REVIEW – I just finished playing this game (and I already was thrown the next one…), and I wasn’t disappointed. Actually, I was, positively. The Council’s first episode is surprisingly decent. Big Bad Wolf’s creation has rethought the Telltale-formula, which should alarm them, and it’s not a joke at all!
We’re at the end of the 18th century in 1792 (in the prologue) and 1793, on Lord Mortimer’s island. The base story is that Louis de Richet, who has one more name, but I forgot that – our editor-in-chief knows French, I don’t! -, goes to this elite island, where he meets historical figures, but his goal would be to find her mother who already came here a few weeks ago, but she disappeared. Or did she?
Rethinking narrative adventure
The first few minutes of the game is a scene where we get just one choice to make: help our mother or not. After that, it’s cutting to the island, where we’ll immediately meet two new characters. One of them came from the Papal States (Giuseppe Piaggi), the other one being Emily Hillsborrow from London – she will be a key character throughout the episode. During the initial talks, you’ll gain your first skill points which you can spend in three categories: Diplomat is for speaking skills, Occultist is for the deceptive, and Detective helps in exploration and during searching.
I mainly went towards the diplomatic route. After a few minutes, a hallucination (?) happens, which might be a bit of a nod towards Life is Strange, although there’s no time reversal here… instead, there’s not even checkpoints or save reloading, I believe. I once stopped the game after thirty minutes, but then I somehow restarted after picking the save file. Might have been my fault.
So our hallucination might be already hinting at occultist events, as there will be another character, the daughter of the at-the-time vice president of the United States, who will look quite unusual, and she MIGHT play a significant role in the story. I shouldn’t talk about her background story at all, though. After a bit of investigation, we find out that something fishy is going on in the Mortimer castle (fortress?). In a few minutes, you’ll meet George Washington, later on, you’ll find at-the-time not so known Napoleon Bonaparte, too. Although the game is based on fictional events, there are historical characters, and I believe Council is a daring, unique idea altogether.
During your conversations, you’ll gain several skills, or you can use them with the Effort Points. Politics, logics, psychology, linguistics, and so on – there are fifteen total, five for each main category. You can level up each of them. You’ll find four regular and two rare items. The regular items include Royal Jelly, which fills back two Effort Points per use but remember: regular items’ stock is five maximum, so you should use one if you got the fifth one. The two rare items are the Amber (finding three or four of these will give you one extra Effort Point), and the Mortimer coins.
And the rest
The story is good. You’ll have two endings, and I happened to get the bad one. Whatever! Graphically, it looks a bit… unusual, especially with the characters’ faces. The textures seem to be a little buggy here and there, and I have seen several issues with the subtitles (moto instead of motto, dot comma comma instead of three dots, etc.), which also tend to get off the screen before the longer sentences end. Audio-wise, though, The Council is alright.
It does have issues, though. It’s not long, but it’s still longer than Life is Strange/Telltale titles, it’ll take roughly two and a half hours to complete the episode, but it could take more if you look in every nook and cranny or get stuck on one of the two puzzles. It’s not a big of an issue than the „opportunities” are in The Council. I believe they don’t give you much time to react to these events. You have to prepare for these (as well as for the characters to know what their vulnerabilities and weaknesses are – they will be useful for confrontations!).
One of the surprises of the year?
On Metacritic, this game has no reviews yet. A user gave it a 10; another one ranked it an 8. I believe The Council is WORTH an 8! It dared to renew the narrative formula, and it should be alarming for Telltale. For those who like episodic games, this game is easily RECOMMENDED. It’s a little short, it has its mistakes, but Big Bad Wolf made something outstanding. The Council could be one of the major surprises of the year!
+ A major twist on the Telltale-formula…
+ …with your upgradable character with fifteen skills!
+ Decent audiovisuals, and it has a unique location and setting, too
– Graphical, animation, and subtitle-related flaws here and there
– The opportunities don’t give you much of time to respond
– It’s short (but it’s still longer than the average episodic game)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive, Cyanide
Developer: Big Bad Wolf Games
Genre: episodic, adventure, puzzle
Release date: March 13, 2018