It’s very important to think before you act.
- System: PlayStation 4, Steam, Xbox One
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Developer: Big Bad Wolf
- Release Date: March 3, 2018 [Episode 1]
- Rating: T
- Genre: Narrative Adventure
- Players: Single Player
- Official Website: http://www.thecouncil-game.com/
The Council - Rethinking Narrative Adventure
Who it Caters to
We’ve all at some point had this feeling of being a detective, having the innate ability to pick up on psychological patterns or perhaps having the keen eye to see what’s out of place when solving a crime. Perhaps it’s just a natural instinct within all of us to solve whatever problems we encounter with some sort of investigative approach, and to feel fulfilment out of it. Whatever your reasoning is, one thing is definite and it’s that putting all the pieces together is never an easy ordeal and oftentimes you’ll run into some very perplexing scenarios. Welcome to the world of The Council: Episode 1, a narrative heavy adventure game that puts you in charge of main protagonist Louis de Rouchet as he digs deep into his mother’s mysterious disappearance, and her current whereabouts. Anyone who enjoys a game where every decision determines the flow of the story will certainly find The Council to be an enticing adventure. Games like Until Dawn and Quantum Break easily come into perspective when looking at games that put the player in very real life scenarios, and you must use discernment in order to move forward. There’s really no right or wrong in your approach but ultimately, your decision will lead to an event that’s either very worthwhile or a major threat to your legitimacy. The Council is a 5 part series split up into episodes, and the first episode is already so enthralling that we can’t wait for episode 2.
What to Expect
The Council is no different than reality itself in that, one must learn to use their skills effectively in order to successfully solve a case, or problem that may escalate. You have to decide the proper course of action as you encounter different people with their own unique characteristics, who also have their own ulterior motive to get what they want. In The Council, you’re able to take Louis on a mysterious adventure inside the house of Lord Mortimer and while inside, you’ll need to scour every nook and cranny to dig up whatever information you can, to effectively slither your way in and out of sticky situations. It’s never an easy ordeal as your supplies are limited and oftentimes, you’ll miss opportunities that could’ve given you stronger leads to your mother Sarah’s whereabouts. It’s a game of cat and mouse and you sometimes may need to play both roles in order to gather the right evidence to perhaps expose a character’s vulnerabilities and give you the upper hand in the conversation battle. The Council pulls no strings and immediately throws you into the action where you’ll be doing a lot of conversing, observing and most importantly listening as words play a pivotal role in whether or not you’re being toyed with. Will you be able to finagle your way through all the clever wordplay, pick up on body language and voice tone, or will you fall victim to the mind games and end up a pawn in this real life game of chess? Only one way to find out.
The Council begins with both you and your mother Sarah being trapped inside of a room, both tied to a chair and being interrogated over a mysterious book. The two of you have been visibly tortured and wounded but with clever wordplay and some persuasion, you manage to escape but after that ordeal your mother goes missing out of nowhere. You now find yourself on an isolated island in the middle of no mans land and are given a responsibility to meet with a Lord Mortimer, who may know about your mother’s sudden disappearance. On this island is where much of the story unfolds and where Louis will need to use the skills his mother taught him to secure the information he needs before it’s too late.
One remarkable thing about The Council that immediately made our eyes perk up was just how incredibly realistic the facial expressions were at times (more details later), the certain mannerisms characters made while talking, down to the way someone walked. It’s a testament to just how far we’ve come as an industry and that with the right technology, we can create something that totally feels real and engaging. That’s exactly what you receive from The Council from the very start, is that engagement with other characters and you having to determine whether that person is someone trustworthy, or just another chess piece that needs to be removed. The Council is a fictional title but uses very historical figures to capture the feel of the story. One example is Napoleon Bonaparte, who speaks with very little eloquence while his tone comes across as brash and self righteous. You’re part of an occult society known as the Golden Order and throughout the game you’ll encounter other prominent figures who are also part of it, but what you don’t know is their motive and why they’re even on the island to begin with. Every character has a secret that they don’t want you knowing about but that’s where the beauty of the game kicks in, and that’s in your skill tree.
