DISCLAIMER (This is not a game based on the revelations and naughty shenanigans of MPs lobbying to get to Westminster!)
The Council is primarily an investigation solving, adventure/narrative thriller that centres around the story of an organisation known as The Golden Order. Today I look at the 1st offering in a 5 part episode format from Big Bad Wolf studios, rather ironically titled “The Mad Ones”. Are Monsieur Richet and co really bonkers?( I sense your thinking) You bet they bloody are!
Our story starts off in Paris, where a fine chap known as Louie de Richet and his Mother Sarah is held hostage. Accused of the theft of “Al Azif” and left in a very compromising moment, the two manage to escape the awkward situation and Louis discovers an invite to the Island of Lord Mortimer, off the coast of that country none of you readers will of heard of, England. (So, Party Time, RIGHT?)
WRONG, it’s here where the game really begins to get nitty, gritty. Louis’s mother Sarah has gone AWOL, with no explanation. Ditching Louis in Paris, he follows his mother to the Island, (all those late Sunday nights watching Poirot will actually be of use). Aiming to find his mother, and investigate just what is occurring on the Island by using the clues acquired and intel gathered from fellow party guests, to unravel just what plans are in store and why his mother disappeared so suddenly to crash Lord Mortimers reception.
The tone is dark, with a rather gloomy ambience, it gives the atmosphere that mysterious, perturbed feel which perfectly suits a game of this type. Here you meet many associates of Lord Mortimer, the personality tree system gives you many opportunities to approach each character you meet with a different style of technique in how you access clues and pick up on numerous narrative choices.
Without spoiling too much of the story from here on, Louis seems to have some sort of flashes into the future which can have serious repercussions on other characters depending on clues found and what direction you choose to follow and observe the narrative.
Going into more detail about the personality tree. It has so much scope and depth that the replay value is fabulous.
Three Classes are offered for selection, “Diplomat, Occultist and Detective” The class system defines basic skills. The Occulist is more than happy to manipulate and deceive, a diplomat is rich in charisma and can charm his way through conversations with little offence, meanwhile, the detective is extremely thorough in noticing the little details and suspicions of others.
In my playthrough, I opted to go for the detective skill tree. With 5 skills to boost these are increased as Louie successfully progresses through the game gaining experience which can then be spent on these talents. The other classes are still attainable but cost considerably more. Each class will bring with it a completely different experience of the game. Some choices may have more consequences than the other, and alternate plot paths can be missed depending on clues found and the narrative options you select. Also, you’ll gain rewards for having knowledge of vulnerabilities/immunities of other characters, your decisions remain throughout the playthrough, so think wisely. Mental issues and physical disfigurement do remain permanent. It’s this superb RPG element which will no doubt encourage plenty of new files.
Where Telltale games (Another episode format) appear to be great in story, the conviction seems lacking as the same scenario’s play out despite how you approach the characters/each challenge making it all feel a little linear. By offering numerous class skills, with a mix of approaches and consequences, the longevity of the game will increase substantially and scenarios will play out differently.
Interaction/item markers are discovered all around the Manor of Mortimer, showing up as a glow on the display. During social situations, moments of Opportunities will arise. By selecting an object most relevant to the situation, hidden details will then leave the character more exposed resulting in personal goals being more achievable.
However, where there’s an opportunity, there can also be CONFRONTATION! During these intense exchanges, Louis needs to come out on top to help meet personal targets and also gain items of importance. Too many blunders will lead to story defining dismissals which have an impact during the rest of series.
The plot itself during the 1st episode is well executed. The social influence system is a brilliant concept on the whole and has you questioning each approach in how you strike up relationships with the other NPC’s.
During my playthrough of “the mad ones” I couldn’t find a lot to criticise and found myself really engaged by the twists and turns, some average voice acting aside. The game scores nicely in the graphics department, without blowing the visual meter off the charts, and the sounds/backing music which can add so much to games of this nature are delivered to a respectable standard that further boost the mystique of the environment. Bring on episode 2!