Adventures games are my favourite genre, and The Council is one of the best I have ever played. The game is not without its flaws, and these are very obvious right from the start, but it still manages to raise the bar in areas that matter the most when it comes to adventure games.
(Warning: minor spoilers follow).
In The Council, you play as Louis de Richet, the son of Sarah Faustine de Richet, a French aristocrat, and leader of a secret society called the Golden Order. They are separated when Sarah chooses to continue a mission on her own, the details of that mission are unclear in the first episode. Sarah visits another powerful member of the Golden Order, William Mortimer, on his island, where she disappears. Mortimer sends an urgent message to Louis and asks him to join him on the island as soon as possible. Once on the island, you meet several illustrious guests, each with his or her own agenda.
The Council plays off in 1793 and is filled with fascinating characters like the striking fellow in my cover image, sir Gregory Holme, a very influential British aristocrat, and long-time friend of Mortimer. After my playthrough of chapter one, “The Mad Ones,” Holme is at the top of my list of characters to keep a close eye on. Other characters include historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington, as well as fictional characters who all play an important role in the development of the story. Each character you meet in The Council matters, from the servants to the president of the United States. Every one of them has an impact on your story, and I discovered just how significant that impact is when I decided to play the game a second time. But more about that later.
There are three classes in The Council, and it's more important to select the right fit for you than you think: Diplomat has a strong focus on politics. The occultist is a master of deception and Detective excels in
Your class determines the talents you'll unlock as well as specific powers that can influence and change a conversation. In the Council,
It is here where The Council raises the bar for adventure games – choices do matter. I had a completely different outcome in my second playthrough. I also unlocked several different paths as to when I played as a Detective. By the end of my first playthrough, I was about to finally meet Mortimer. In my second playthrough, I was about to be sacrificed in a demonic ritual … I think. At times, it was like I was playing a different game, and this is an exceptional achievement for the genre. I've mostly found in adventure games that choices don't really matter, or are superficial.
We get a shadow of the real thing, it lasts but for a moment, then we're back at the same place no matter the path we chose. In the Council, whole sections of the game are locked behind what path you chose to follow. It doesn't have the emotional impact of say Telltales The Walking Dead or Life Is Strange, but it does empower the player in a way I've rarely seen in the genre.
The Occult class unlocked very different dialogue options than that of Detective. My character tree also branched out in a completely different manner than that of Detective. Your skills, on the other hand, allow you to discover hidden opportunities. To further compliment the role-playing side of the Council; each character on the island have a specific vulnerability and immunity that you can exploit depending on your class. As the story unfolds, you have to discover these traits so you can have the upper hand in conversations.
Another extremely enjoyable game mechanic is Confrontations. You go through several steps (these differ per character), and as you succeed you progress to the next step until you get to the final stage where you have to convince the character to respond positively. Confrontations also have a significant impact on the story – what you unlock or what remains hidden. Yes, you do get to progress through the game, and you do go through similar core moments, but the way you get there can be vastly different. At the end of each section you receive feedback about your successes, failures, and the different paths you could've taken.
As I've said at the start, the Council isn't without its flaws, but for me, these were outperformed by the qualities mentioned above. The graphics could've been more polished, the voice acting better, and some of the conversations a bit more intelligent. The Council isn't a very challenging game, but it is an immensely entertaining one, with excellent replay value. You can purchase the complete season for R370, and at that price, it is a steal.
After decades of gaming, it is a rare thing for me that a video game managed to surprise me, and The Council did just that. I cannot wait to see how this plot of intrigue and manipulation unfolds in episodes two to five.
This review was based on a copy of the game we purchased ourselves
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PC | Release Date: 13 March 2018 | RRP: R369