the lore together is an entire metagame by itself, and it’s deep enough to speculate and get immersed in theories about why things are as they are. You can finish a run of the game in quite a short time (I think I took a few days, with about 1 to 2 hour sessions), so if you have a long weekend coming sometime soon, it’s a good way to give it a try!

    • EhexT says:

      You really should play Consortium. It’s Murder on the Orient Express, except the train is a fusion powered mega-plane owned by a militarized world-police headed by an AI. And you’re Sherlock Holmes and James Bond combined – in an Iron Man suit. But you’re actually playing yourself, so you have no idea about the world and characters, but everyone in it thinks you do.

      It’s incredible.

    • Llewyn says:

      Urgh. I don’t know how much more of this I can Wade through. Lots of good ideas but buried under frankly awful implementation. The clunkiness I can easily forgive, but the constant railroading into set pieces is frustrating and the insistence on turning what appears to be an intelligent game into a spectacularly shitty FPS from time to time is too much for me. I don’t enjoy FPS even when they’re done well, and it’s really not what I want to have to battle through when I’m trying to enjoy the rest of this game.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        Every gunfight (with the exception of the training scenario) can be avoided. The game really isn’t combat-centric, as you say, so it’s often more fun to talk your way to a solution anyways.

        I’m not sure what you mean by railroading into set pieces, so I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions on that count.

        • Llewyn says:

          Reloading to find the correct dialogue options to avoid combat is a possibility, certainly. However on my first playthrough at least I wanted to go with the options that made sense in the circumstances – roleplaying myself roleplaying B6, if you like. That meant one obvious fight was avoided but another – apparently unwinnable for me – wasn’t. I’m quite happy to deal with the in-game consequences of mistakes, but not happy that the meta-consequence is that the game changes to a different one.

          The game features a number of set pieces. Understandably these events happen whether you’re ready for them or not but they don’t seem to allow for any time to explore the game space – I’m pretty sure there were Pawns I didn’t even find before being attacked by the traitor. I tried not to respond to one of them to buy myself a bit more investigation time but that just resulted in a completely unresponsive game state when I did go back to Mission Ops – presumably I’d missed a mechanical trigger and the game wasn’t able to progress at all.

          Also the combat visuals gave me a chronic headache.

          In short, it feels like they made a really good game and then put a lot of effort into stopping me playing it.

          • thripper says:

            Yeah, I had a similar experience with my first play through. I felt like I was being pushed into situations and was missing all kinds of things along the way. It turned out I was right because I played it far too quickly jumping from one objective to the next thinking that’s what the game wanted.

            My second time playing was sort of a eureka moment. I realized that unless the story was specifically pushing me to move (like being yelled at “the Bulgarian is about to blow us up unless you come to the bridge!”) then it was only a suggestion to move my ass (like when the boss lady said “come meet the queen whenever you’re ready!”). In the end I found plenty of lul moments where I could wander endlessly and soak up all the different available conversations.

            Anyway, great game overall. Definitely some clunkiness and weak combat, but I forgave that pretty quickly once I found out it was made by SIX PEOPLE. That is sort of insane.

          • thripper says:

            OH and I hope you’re not playing on hard because the fight with the traitor is pretty much impossible on hard, and even on medium it’s pretty tough. I found that out the uh, hard way.

          • TheAngriestHobo says:

            Regarding the fight with the traitor, it is tough, but I do have a few tips that can help:

            1) The whole ship is open to you – with the exception of the medical bay and the core you rescue Wade from – and your opponent won’t use the causeways (I forget what they’re actually called – basically the little tunnels that you crawl through). You can retreat to them if you’re in need of a breather, or to flank your enemy.

            2) The charging stations are your friends during this battle. There’s one in the Pawn’s barracks, and IIRC there are also ones in engineering and on the command deck. Remember to use your energy for more than just healing – keeping your armour in good condition is key to winning the fight.

            3) This is more of an exploit, but I managed to back the traitor up against the forcefield separating the pawn barracks from the medbay by chasing them with nothing but my fists. When they had their back against the forcefield, they wouldn’t shoot if I was within about a meter of them. I assume it’s because their AI was trying to flee rather than fight, but couldn’t find an avenue of escape. I personally didn’t take advantage, but it’s an option if you’re desperate.

            4) I didn’t test this one, but it should work. During the fight with the Homeless mercenaries, I noticed you can blow out the airlock doors with a misplaced (or well-placed) grenade. The change in cabin pressure will suck anyone nearby out into the void. It’s entirely possible that you can use this technique to kill the traitor, but you may end up killing a pawn or two. In fact, Pawn 12 (I think) explicitly begs you NOT to do it if you approach him during the fight.

          • Llewyn says:

            Thanks for the feedback, chaps. It looks like the one place I tried to enforce my freedom was the one where I shouldn’t, so I’ll revisit it at some point and try to manage my own pacing better. I’ll also try out some of those options for the traitor fight (probably no.3 if I’m honest – I’d rather the fight simply wasn’t part of the game).

          • greatbird says:

            To completely avoid the traitor fight, you must choose the correct person when asked by Rook 25 who you think the traitor is. It is possible to largely solve this mystery right after defending Zenlil from the F-35s, and before speaking with the Consortium Queen.

  13. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Yes. Yeeeess! The thought that the story would remain unresolved was killing me.