After cutting their teeth on titles such as Watch Dogs, Far Cry 3 and Child of Light, industry veterans formed Big Bad Wolf. Disappointed with Telltale and the ultimately cosmetic choices they make players make, the young studio has one ambition: to change the situation with The Council, their first episodic game. What if this was the start of the narrative game revolution?
An Agatha Christie Cluedo
The Council immerses us in 1793 in the skin of Louis de Richet, a member of the Golden Order, a secret society specializing in the occult led by his mother and widespread throughout the world. While Sarah de Richet is on a mission to a secret island off the coast of England, he receives an enigmatic letter from a certain Lord Mortimer who tells him that his mother has disappeared, inviting him to his estate for the occasion. . Accompanied by a few hand-picked hosts, including big names like George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte, you find yourself in the heart of a private reception whose nature is as mysterious as the secrets hidden by its guests. Add to this the strange visions of Louis which presage the worst for his mother, and which add a new dose of welcome mystery.
Not unlike the stories of Agatha Christie, The Council does not offer QTEs of questionable interest, nor even a fight strictly speaking: it’s all in the social interactions and especially the investigation. Because the first narrative game of our friends from Bordeaux is presented as a giant game of Cluedo in a vast mansion where each room has a really neat design, highlighted by beautiful light effects, and real artistic works that immerse us more in this universe. And this mix of genres is absolutely delicious! We quickly revel in its atmosphere, its dialogues and its scenario full of mysteries and already promising. The writing of the first episode is very successful, engaging, with some nice twists and that bodes well for the future. That said, we have a reservation on a point that seems important to us in narrative games of this scale: the emotional attachment to the main character. Louis is an interesting hero and we appreciate his sarcasm and wit, yet there’s not that click yet, that spark that you can have with Lee (The Walking Dead) or Max (Life is Strange) . We can only hope that will change as the episodes and reveals go on, and that they will give the character more depth and gain a bit more charisma.
The paths promise to be really multiple, with real replayability already in the first episode
If for each narrative game the first episode is always one of the most difficult exercises, because often with a slow enough pace to act as an introduction, we did not see the 3h30 necessary to complete our first part pass, especially because the game focuses so much on the investigation that each exploration, each dialogue has its importance. And once the credits appear, your first desire will be to restart the episode and try new paths. An impulse greatly helped by the recap at the end of each Quest (the equivalent of a chapter), which tells you what you missed and the alternative elements that you could have chosen, and there are already a few surprises.
The appeal of The Council lies in its promises: a consequence for every choice, no matter how small. Obviously a single episode is not enough to determine whether they will be held or not, but we were pleasantly surprised with regard to the dilemmas, which forge the rest of the game. During this first crucial choice the software warns us that when we take a given path, it will be impossible to discover what is in the other: the player can miss whole sections of the story which can be rich in revelations. Therefore, in our second playthrough we discovered completely different story elements, bringing a new perspective on the rest of the characters and the possible fate of the leader of the Golden Order. If we have not yet discovered all the possible branches, it is certain that everyone will not end the episode in the same way, and will not necessarily start the second chapter with the same plot, nor necessarily under favorable conditions. . The paths promise to be really multiple, with real replayability already in the first episodeand we are pleasantly surprised to already see big consequences from the first chapter.
50 shades of RPG
But beyond its narrative ambitions, The Council brings a real freshness thanks to its gameplay mechanics strongly inspired by role-playing games which have been implemented in the dialogues and in the title in general. Each conversation turns into a verbal contest, where one can triumph or not. But don’t panic, unlike Telltale productions, there is no Game Over. Big Bad Wolf intends to leave us with our failures until the end of the adventure, for better or for worse.
From the start of the game, you should choose one of the three classes, which grants some skills in advance. Being a Diplomat makes it possible to shine in society and avoid missteps thanks to his talents as a speaker, preferring to be an Occultist makes Louis the master of pretense, who uses others to achieve his ends and who has an appetite for subterfuge, while the Detective excels in investigation and can notice small details both in the environment and in interlocutors. Each player can choose an approach that suits them and approach the dialogues in a more subtle or direct way. With The Council, we really create our own experience, and that’s why it’s possible to allocate your Skill Points in the classes you haven’t chosen in order to be more multidisciplinary.
