The point and click story-driven adventure game has come into its own over the last decade, starting with Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” before developing and morphing into the latest “Life is Strange” series. This genre has shown how games don’t shy away from death, gore, adult themes or how moral decisions can affect the world around you. The Council is a new game from this ever-growing genre and it hopes to tell an original story, and like Telltale who are plundering the DC and Marvel universes, it is also using some very famous faces indeed.
Famous people, all meeting together in a secret location has happened throughout history. The famous meeting of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt that turned the tide of World War 2 or the even more important one that was the meeting of the Spice Girls and Take That as they discussed who was the better pop band in the ’90s. The Council puts together the likes of George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte, as they take in a strange weekend on a mysterious island organised by an even more mysterious host called Lord Mortimer.
The Council is set in the year 1793 and plays around with both fiction and the truth in a delightful way. You play the hero of the hour, Louis de Richet, a sort of French occult expert who has come to Lord Mortimer’s private island in search of his mother. The game plays like a normal point and click adventure game, whereby you move around examining items, solving puzzles and interacting with characters. The closest game I can compare it to is the recent Sherlock Holmes series, but it’s much more original than that. Why? Well, it uses a truly original game mechanic where it really does feel like every decision has a consequence that will be felt throughout the five chapters on offer. You see, in The Council, every breath counts.
The big twist on the formula is that when you start the game you can choose how you want to play, like a traditional RPG mixed with a story-telling point and click. Do you choose to focus your points on Diplomacy, where you learn to play on a person’s anxieties? Or do you play the detective and learn to pick locks and hunt down clues? There are 15 different skills to invest in and use, but it’s totally up to you how you ultimately play the game. You have a number of skill points that you can spend, but these get depleted during confrontations or engagements as you attempt to achieve your desired outcome. You can replenish these points by eating some Royal Jelly dotted around the place, and there are times when a Golden Elixir helps you resolve negative attributes. It sounds very complicated, but the game design ensures it is incredibly easy to pick up and play.
In a confrontation or conversation with a character, you will examine and gain knowledge of their psychological vulnerabilities and immunities for your role in the interaction. The confrontations are especially tense as you have only three chances to get the right result and gain the information needed. But failing doesn’t mean ‘game over’ or a restart because the consequences of the actions cannot be taken back. If you, for example, gain a physical scar from a confrontation this will be carried forward and have an effect or future interactions. It’s a brilliantly robust and original system that kept me on tenterhooks for the whole of the 4-hour debut episode.
The writing and attention to detail are very good indeed and fantastically implemented. You really see the love and effort poured into a line of dialogue and the consequences that might occur from saying it. I really enjoyed going to the different artworks and hearing Louis’ insights about them.
In the graphical department, The Council shines with some excellent lighting and level design. The mansion you end up in is covered with wonderful attention to detail, from the biggest statue to the smallest ashtray. It’s all very well considered and beautifully made. The character design is where things come into its own though, with brilliantly detailed faces showing every line and wrinkle. It reminds me of the Dishonored series and ranks right up there with a chance of winning the ‘best artistic faces in games’ award – if indeed any such thing should exist.
The audio is of a high standard as well, even if there are a couple of occasions when the action seems to not quite match with what is being heard. The voiceover work is excellent, with a brilliant choice of actors delivering great performances with each character.
I am hugely excited about the promise of The Council and can’t wait for the next four episodes. I hope it continues to surprise and intrigue me as much as The Mad Ones has, and the hints delivered so far begin to ramp up to a great conclusion. For now, I am waiting with bated breath to see what will happen in this intriguing, unique compelling adventure.