A secretive Lord has invited influential world figures to a confidential meeting on a deserted island. For some reason, they all accept and arrive alone without any kind of protection. What becomes of this powerful group? Only you have the power to decide.
The Council follows protagonist Louis De Richet, a curious and intelligent young man who was invited to the island to look for his mother, a woman who holds the highest power of a secret society known as The Golden Order. She's gone missing and at the start of the story, Louis is focused on finding her. As the true nature of this secret meeting unfolds, he realises that he has a lot more to worry about.
The Council's main characters are mostly a collection of real world figures from history such as US president George Washington and young lieutenant Napoleon Bonaparte (complete with short man syndrome). Louis must navigate countless discussions with these individuals and you can choose who and what to believe which is rarely an easy decision. In other words, The Council does a great job of making you constantly change your mind on who to believe, who to ally with, and who to be weary of.
Through the early chapters of the story, Louis experiences visions that show him conversations between characters and this brings the question of possible supernatural events into the picture right off the bat. Whether or not there are otherworldly events occurring is something that you'll find yourself questioning a lot, especially because some characters are inclined to believe in the paranormal.
The campaign takes place within the grounds of the mysterious Lord Mortimer's mansion. Arriving at the mansion requires a small boat to be docked at the wharf followed by a long climb up a tall staircase. The grandiose mansion has three floors with the middle floor being reserved for guests. Each guest gets their own room that is lavishly decorated and has a floor plan different from the next. There's certainly a lot of detail that has gone into designing the manor and some rooms have a great deal of personality such as the dining hall with its open view that goes out on a cliff over the wharf and houses butterflies that make their home among the furniture.
That being said, the character models and the voice acting are quite disappointing. For starters, Louis' voice lacks gravity right from the beginning which held me back from being able to empathize with the hero for quite a long time. There are a few other characters who have similar issues while others are merely adequate. When it comes to the character models, there's something off about every single character with some of them looking so strange that it's off-putting. Their stiff animations don't help the matter, either. On top of all this, I experienced graphical glitches occasionally throughout the campaign and noticed texture pop-in frequently.
Most of The Council's gameplay takes place in the conversations that you have with the other guests at the mansion with some investigative tasks and puzzle solving thrown in to mix things up. I enjoyed the pacing for the most part but felt that it relied too heavily on conversations and drawn-out puzzles, especially in the later chapters.
Speaking of which, the puzzles are very well done as they require you to think critically about the information you have and sometimes force you to dig through texts throughout the manor in order to solve a problem. It makes the puzzles feel more natural and not forced so I commend the developers for a job well done here. They feature a fantastic level of difficulty, too. In fact, I made some fatal mistakes in some of the puzzles which caused my appearance to change and dramatically altered the ending that I received (of which there are many). Looking back now, I know that if I just put a little more time in, I wouldn't have made the same mistakes.
The consequences of your actions are numerous in The Council as your decisions alter the story and the choices you receive later down the line. I have never worried more about the decision I was about to make in a video game before and I loved the decision-making in games like Detroit: Become Human and Dreamfall Chapters. These consequences come about mostly in the conversations you have with the guests. Each guest has vulnerabilities and immunities which alter how they react to a statement or question. Using effort points to manipulate someone who's immune to manipulation will cause you to lose points and you'll likely miss out on important information or fail to convince them of something. On the other hand, effort points are gained whenever you use their weaknesses against them.
Some conversation options require the use of many effort points. In order to decrease the amount of required points, you must level up your skill in a given topic such as logic, science, politics, and 12 more. To level up a topic, you spend skill points that are earned through multiple methods such as finding and equipping manuscripts, making certain story decisions, and fulfilling smaller tasks like using a specific skill on people a certain number of times. This skill and effort point system combines to create a satisfying RPG-style system.
I found that this skill system did a good job of making the average conversation more than just a series of simple choices because I critically thought about the vulnerabilities of the characters to decide which skills to increase in order to make the next conversation less draining on my effort points. In some cases, I picked an answer that required no effort points and didn't get all the information I wanted simply because I only had a limited amount of points left and knew I'd need them very soon.
Now that all 5 episodes of The Council are available to play through from beginning to end, it's a must-buy for fans of story-driven adventures who are looking for something a little different. If you can get past the strange voice acting and character models, you'll enjoy diving into the complex and devious story that gradually unfolds within Lord Mortimer's mysterious manor.
- + Puzzles are mostly entertaining with a good level of challenge
- + Decisions have a major impact on the story
- + Intriguing and convincing plot
- - Ugly character models and some graphical glitches / subpar voice acting
- - Some puzzles last too long and get boring