Early on in the game, you’re introduced to your skill tree which essentially acts as your personality chart and you can decide what type of person you’d like to be throughout the game: A Diplomat, Occult or Policing. These three have their own distinctive traits that will further help you throughout the game, so choosing that suits your style is the way to go. The Diplomat is the more cunning, using your strong communicative skills to divert the attention away from a sticky topic, or speaking with eloquence in order to calm down a heated moment. The Occult is all about using manipulation tactics to get their way, studying the arts of ancient languages and secret societies to piece together certain artifacts you find along the way. Lastly, Policing is all about using tactful questioning to dig deeper into a person’s psyche and perhaps exploiting a weak point in someone’s demeanor. You can mix and match between all three throughout the game as you level up Louis, and overtime you’ll also unlock traits that eventually become part of your overall personality. We’ll give you an example so you get the vibe here; so anytime you do a good deed or create a blunder a certain number of times, that becomes a notable trait that the other characters may pick up on while you encounter them.
It’s important to be mindful of every move and decision you make, as it can ultimately determine what will happen over the course of you playing. Certain items will help you to alleviate problems that pop up along the way such as Golden Elixirs, which remove any sort of negative affect that you received during conversations. Maybe you tripped over your words a little during the confrontation steps and now you find yourself feeling fatigued. Those tiny details make up for so much down the road if you aren’t careful, since narrative is what carries this game in all respects. Perhaps the two most important tools to really optimize in this game are Royal Jelly and your Journal. Royal Jelly is like your lifeline during dialogue because it enables you to use your Effort Points to exploit other characters and better determine what they’re immune to or vulnerable to. Some skills cost 5 Effort Points while others cost a mere 1, but it’s not so much the cost that’s important as the words themselves. Every bit of information divulged can make or break the situation and help you to establish stronger and trusting relationships, or destroy them in mere seconds. Having your Journal nearby allows you to keep track of every character you encounter, as it gives you a detailed summary of their background and what they’re immune or weak to. There’s never a time to plan since everything is in the spur of the moment and oftentimes if you’re not quick, you’ll miss out on something so crucial but will never know the outcome because the game does a clever job of distracting you.
The game doesn’t come without its problems though but most of it comes in the character animations rather than the compelling narrative itself. Sometimes characters will have this jarring expression on their face that looks really out of place and non-human to some degree, while there are times animations feel stiff and give off this robotic feel. It certainly doesn’t ruin the experience though it certainly stands out, especially when you’re in the heat of the moment but can’t help but laugh because the character’s eyeballs are bulging out of their eye sockets.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
With a compelling narrative and very unpredictable moments that always have you rethinking your approach, The Council is a game that’s not only stimulating but truly enriching as well. Not only do you get to dig deep into the psychological realm of the human mind, but it also gives you taste of history with its exquisite use of fine arts from the likes of Leonardo Di Vinci, Caravaggio, excerpts from famous texts and a plethora of others. We encourage you to jump into The Council with an open mind and to really put yourself in the place of Louis as you play, because the experience feels more immersive and emotionally thrilling. You’re desperate not to screw up but the game teaches you a harsh lesson that nothing is ever in your control, even when you think you have the upper hand over the opposing figure. It’s a constant battle of wits as you try to muster your way through tempestuous dialog, all the while gathering the right items so you can finally close the case on where your mother is.
- Incredibly compelling narrative that puts you in the driver's seat of it all.
- Character details are impressive, even down to the mannerisms.
- Slow and methodical but rewarding in the end.
- Character animations felt stiff at times, giving off a robotic feel.
Honey's Final Verdict:
The Council has to be one of the more underrated titles of 2018 thus far, because no one is really talking about it. It’s a shame because it’s a game that has a lot of buildup and you need to spend a great deal of time with it in order to really appreciate its excellence. We hope that when the curtain rises March 13th that players will dive into the series and come to truly appreciate just what good narrative is, and how a game can completely make you feel absorbed in everything around you.
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