Bar the excellent Life is Strange, I’ve recently felt a bit worn out on the narrative adventure genre. I really am a little Telltale’d out to be honest and I’ve felt merely an observer the last few times. That being said, when I first heard of the 18th century story The Council, there was enough to peak my interest. It looked different somehow. But does it offer anything new? Let’s find out. Welcome to The Council…
The Council is set in 1793, and you play as Louis de Richet, a member of a Secret Society called The Golden Order. You are invited to a private island off the shores of England by the mysterious yet prestigious Lord Mortimer. You’re not alone however, as many other high profile personalities have also been invited. Your biggest worry though is that your mother recently went missing on the island prior to your arrival. It’s up to you to get to know everyone and look for clues that will help you find her.
To start off, you need to choose your class. You can be a Diplomat, where your strong points are Etiquette, Conviction, Politics, Diversion and Linguistic. Or you could go Occultist, where you are strong in Science, Subterfuges, Erudition, Occultism and Manipulation. Or finally Detective, where you have great ability in Questioning, Agility, Logic, Psychology and Vigilance. The game makes you feel right from the start that you matter, and how you choose to play the game is important. Yes you will be making dialogue choices and decisions as you would in any other narrative game, but The Council has one hell of an ace up its sleeve – it’s RPG style system for your character.
First up you have Skills. Skills give you access to unique choices and actions at the cost of Effort Points. The higher your skill level, the lower the cost of Effort points. There are also Opportunities, where if you’re quick off the mark with your controller, you can learn something perhaps crucially important about another character. Learning about the other guests personalities is particularly important as some may be vulnerable to certain conversation subjects, leading you to vital clues. You can still progress without Effort points, but the game will be harder. Not to worry though, there are lots of helpful pick ups lying around, such as Royal Jelly – which will restore 2 of your Effort points. Your supply of Effort points is shown on the bottom of the screen throughout, and it’s your choice as to what you use them for.
It sounds complicated, but the game does an incredible job of easing you into it. And I haven’t even got onto the story yet. The story here is utterly fascinating, helped in huge parts by an exceptional cast of characters. All bring something different to the table, whether it be the stunning Duchess Emily Hillsborrow, or the first President of the United States himself, George Washington. Your interactions with each person are totally absorbing, and The Council even offers something new here as well. With certain people, you will have Confrontations. These are laid out where you have several steps to be as persuasive as possible. You have a limited amount of scope for blunders, and if you mess up the last step of a Confrontation you will have potentially changed the path of your story beyond repair. It places more importance on your interactions and means that you’ll spend a fair bit of time on the edge of your seat, as opposed to just watching a cut scene play out in front of you.
Let it be known I haven’t covered everything here. The combination of narrative and RPG mechanics is perhaps too deep to cover in one review, but the first instalment of The Council feels like a whole game in one episode. It’s incredibly impressive and by the end of the episode’s 5 chapters I was desperate to know where the story was headed next.
Forget what you know, The Council‘s debut episode is not just your typical narrative game – it’s a seriously impressive introduction to a potential classic.
Punk rating: 9/10