Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Windows (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Episodic Adventure/RPG
Rating: Mature (17+)
Nowadays when you think of episodic adventure games, the go-to is Telltale Games and their ever-expanding pop culture universe. “The Council: The Mad Ones” borrows some from those games such as branching choice trees, multiple play paths and quick button presses but overall the game takes more cues from modern third-person role-playing games and feels quite classic point-and-click adventure puzzlers of old such as Myst and Riven.
To be clear, “The Council” is not a point and click adventure game. You play in third person as Louis de Richet, a member of a secret order who has been invited to a mysterious island after his mother has gone missing. You choose your class early on in the game, unlocking skills that you can use during investigations and conversations. As you level up you can unlock more points to advance your skill sets in your particular class choice or, at the cost of more points than usual, purchase points outside of your career path. You can also uncover relics, books and other items that grant you bonus points in various skills.
Set in the late 1700s, the cast of reoccurring characters include powerful and influential world leaders and figureheads such as George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte as well as duchesses and Vatican Cardinals to name a few. Depending on your play style, you can make friends or enemies out of each and every person that you meet very easily with the proper steps or missteps. Conversations are the most important element in “The Council” as they can reveal immunities and weaknesses that may help you get the most information out of each guest that you encounter. Being faithful and keeping a promise to a guest will permanently unlock traits to help you on your quest while using logic to weed out a lie will grant perks during conversation with that particular guest.
The story builds up from a missing person’s case and escalates into a weaving web of something much more sinister. The first episode does a great job of introducing you to the characters and setting up an aura of mystery in regards to the host Lord Mortimer. As you investigate the island and the mansion you discover things may not be what they seem to be and that something more sinister is in play. I can feel a supernatural turn of events looming on the horizon.
I’ve played just about every Telltale Game on the market and “The Council Episode 1: The Mad Ones” feels like the evolution of the narrative episodic adventure game. Adding in elements of RPG play with skill trees and leveling up, with the somewhat free-roam third person play…the game plays more like “Alan Wake” than it does “Tales from the Borderlands”. Your choices have more weight than some casual button presses and conversation options. Pissing off George Washington is bound to have major consequences in upcoming episodes that could most definitely steer you in a different path than expected. While the graphics feel last-gen, the story is interesting, entertaining and full of surprises and I am already anxiously awaiting the next episode’s release.