I’ve always been a fan of episodic games as they’re normally just the right length to dip in and out of during quick gaming sessions and also allow you to play out a storyline with multiple endings. More well known for their episodic games are Telltale, which more so recently have gone a bit stale with the repetition in gameplay, this is something The Council establishes to tackle, as Focus Home Interactive’s episodic title has a blend of of this but introduces a skillset onto your character. But does this make it feel different and stand out?
The Council is set in the year 1793 and has you play the role of French occult expert, Louis de Richet. Your adventure brings Louis to Lord Mortimer’s exquisite private island in search of his mother – solving puzzles and interacting with the many different characters you’ll meet to progress further through the storyline.
My all-time favourite title from the story-telling point and click genre is unsurprisingly, Life Is Strange, due to its take on adult themes and emotional attachments. It was a bold move by Dontnod Entertainment, but one that paid off massively. The bravest move made by Focus Home Interactive comes in the form of its RPG elements of spending points on your character for attributes such as Diplomacy or Lockpicking. Do you learn to play on a character’s speech or pick a lock to find a key clue. All in all there are 15 different of these skills to invest in and they all change the way the story and game plays out.
Another spanner thrown into the works comes from the fact that your skill points deplete during confrontations as you attempt to achieve your desired outcome. So you may invest your Diplomacy skill point in a conversation to bypass suspiscion. Thankfully though you can replenish these points by eating Royal Jelly found hidden around the manor and manor grounds.
Just to go into more detail on the dialogue choices – these are typically called confrontations and you get three chances to control the conversation before failure. These feel tense and down to the wire, as responses are against the clock and obviously you need to pick the right dialogue line to respond with. Failing on doing so could end the confrontation very badly and halt quick progression. This doesn’t mean you have to restart over, however it will have a consequence to how your story plays out.
At first I did find the whole concept of skills and confrontations overwhelming with tutorials flying on the screen during the intro section a lot, but you’ll soon discover it’s all very straight forward. I do believe they could have executed the tutorials better. Maybe play out tutorials in a slower paced area in the storyline and not at the start where you feel you’re in the middle of the action and about to make a terrible mistake and ruin things early on. The fact that these are also dragged out to multiple tutorials doesn’t help either, as you think you’ve learnt everything until you find out you haven’t.
Moving away from the tutorials and learning the ropes though, the game is very pleasing and enthralling in its storyline – featuring well known historical figures such as former US President George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. Each of whom keep the story feeling realistic and a nice added choice of characters to interact with within the game.
All of which, each character is supported by fantastic voice acting and scripting for dialogue. There wasn’t a moment where I thought that dialogue line sounded dodgy or a voice actor that annoyed me. Much like Life Is strange, The Council is brilliantly well written and voice acted all round.
Evidently from its superb voice-acting, this is a highly polished game. The lighting and facial animation on characters looks realistic and the manor itself has an eerie but warm feel to it. There are also points of interest such as adorned artifacts and paintings, which if you take time to endure, you’ll be thoroughly impressed by the attention to detail and historical accuracy.
Episode 1 will take around four hours to complete or longer if you get stuck on puzzles like I did. The story leaves a lot to look forward to in the next future episodes and with four more to come will be one to watch I’m sure.