The Council is the latest title of Big Bad Wolf, where the French studio delves into a different approach to the narrative adventure genre. Here, the plot is divided into five episodic acts that the player will discover over the next few months. Between conspiracies, manipulations, esotericism and meetings with different major personalities of the late eighteenth century, prepare yourself to face the consequences of your actions in this political and historical closed-ended epic that lacks neither charm nor good ideas.
In this first episode, the player meets who I believe to be the main character (though this might change in later episodes?), Louis de Richet, son of Sarah de Richet, both members of the secret society of the Golden Order. And secret society oblige, mysteries, lies and hidden truths will be abundant. After a short, but effective introductory sequence that makes it clear to us that any choice has irreversible consequences, we find Louis at the foot of the imposing mansion of the enigmatic Lord Mortimer, on a small island lost off the coast of England.
Behind the appearances of a social reception bringing together some of the greatest names of the time, Louis knows that something strange, most likely related to the recent disappearance of his mother, is going on on the island. Our main objective will therefore be to do everything possible to find out what it is. To accomplish this, operate various narrative levers with more or less direct effects on the short, medium and long term adventure of the adventure.
The guest list contributes to The Council’s narrative success, as the title uses a historic context and mostly historical figures to set up an intriguing plot reminiscent of the classics of the crime novel. So do not be surprised to meet a young Napoleon Bonaparte at the corner of a hall or to run into George Washington himself by the fireplace. If each of the eleven guests represent the opportunity to advance the investigation, it will also require much finesse and social skills to discover their heavy secret.
Because unlike a narrative adventure in Telltale where decisions are most often made based on your feelings on the situation, The Council addresses interactions with a rather unique approach. The player decides the narrative progression of the character through the initial choice of initial classes combined with a tree of social skills to unlock over the course of events. These skills will enable him to manage events with more or less success, to switch situations, but also to maneuver the tasty cast of interlocutors by playing on their strengths and vulnerabilities.
Louis’s skills can be developed through a classic system of points to be assigned in different branches. Whether you follow the path of diplomacy, that of occultism or investigation, the choice is yours to make. Making Louis more talented in certain actions than others will in turn affect your experience in the game. Skills such as manipulation or the art of psychology have a fairly significant impact on dialogues while others such as historical knowledge or perception of detail will open up otherwise unavailable opportunities for interactions with guests and the environment.
Of course, whatever you decide, you actually progression will not be affected. There is no right or wrong way to approach The Council, whether it is through your actions, your choices and the consequences of them. Regardless, most of the decisions will have repercussions on the continuation of the adventure, within the episode itself, but also on the upcoming ones. The consequences range from the simple fact of offending the sensitivity a character to more… physical ones if we may say (hard to say more without spoiling the story). Certain decisions, more important than others, will require players to choose between some massive branches of the plot with the direct effect on the resolution of several phases of the plot. Without a manual save system, or the opportunity to fix blunders made during dialogues, The Council forces us to face the consequences of our decisions.The intelligence of such a system lies in the absence of a Game Over as well as in the final nature of the player’s actions throughout the investigation.
The traditional RPG fights are here transcribed by a mechanism of verbal jousting called the confrontations. At certain key moments of the adventure, Louis will have the task of convincing a character in several “rounds”. The skills acquired through the game, the dialectic, the understanding of the scenario and the psychology of his interlocutor are all factors that the players will have to take advantage of to emerge victorious from these verbal duels. The RPG facet of The Council also lies in the management of action points, a limited resource that Louis will have to use to uncover certain choices of dialogue.
Featuring a tasty cast of guests from around the globe, this first episode surely heralds a very promising sequel. With a convincing writing, quality English dubbing where each character uses their native accent, an excellent artistic direction, and graphic engine that, without using too much resources, manages to portray a mansion that is both exuberant and mysterious, this first episode seduced us. There are some facial animations that sometimes seem a little frozen and a camera orientation that may occasionally be a bit too close to the character, but this first act of the narrative adventure remains a great experience and I can not wait to unravel the plots of the upcoming episodes.