The Council - Episode 1 The Mad Ones
Point and click adventure games that provide a compelling and deep narrative have been dominated by TelllTale Games in recent years, so much so, that the likes of incredibly popular TV series and film have made their way into video game form. Such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy and even the ridiculously popular Minecraft. Now, we have a new name on the block in the form of developer Big Bad Wolf and their historically inaccurate The Council. Set in the 19th century, and featuring instantly recognisable names such as Bapoleon Bonaparte and George Washington, The Council is a dark and intriguing mystery involving a missing person, but events don’t exactly transpired as you’d expect. Welcome to The Council.
Choices and consequences rarely matter much in games that offer them, as you’ll find that in a lot of instances, the words you choose offer little in the way of change to the game’s narrative and story progression. However, after playing The Council to completion twice, I encountered many path branches that change how others react and perceive you as a person. In one playthrough, George Washington May end up becoming a close ally should you choose the right options in dialogue, and sin the other, he may well keep you at a distance. The choice is yours, and yours alone. Who you choose to grow close to is completely down to your personal choice, and it’s not as simple as just selecting an option in dialogue and hoping for the best. The choice system is littered with various skill checks that if you have the appropriate skill unlocked, can change the tide even further. And it still doesn’t stop there, as each NPC you meet can be either immune or susceptible to a certain skill. For instance, if you attempt a political approach in conversing with President Washington, he will be immune to that as he’s a political powerhouse after all. This applies to each and every eccentric, politician and more that you’ll meet along your journey. One of the most deep and complex dialogue systems I’ve ever come across in a game, and this is certainly one of the game’s strongest points.
Speaking of dialogue, and excuse the pun, I found the voice acting to be quite impressive, given that the developer is one I’ve never heard of before, and each character is brought to life in their own unique way. From the stuffy butler, the English aristocrat to the rest of the cast. What confuses me though, is that Louis de Richet, the protagonist that you’re in control of is a Frenchman if I am correct in saying so, yet there’s not even the hint of a French accent. His mother is also devoid of said accent which kind of fills the experience ever so slightly.
Upon starting the game, you find yourself at the dock of a remote island to which the host has summoned you to attend after your mother has vanished without cause or explanation. A dark and wet night, with only sporadically placed lanterns set the tone well before you enter the mansion. It’s here that you can choose a profession in the game’s first encounters, and this defines you from the get-go. It’s also here that you can see your skill trees which upon completing each quest, will see you awarded XP to invest in skill points. For a genre that usually focuses on the narrative, The Council expands on this by giving you plenty more options to improve a wide range of skills that allow you to work at whatever skills you find more appealing. Naturally, you can’t unlock them all, so choose wisely. Whatever you choose to excel in, will only work in certain situations, and with certain people, which unquestionably increases replay value.
The mansion of Lord Mortimer is extravagant as it is impressive in stature, with plenty of exploration available during each of the quests. Some areas remain locked off, but this does stop you becoming lost. There are no quest markers, so you need to pay attention to your local area. Failing that, ask a butler. The decor and design of the mansion proudly shows of the talent of the art team, and I found myself looking around like a nosy guest instead of an investigating man searching for his missing mother. The detail is impressive, and will have you looking around everywhere without realising it.
The controls are responsive and the layout is spot on. Sometimes it was a little awkward to highlight an object that I wished to interact with, but on the whole it wasn’t too annoying. It could do with a little bit of attention though.
The historical aspect is of course an interesting subject in terms of the characters you meet along the way, even if it’s not an accurate viewpoint on history itself. But that lends artistic license to the development team, and allows them to create whatever they want, and I feel that The Council - The Mad Ones is most certainly on its way to becoming quite the hit for fans of the genre. I’ve played enough of TellTale titles to have fully learned their formula, and how everything works. Going in to this game threw me off course completely. Everything you know ha changed for the most part. Choices have actual consequences, and changes the path of the story and how others react around your presence. Different career choices at the start of the game also contribute, and offers a grand amount of replay value for anybody who purchases it.
Beneath the story, lies visions for Louis, and it’s hinting at something more than just a missing woman, but a woman who knows far more than she lets on to her son. I don’t want to go into any detail, as to not ruin the game for anyone. Interested? Grab a copy of episode 1 and see for yourself.
As it’s just the first episode, it does leave it open perfectly for episode 2, and keeps the questions swimming around your head, as to what happens next, who is being loyal to you, and more. I personally want to find out more about the mysterious goings on and that elusive host who is definitely an intriguing character for sure. Sure it has a few low points in terms of character models not fully expressing themselves facially, and a few rough edges to accompany that area. But for an episode adventure, The Council is certainly worth a look. Especially at a reasonable price too. Just keep an eye out for the occasional issue with object highlighting.
Overall Score 8/10
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 13th March 2018
Price: £6.39 - Episode 1 or £23.99 for the full season
File Size: 8.88GB
Xbox One copy provided for review purpose.
Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 & Steam