Immersive sim Consortium: The Tower hits early access

One grand dream of the immersive sim genre is Deus Ex director Warren Spector’s one city block, an idea for a game simulating one city block and its inhabitants in great detail to set up so many systems to play with. Consortium: The Tower [official site] might not have the dream’s full detail but it is a pretty complex immersive sim and it is set in one single block – a mile-high futuretower currently occupied by terrorists. It’s the sequel to 2014’s Consortium, which was set on a single plane, and it looks fascinating. The full launch is still a way away but The Tower does today launch into early access for the curious.

So! The year is 2014 but through advanced technology we can remotely pilot agent Bishop Six in the year 2042 as he ventures into the mile-high Churchill Tower. Terrorists have seized the incomplete building’s power facility and are holding the employees hostage, so we have to help Bishop Six stop them. Somehow. However we please, really.

As you’d expect from an immersive sim, stealth, shooting, and chatting are all valuable tools. Developers Interdimensional Games say it will be possible to complete the game without even raising your weapon. Expect a non-linear story, factions and factions to meet (or murder), the option to try to chat to anyone, and oodles of ways to upgrade and customise yourself.

It’s an idea so big that I want to downplay it because surely it can’t be real. But after reading Sin Vega’s Consortium retrospective, I am keen to see quite how big The Tower is. I’m glad it found crowdfunding success – on its second attempt.

This initial early access release isn’t the full dealio, of course. Right now it contains roughly the first third of the game with all core game systems, but is missing character choreography along with several other potential features and, y’know, the rest of the game. Interdimensional Games expect to launch the full version in 8-15 months.

Consortium: The Tower will hit Steam Early Access in a few hours.

21 Comments

  1. jellydonut says:

    I have faith this game will be brilliant, but as a backer, I’m not touching it before it is finished.

    • Darlizzle says:

      Indeed.
      Originally backed on Kickstarter, then moved it over to Fig when it failed. Will be waiting to play once completed.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Agreed. I had the same reaction when they released that “vertical slice” to backers a month or two ago.

      If you need something to tide you over, visit IDG’s website. It incorporates an awesome ARG that you can easily lose hours to.

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    subdog says:

    This write-up doesn’t mention Consortium’s Big Idea: events in the game happen in real time all around you, regardless of whether or not you’re present to interact with them. There are moments where the plot will pause and wait for you to kick things off again, but for the most part the world and the story can play out around you.

    Think Immersive Sim by way of The Last Express or Din’s Curse.

    • Will the wtf says:

      Well said. I like that sense of time and change in motion irrepressably going on apace with you as you play. Its more Immersive Sim than many bigger titles as a living world. It feels, at best, like the terrain you are negotiating and effecting is dictated by the mechanisms in play interacting to form a sort of persevering and creatively variable Rube Goldberg machine of an open world, set up from the get go to have a denoument and a plot and bear a player living in it and entertain them. And ideally the Ai is as savvy as Paradox strategy games nation states on legs, plus more of Chris Crawford’s interactive storytelling aspirations. It shouldn’t be just nonlinear written scenes, binary multiple choices, but rendering a great freedom of dialectical sweep through permitting many dramas in different states to form a unique context. Like how the dynamic threats in Pac-Man create a constant unique motive, but on the level of social assesment. The only suspension of disbelief is the entry point, you’re asked just to accept these basics of the person you inherit in the fiction, and after that you aren’t just role playing your pet character, the sense is that you /are/ the character, your preconceptions and knowledge and skills and all are as close to one as to be unifying, which can make it a really novel reflective journey. On repeat playthroughs after dying you get a dubious sense of reincarnation and prior knowledge though, which makes me wish the whole thing would be procedurally generated each time like some Roguelikes. In terms of acting performance, you don’t have to keep stopping to take direction from the designer in the cut scenes. And if there are common destinies, arcs and narratives they come across like natural bottlenecks in causality, they are plausible destinations and all the more significant for that – like a well written tragedy. The convincing inevitabilities of it, with just a little prime bad luck to start things off, is key to the story. But it can lose the escapist sporty itch to excel and power-up by not supporting that style of play. In practice I savescum and ruin it. And I think the written dialogue is shown up by that really quickly, and my immersion gets expelled when for all the chaos there go the similar lines. You don’t get that interruption in Duskers, I guess. Perhaps for the human story there could be another layer to these immersion sims.

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    Drib says:

    I found Consortium kinda flat and not that interesting.

    But this sounds like it could be good, if they manage the core concept well.

