You find yourself in a stressful predicament in the game’s opening scene as you are held captive alongside your mother. As the situation becomes increasingly dire, an opportunity arises to thwart the enemy, but it’s at this point the player makes their first and, what could be argued, most important decision of The Council: Episode One – The Mad Ones. It is here you decide to listen to your mother and let her handle the threat or overpower the enemy single-handedly. What would you do?
The year is 1793 and you play as Louis de Richet, a member of a secret society who has recently been invited to an illustrious manor set upon a private island that very few have the privilege of setting foot upon. The invitation is presented by Lord Mortimer as he requires assistance in locating Louis’ mother who has disappeared shortly after arriving on the island. Your arrival is met with greetings from several prestigious characters that include George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Council features numerous RPG elements and the first indication of this is established as you must decide between the three classes presented: diplomat, occultist, and detective. A diplomat prioritizes linguistic and political importance and demands attention through proficient speaking. An occultist relies on deception and the knowledge of the sciences and arts to achieve success while a detective focuses on every detail presented to ensure logical questioning throughout an investigation. Each class unlocks certain skills, but additional skills can be acquired by completing tasks throughout the quests within the manor. Each successful action rewards the player with skill points that can be used at their discretion after each quest. However, certain actions can only be accomplished by unlocking specific skills. This results in increased replaybility due to the numerous potential outcomes of each interaction. Each action selected in a conversation that utilizes a skill also depletes your effort bar. Effort can be replenished by consuming royal jelly and negative effects such as exhaustion can be removed through the consumption of a golden elixir. Overreliance on your effort points can also result in a fully depleted stock when a confrontation takes place with various selections to choose from, making your possibility of success significantly more difficult.
Every conversation in The Council is a battle that is fought with words. A critical strike occurs when your words penetrate a guest’s barrier by exploiting their weaknesses that are learned through prior conversations. Each guest has a unique personality which makes them vulnerable to certain skills, and immune to others. Close attention must be paid to each individual personality otherwise improper answers during confrontations can result in consequences that are permanent and can hinder your progression in achieving success with certain desired goals. Every choice you make dictates the direction in which the game unfolds. Louis grows alongside every choice, for better or worse.
Narratives are not an invitation to rest the controller down in The Council as you must focus on every interaction as opportunities continually present themselves where you are able to identify and make note of emotional and facial reactions that take place during conversations. Talents are also acquired by completing actions throughout the quests which help Louis become more proficient in deciphering the many secrets within the walls of the manor.
There are many tense moments to be had within The Council as you never know what outcome awaits from each choice you make. Another important aspect is the idea that you truly cannot trust any individual within the manor. You are unaware of their motives for attending and it is up to you to discern the truth behind the arrival of each guest while following the clues left by your mother to discover her whereabouts.
My only two concerns within this first episode of The Council are minor. The initial voice acting upon arriving on the island was distracting and impacted the immersive potential early on, but this was quickly corrected and the overall atmosphere was reestablished moments later. Also, when talking to Napoleon outside, the textual options were very difficult to read due to the brightness of being outdoors.
The Council: Episode One – The Mad Ones is a narrative-driven adventure game developed by Big Bad Wolf that puts the player in the front seat of uncovering the many truths that lies within the manor. It features a visually stunning presentation as every detail is perfectly crafted to create realistic and immersive environments. The RPG elements is a welcoming change of pace and leads to a very rewarding experience. The player crafts their journey through the choices they make with the information they have attained. We look forward to the next episode in this five episode experience.