The Council: The Complete Season (PS4) Review21/12/2018
With the recent shutdown of Telltale games, I was admittedly in a weird funk when it comes to story-driven games. Part of that feeling was relieved when I recently played (and reviewed) Shapeshifting Detective. The problem was that I wanted a game that still played like the Telltale games. Recently a colleague of mine reviewed The Council and kept insisting that I needed to review it as well. I am so very glad that I did because The Council was the exact experience that I have been craving in a story driven game!
The Council is a combination of RPG, Adventure game and mystery much in the vein of Lovecraft. It was developed by Big Bad Wolf and published by Focus Home Interactive. It is an episodic adventure that saw its first episode released on March 13th of 2018 and the final episode, of a total of 5, was released December 4th. Depending on how much you want to explore and talk to the other individuals at the mansion, each chapter takes about two to 3 hours to complete. I would highly suggest to players to make it a point to explore as much as possible. The game frequently puts you in situations in which crucial decisions need to be made, some of which you may never see due to rushing to beat the game.
After a brief prologue, you will find yourself in a position where you choose between 3 classes, each with a different set of skills that will affect your social interactions in the entirety of the game. The 3 classes are, Diplomat (Etiquette, Conviction, Politics, Diversion, and Linguistics), Occultist (Science, Occultism, Manipulation, Erudition, and Subterfuges) and Detective (Questioning, Vigilance, Psychology, Logic, and Agility). At the end of each chapter, you will gain experience for all the actions you made during the chapter. Talking to each individual, picking up items and successfully completing challenging social interactions all will help you on your journey to level 15. You will want to try to balance putting your points between the 3 classes as each skill can help tremendously with certain individuals. Each person is unique, they will have immunity to certain types of interactions, as well as vulnerabilities to others. I was confused about this type of levelling at first, but as I played the game and acknowledged the importance of each action, I grew to really appreciate it.
The progression system has 15 available character skills, 44 talents, and 20 traits that will make the character behave differently in accordance with them, you can’t level all of them to level 3 though, so you will want to be careful.
Sadly I cannot say TOO much about the story without spoiling the game. The year is 1793 and you play as Louis de Richet, who is the son of Sarah Faustine de Richet and member of The Golden Order, a fictional secret society which seeks occult artifacts. The game begins with Louis and Sarah tied up and held kept captive as a result of getting caught stealing a book. The captor mentions the book by name “Al-Azif.” Fans of HP Lovecraft will be delighted to know that this book is based on the Necronomicon! After the prologue, some time passes and Louis receives an invitation from one Lord Mortimer to come to his mansion on a secluded island. Sarah has gone missing on the island and Louis answers the summon to discover what has happened to his mother. Louis is not the only person to receive an invitation, however, the island itself is actually playing host to a conference, that brings together the most important people of the time, including George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte as well as other highly influential people from around the world. As Louis, you need to fit in with the other guests and unravel the mystery of your missing mother as well, all while crazy events unfold at every turn. I don’t say that lightly either, the game has more twists and turns than an evening watching Game of Thrones!
Let’s talk about the visuals of the game, as I know that it is a highly debatable subject from person to person. I think it is fair to say that the visuals do have a unique look to them. I would certainly not say that they were aiming for as lifelike as possible. I do not feel like that is a tic to its negative attributes. I certainly found the setting, as well as the set pieces, to be very well done! I truly felt as if I was in a real-life mansion of a mega-billionaire. Multiple pieces of lush paintings are scattered between the many rooms as well as lush libraries and such. The only real complaint I did have is that when the characters are speaking, the audio doesn’t always correlate well with their mouth animations. There are scenes of people kissing that were downright laughable! I have heard from animators thought that kissing scenes are very difficult to do. I was also very disappointed to see there were no options to adjust the lighting. Most areas are well lit, but there are areas in the game where I had a hard time seeing what I was doing due to minimal light.
The audio is another contested subject. Some of the voice actors were fine, playing as Louis is no biggie. However, as the game does have characters from all over the world, you are bound to hear different accents. It’s no disrespect to the voice actors, but the accents sounded very fake to me. Specifically, the French characters were laughable as they sounded like an American person trying, badly, to talk like a French person. The music in the game never clicked for me either. In fact, I felt like there were some serious moments in the game where the score did nothing to add to the scene but was something more of an annoyance. I would much rather have played those scenes in silence.
In the wake of the demise of Telltale, we have seen several companies really step up to the plate to put out fine story-driven episodic games. Honestly, though, I feel like Big Bad Wolf went above and beyond with The Council. I love that they made the game unique with the RPG aspect, it really makes it stand out against other titles of the same genre. I look forward to seeing what the company puts out in the future!