The Council is an episodic adventure game, with Big Bad Wolf studios trying to draw the eye of fans of the genre away from Telltale Games. It’s an ambitious release with a number of interesting new mechanics adding to the allure of the game, but it’s missing some of the charm that is featured in the likes of the Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us. With a first episode entitled “The Mad Ones,” this gives us some idea of what to expect from the characters we meet on the island where the game takes place.
Having been invited to said island where your mother was previously a guest, we discover that she has been missing since shortly after arriving. Playing as Louis De Richet, you must mingle with the other guests of your host Lord Mortimer at an extremely high brow affair. As you rub shoulders with United States President George Washington, A Duchess and Napoleon Bonaparte, amongst others, you’ll start to discover that not everyone is as they seem and they are all there with their own separate agendas. Depending on how you play the game, you’ll learn different things about these characters. I ran through the game a couple of times and each playthrough did feel very different. I look forward to how the consequences of the actions play out in later episodes.
The Council works with a RPG style levelling system, with 3 different skill trees that give access to different dialogues and actions throughout the games. A low agility level prevents you from hopping a wall when you’re about to be caught eavesdropping, for example. A high level in diplomacy will allow you to talk your way out of certain situations and keep people on side later on, which is always helpful in this type of game. These acts are enabled by using the games “effort” bar. Allowing you a default 6 bars to use unless you upgrade by finding 4 pieces of amber, the conversation links that allow for new information can use up any number of those depending on the difficulty and potential reward from your actions. This is great when you have the necessary action unlocked, but frustrating when a response is written all over their face, but you don’t have a high enough level in something to ask them about it. The puzzles are played out in a similar way, with understanding of certain things making for easier clues towards solutions. This can make you feel like a genuine detective at times, but like an absolute fool at others.
Graphically, the game does everything you need it to. The faces on the characters are easy to read, although some of them are a little bit over the top. The older characters don’t look great, with one in particular looking like a melted candle. The environments look nice although darker areas aren’t as detailed as I’d have liked either. There are a lot of elements that are extremely over the top in the animations and speech, too. While clearly trying to make the moments you have to pick up on more obvious, it comes across as a bit too much at times. Seeing George Washington pull out his finest Final Fantasy X laugh at the slightest thing takes away from the otherwise intriguing atmosphere of the game. I was hoping for a little bit more of a creepy setting from the Council, but Big Bad Wolf have set up a great first episode with my two play-throughs ending in dramatically different ways, suggesting each new episode will make me want to explore each possibility and outcome.
A great first episode means I’m excited to see where the Council goes from here. A slightly ridiculous plot is quickly forgotten when in the gameplay and aside from a few minor issues with character models and such, this is a great instalment to a new adventure game franchise.