    • Vandelay says:

      I was a bit disappointed by Consortium too. It was doing some interesting things with an interactive narrative, but I just wasn’t that engrossed by the narrative. Never actually finished it, despite, I understand, it not being that long.

      I was also under the impression initially that it was set in space (possibly due to many Star Trek comparisons,) so finding out it was just on a plane was rather disappointing. Not really sure why a starry sky box out the windows would have made a difference, but it somehow did.

  4. jezcentral says:

    Isn’t Spector’s One City Block idea just another way to describe a Hitman level?

    And I’m another backer who’s not touching it until it’s complete. Glad it’s out though.

  5. upupup says:

    My one big hope for Tower is that it’ll be bigger than the previous game and have a conclusive ending. Consortium was an amazing surprise and I was completely on board by what felt to be the point where the game was about to shift into high gear as events got more and more interesting, and then – cliffhanger. A super aggravating cliffhanger straight out of a tv-show up for renewal. That really soured me on the whole experience, though I still replayed the game several times afterwards.

    Don’t get me wrong, it pissed me off so much because it’s rare for me to get invested enough to care about what happens next and I’m just worried that they didn’t bring in enough money to realise their vision. In an odd way, I want it to end because I’m so curious to see where it goes and don’t want to see it fail to secure funding for the third game and be left forever thinking about what could have been.

    To people that haven’t played the game yet, buy it! Cliffhanger aside it’s much better than you’d think judging by the screenshots and the guarantee of a sequel makes that cliffhanger much, much easier to stomach. When I played it there was no news of there even being a sequel and I was under the impression that it would be a stand-alone title, which made the sudden ending rather shocking.

  6. klops says:

    Good to hear Consortium 2 is going to launch. Good game and I really respect what they were/are doing there.

  7. poliovaccine says:

    YESSS

    I *looove* the first one, probably more than I should. I had heard they wanted to make a second one, and for all my enthusiasm I can admit that the game/concept could do with a little refinement, but I was worried there wouldnt be enough interest to make it happen. Feels good to be wrong about that!

    Hell yeah, I’m looking forward to this.

  8. TheAngriestHobo says:

    As I noted above, the original is up there with games like U7 and TW3 as one of my favourite games of all time. IDG is an incredibly talented team and I can’t wait to see how this project pans out.

    That said, I do have a bone to pick with them. What happened to the Worldbuilder tier? I happily forked over nearly $200 for the chance to add something to the game, but that reward was quietly dropped when they transitioned over to Fig. Not saying I regret spending the money, but I do feel a little short-changed.

    • greatbird says:

      Hi there Super Backer!

      The Tower dev here…

      You are still due that reward, fear not. That stage hasn’t quite come yet, but you WILL get your chance to collaborate with our writers and contribute something to our universe.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        Oh, awesome! The devs have returned to save us all.

        Thanks for the reply. I was worried when I didn’t see the tier listed on Fig. I’m looking forwards to having the opportunity to collaborate with your incredibly talented team!

        • Unclepauly says:

          That’s awesome, now I want to buy the game(little secret,I already wanted to).

  9. Michael Fogg says:

    Capital I Insteresting stuff here, but I somehow get the impression that this will try to somehow extend the first mission of DX into a full game.

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      alison says:

      That’s basically what the first game is, and it’s all the better for it. The “length” could be quite short if you sprint through from beginning to end, but there is a lot to do if you enjoy poking around. I spent about 6 hours playing it through and was very satisfied.

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    alison says:

    I thought the first game was terrific. It’s one of the few games i have played where i spent more time researching the lore in the terminals than anything else. All the clues you need to figure out “whodunnit” are in the computer, if you search really hard. I like that i had that option, after having apparently missed several real-time events that would’ve given the culprit away. And the whole setup/framing of who you really are is exactly the kind of Dickian paranoid nonsense that i dig in sci-fi.

    I’m really surprised more people didn’t champion this. Imo it’s one of the best first-person games that isn’t either a walking sim or Deus Ex.

  11. Sunjammer says:

    The first one is maybe one of my favorite games of all time. Endlessly fascinating stuff. Very happy this sequel is finally coming to pass

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    Seems they did make a new trailer just now: link to youtube.com

  13. bill says:

    I’m trying to play the first one now, after being excited about the idea, but good lord is it clunky and ugly.

    From the look of the first screenshot, they haven’t really done anything to make it look any less clunky.

    I’m not that far in so far as I kind of lost interest, but is there a reason why they gave all the characters annoyingly non-memorable names so that I can’t remember who is who and I don’t care about anyone?

    I should probably go back and give it another shot, but it sure doesn’t make a good first impression.