The Council brings a real freshness thanks to its gameplay mechanics strongly inspired by role-playing games
Skills are of crucial importance since they give access to unique dialogue options that allow you to discover new elements about Sarah’s disappearance or the personalities of the other guests. Indeed, like any good RPG each interlocutor has immunities, which will confer the “Exhausted” penalty if confronted with them, or vulnerabilities, that we can exploit at will to get what we want from the person in question. However, they are not free and consume Effort Points which are materialized with a gauge in the lower corner of the screen. It can be filled in two ways, either by finding consumable objects scattered in the environment or by exploiting a vulnerability of an interlocutor. We may therefore have to use them carefully, however using a skill does not guarantee the success of the dialogue. They are not magic privileges, hence the importance of learning more about the guests of the island through the exploration phases, where our skills will also be put to use. And as each player will not unlock the same skills, all will have different clues and experience. To all this is added other elements such as Manuscripts, found in the environment and which must be equipped at the start of each Quest to gain a skill point in the field with which it is associated, but also Talents that we unlock naturally by carrying out various actions during our adventure and which confer bonuses allowing for example to increase the experience gained.
From time to time, depending on our skills, we will be presented with Opportunities. For a few seconds the image freezes and, pressed for time, we can select a luminous element of our choice on our interlocutor to discover hidden details and elements about him. And as the title is generous, it tells us when we are missing Opportunities, once again making us want to find out what we have missed. We repeat it, The Council announces real replayability, which could be unheard of for the genre.
The Council shines thanks to its way of approaching interactions with other characters and the freedom of progression left to players
Beyond mundane conversations, it is above all the Confrontations that will help advance the investigation, which is the heart of the game. Not unlike the Challenges of Insolence from Life is Strange: Before the Storm, being as persuasive as possible with his interlocutor. The final step is crucial since it is imperative to convince him by giving him a positive response. If necessary, the ultimate sequence will repeat itself until one runs out of clumsiness (trials). Succeeding in them will be all the more necessary since they will have serious consequences for the rest of the adventure. This being, they presented no difficulty in this first episode, and we hope that they will get tougher over the next few chapters.
All these elements give a tasty mix and bring a real dynamism to the narration. The Council shines thanks to its way of approaching interactions with other characters and the freedom of progression left to players. The scenes, dark as light, are also served by a delicious OST composed by Olivier Derivière, which we will also find this year in Vampyr.
Some stains on a beautiful painting
If we are conquered by the intelligence of The Council and its mechanics, the first episode is not without some flaws. We obviously winced when we saw that the Duchess, the only female character present, is quite hypersexualized and opens with a wave of a magic wand at the end of the episode to our character. We only hope that it is a manipulation on his part and not a wobbly writing of the character. We also regret lip sync issues, sometimes out of step, but above all sequences where the protagonist plays the ventriloquists by not moving his lips. A few lines weren’t captioned, but luckily they weren’t the hardest to understand. Added to this are animations that are a little rougher and less neat towards the end of the episode, but also some interface problems that sometimes marred our enjoyable adventure, especially during an open-air scene, bright, where we were nearly impossible to read dialog options. Bad luck, it fell on an important conversation with a time limit. But make no mistake, these are all just minor flaws for a first episode that announces an overall promising game.
- A gripping plot
- RPG elements combined with storytelling
- An artistic direction with small onions
- A blow of freshness in the genre
- True replayability
The lessers :
- Lip sync issues
- Sometimes stiff animations
- Some interface and readability issues
- Have to wait for the sequel
THE REVIEW OF THE TEST OF The Council Episode 1: The Mad Ones
The first episode of The Council is a pleasant surprise. Combining investigation, narration, and RPG elements, the title brings a real breath of fresh air to the world of narrative games. If it is always difficult to assess the potential of a game of this type with only one episode, The Council already predicts great replayability. If the game manages to deliver on its promise with consequences for every choice and a unique experience for every player, then Big Bad Wolf’s debut project could revolutionize the genre.