What happens when you take the likes of George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legate of Pope Pius VI as well as others and stick them in a house together? Well, not only do you have some great stories that can be shared around the fireplace, but throw in the disappearance of another member of the Secret Society as they are all gathering and you have The Council.
Set in 1793, you assume the role of Louis De Richet who has been invited
to a private island off the shores of England by the enigmatic Lord Mortimer. Upon arrival you discover that your mother has gone missing on the island and the story begins.
The Council has slowly been released in episodic format over the months of 2018 with the first part released back in March, but now all the episodes have finally been released, Big Bad Wolf and Focus Home Interactive have released all episodes as a complete edition for us all to enjoy together. So why am I waiting until now to review the game? Simple.. I am the most impatient person you will meet. I hate watching shows on TV where you have to wait until the next week to follow the story, I would rather wait until its complete and can watch everything back to back. The same goes for games in that respect. Telltale games were always a nightmare for me; the games were fantastic, but it would only take on average 2 hours to complete each episode and then I would have to wait another month or more for the next part, by that time I had usually forgotten everything that had happened previously.
So it has taken Big Bad Wolf the best part of 9 months to bring us the complete 5 episodes of The Council. In essence it is a unique blend of RPG, Narrative and Adventure combined to what I would say was near perfection. With the sad demise of Telltale Games, there has been a noticeable gap within the industry for these types of game, so it was great timing that Big Bad Wolf could attempt to step into some rather big shoes. I have always been a fan of the Telltale style of game so I was dubious about playing something that was by a different developer but I am so glad that I took that chance.
Telltale always took the route of decision making within their games which normally led to the death of one of two characters. We were always told that your decisions along thew way matter and shape the game ahead of you. The Council however offers much much more when it comes to decisions and conversations, new pathways to discover dependent on choices you make, different events and also different cutscenes. This was never a thing with Telltale, no matter what decisions you made the game didn’t really change much along the way other than various members of your team not being available depending on who you had chosen to sacrifice along the way. That said, no matter what decisions you made you were always certain of getting every trophy along the way and the ever easy Platinum at the end of the game. The Council has trophies depending on what choices you make, so if you choose one direction a trophy will pop but leave another trophy locked which gives the game some replay value. With multiple endings, even if you aren’t a trophy hunter, there is so much scope to play this game through so many different ways.
The next thing that sets this game apart is the skill tree. Yes, there’s lots of games out there that insist on you building your skills throughout the game, but this doesn’t really apply to these types of games, not to mention it having any effect on the way your game plays.
At the start of the game you get to choose between 3 classes each with different set of skills: Diplomat (Etiquette, Conviction, Politics, Diversion and Linguistics), Occultist (Science, Occultism, Manipulation, Erudition and Subterfuges) and Detective (Questioning, Vigilance, Psychology, Logic and Agility). The progression system has 15 available character skills, 44 talents, and 20 traits that will make the character behave differently in accordance with them. You level up skills as you progress through the game, but you can also boost certain skills by reading books found within your travels. These skills all help you with decisions you make and dialogue choices. For instance, if you go along the route of Detective, the Vigilance option helps you to read peoples faces and mannerisms making it easier to read them and helping you to decide what they seem to be up to.
This brings me nicely into the graphics. The backdrops look lovely; a lot of time and effort have gone in to making this game look fantastic. Our main character movements and close up facial expressions are also a joy to behold; however, when it comes down to the other members of the party, they do look a bit wooden in expressions as if the developers gave up on giving them any emotion. This wouldn’t be so bad, but a big part of the game and decision making is down to reading their expressions and reactions to lines of questioning. The other slight annoyance is these characters seem to have been made into Stereotypes, if not comical. Take Emily Hillsborrow for instance; an English Duchess whos plump breasts fill our screen on more than one occasion. She comes across as a flirty whore at times, and I know the aristocracy would never have behaved like that. It’s a minor thing for me I guess, but with a game that looks and feels this good it does let it down slightly.
There are other small niggles for me within the game, but most people will easily overlook these issues, so let me nitpick slightly.
During the game people refer to a British Knight as Sir [Surname] but that has never happened in history, it is always referred to as Sir [Forename]. I’m also not sure that the term ‘networking’ was ever used in the 18th century, let alone the use of the word ‘OK’. Networking only ever came about quite recently in our worlds history, as well as the term OK.
Despite these few issues I have with the game, I love it. It is what Telltale games could have only ever dreamed of becoming in their ways. Perhaps its a good thing that the company had issues and ended up going out of business. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Telltale and always will hold them in high regard for what they produced, but now its time for developers to step into their empty shoes and go above and beyond what their predecessors ever could manage.
The Council is a delight to play and become involved in. Even after the few minor niggles I have within the game, most people would never notice them and I can overlook them quite easily. This is a must buy game, and at 9/10 it is a great successor to the ill-fated Telltale Games