Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Windows (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Episodic Adventure/RPG
Rating: Mature (17+)
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“Episode 5: Checkmate” sees Big Bad Wolf’s alternate history episodic adventure “The Council” come to a close…and boy does it go out with a bang!
Throughout the first three episodes of the episodic RPG “The Council” you were introduced to a select group of historical figures ranging from George Washington to Napoleon Bonaparte as well as other individuals of importance from across the globe. These individuals are part of a secret group that meets during times of significant historic importance and shape the present worlds as well as plant the seeds for the future of the human race. Their host is a mysterious man known as Sir Mortimer, who owns a private island that’s been in his family for centuries, where the council has been meeting for years.
The story keeps things pretty straightforward for those first three episodes but towards the end of the third episode, things begin to get strange. There is a supernatural element introduced into the game and, as the fourth episode progressed, you learned that the main protagonist and your player character Louis de Richet has special abilities and is part of an ancient family of what is called Daemons. Here you begin to unlock other special abilities to add to your repertoire of skills in things like science and politics to help you progress along the game. You also learn that Sire Mortimer is your father and you have brothers and sisters in the Council.
The fifth and final episode “Checkmate”, all the while seemingly shorter than any of the first four episodes, brings the action and intensity to the forefront. You start off having to persuade those of the Council who are deciding to vote against Sir Mortimer’s plan to hand over the Louisiana Purchase from the French to the United States colonies, onto your side of the vote. To do this you must use all of your skills and abilities including your newfound powers of telepathy and bodily possession. As with each other episode you will have an opportunity to find items that will help you regain skill points which, combined with your skill tree of abilities, help to make certain choices easier or clearer during conversations with other guests.
In my playthrough, I managed to persuade the four voters to switch sides via various skills. I had to talk down one guest who was going slightly mad and assured her that I would help her and not abandon her. For another guest, I had to enter someone else’s mind and possess their body and act like that person in order to dissuade that vote against. For another guest whose body had already been possessed by my character, I had to convince him that was all a dream and speak to his heart and avoid the conversation paths regarding logical thinking. The last guest was as simple as entering his room to visit him and him telling me that he had already changed his mind and would vote for my side.
Once the Council convened, the vote was placed as the opposing side was shocked to learn that everyone who was to vote for his proposal had switched sides. This is where the endgame story arc unfolds and things get really trippy. The opposing party, a man named Sir Gregory Holm, who is revealed in an earlier episode to also be a Daemon and the brother of Sir Mortimer…so technically your uncle…asks you to stop the true plan of Mortimer. Mortimer intends to kill Holm and then go after their father. This would lead to an all-out war between the Daemons and mankind would be the ones to feel their wrath. I decided to side with Holm due to the sudden shift in personality of Sir Mortimer and that I felt that I was still more human than Daemon and they would need someone to look out for humanity’s best interests.
I made my way through Sir Gregory’s mindscape in order to piece together the true chain of events since coming to the island. There I made my choice to defend humanity against Mortimer. I gathered my siblings to my side and faced off against my father in one of the toughest and most epic conversational battles in the history of mankind!!! Having been fully restocked on the helpful items in regards to action points, I was able to find the proper choices for my character as well as keep my siblings on the straight and narrow and to fight for the side of good. With Mortimer defeated and gone for good, I was given my proper ending as well as the future stories of the guests and members of the Council years in the future. With that, my character and his siblings as well as the guests are shown finally leaving the accursed island as the future for the Daemons is left somewhat unclear. Hopefully this is just a set up for a second season.
Overall, “The Council” started off strong and only had a slight dip towards the end of the second and beginning of the third episode. What started off as an interesting historical conspiracy theory drama, pulled an “Uncharted-esque” curveball by introducing supernatural elements to the mix. There were plenty of interesting ways that the revelation of the Daemons affecting the history of the world with such major events such as the death of Christ and the fall of Rome came to light and this also leaves things open-ended with story ideas to mine for the future of the franchise. I’m sad that the story has come to an end and, with the loss of Tell Tale Games and their amazing episodic adventures; I have high hopes that if “The Council” continues on, Big Bad Wolf will become one of the standards in the genre. The Council has been one of the best gaming experiences over the past few years and I’m anxious for more.