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The Council

The Complete Season of The Council grants you access to all 5 episodes. The Council is an episodic game like no other. Delivering a fresh new take on the Narrative Adventure, your choices and character growth truly matter. Make hard-hitting decisions, but also develop an array of skills to directly impact how the story unfolds. With permanent, long-lasting consequences, there is no going back. Plunge into a tale of intrigue and manipulation in the style of a classic murder mystery, living with a cast of alluring characters each hiding their own dark secrets. Trust no one while uncovering dire truths – no matter the cost to mind and body.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

ORIGINAL POST = 08-08-2021 at 11:51 AM EST:
I've been playing The Council on the PC (over on Steam) lately. I certainly have some thoughts on it, as I'm currently on Episode 4 (out of 5).
So far, it has been ranging somewhere b/t really good to great. Namely, Episodes 1-3 were great; and Episode 4 at a certain point has taken a turn...and I'm not sure where it belongs yet, as it has hit a really shocking moment that sets quite bit of a change in both story elements & your skills; and I'm not sure how fleshed-out this will get, as it happens late in Episode 4 and the fact that there's only one Episode left.
Speaking of skills, this adventure game has some actual RPG elements. You pick your class and skills - and then go from there, once the game starts. These skills can focus on certain things, such as Agility (i.e. movement in QTE's/dialogue); Occult knowledge; Investigation skills; etc etc. This also sets up different decision-making options that you may (or may not take), based on your skills & stats with constant skill & stat checks; and/or more extra info or knowledge your character might have certain knowledge to make puzzles and/or riddles easier (or even he might know the answer, ahead of time).
This adventure game with RPG elements, making this new adventure/RPG hybrid here is really interesting & well done, feeling like this could be the next evolution & future of adventure games, by taking the interactive-movie/adventure-game thing that say Quantic Dream games and Telltale Games been both pioneering & championing to the next level by adding RPG elements to it.
Just about anything you do in-game (make decisions and what you say in dialogue) and find (such as Lore & items), will do something effecting stats and skills. You can find items that make you skip next turn of using points when in a dialogue for making special choices; items that restore your bar of points to spend on special choices/dialogue options; find Lore in the game-world that can give you boosts to specific skills (which you can often read at the beginning of a new Sections of an Episode and at the beginning of a new Episode); etc etc. It feels like, in this game, everything you do can really shape the actual journey of the story, at least - though, since I ain't done replays yet, I can't speak on how different the game's final outcomes can and will be (or won't be).
This game has nothing but shocking moments, twists, revelations, and whatnot throughout these episodes; especially when an Episode ends. Often, it's a true moment of "What the heck?" and/or other explicit language from out of the mouth will be flying in the sky. Then you really want to go play the next episode, to see what happens next.
So, the basic premise is this: you play a character named Louis, who is going to a meeting of numerous Secret Society Members & World Leaders, not that long after the formation of the United States, in the very late 1700's. Your mother went missing and you believe she's there somewhere, even though she can't be find. So, you're out to find her - and that really isn't even the tip of the iceberg here, as this begins the on-going Domino effect that goes throughout this Season. This game is more than just your mom's disappearance here, as that's really just the set-up for all kinds of other events & madness, as all kinds of other madness happens, which I don't really want to tread into Spoiler Turf here. I should note: the storytelling, writing, dialogue, and voice-acting here is really good here, so far - and this is definitely one of the main reasons to play this game.
This game on the PC looks great, for the most part. The environments, game-world, and character models looks fantastic. So, the immersion factor is differently there, setting-up this time period and setting really well. One complaint though: oddly enough, this game doesn't have any AA settings internally in the actual in-game options, so you can and will get jaggies unfortunately. This is odd, as most games these days even have some AA support, even if it isn't MSAA or higher-end AA solutions. To solve this lack of AA support problem, though - one should go to your NVidia Control Panel software or your AMD equivalent software and crank up any AA settings (such as MSAA) as far as you can go, to kill the jaggies...and that should make the game look amazing & as great as it really should look.
So, I'm 19.2 hours into this, according to Steam - and I'm really enjoying this, deep into Episode 4. Once I get through Ep. 4, I'll have one episode left...and I'm going to plug away and try to finish this up. So far, at the very least, this one's really good.
ADDENDUM = 5:33pm EST:
And after 22.3 hours, this one's in the books. The last part of Episode 4 and most of Chapter 5 goes way off the rails, gets quite a bit bizarre, and into all kinds of different realms. Even in doing this, these last 2 Episodes are nothing really as interesting and as great as Episodes 1-3; and also b/c part of later parts of Episode 4 & all of Episode 5 feel rather rushed, get quite bizarre, and also feel like they need more explanation & depth to them. What's there is intriguing & interesting - yes, both from gameplay and story standpoints, without going into Spoiler Turf here - but doesn't remain as tight, complete, and as great as Episodes 1-3.
Like other adventure games such as Life Is Strange: Season One and Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy), it goes both off the rails story-wise and doesn't really stick the landing in especially the last episode. Episodes 1-3 are great; part of Episode 4 is really good; and when the big twist happens in Episode 4 & the madness continues in Episode 5, it all goes off the rails. Regardless, Episodes 1-3 are great; and the Final 2 Episodes are decent, but they ain't great, as they lack polish and feel entirely rushed.
It's still a good journey and definitely worth taking for the most part, but really fails to stick the landing and ending(s) here in the Final Episode.
When it's all said & done, The Council: Complete Season is quite good, but just still misses greatness.

Review from Steam

tl;dr
This marriage of convenience between point & click adventure and RPG ended up more favorably in my books than it perhaps deserves or would to other people primarily because it was what I yearned for. Story centered on mystery about a young man looking for his mother as she goes missing during an island conference quickly turns into a plot to change the world as we know it in a long play for power. Character skills influencing what Louis can and cannot do are the biggest draw in this dialog-centric game where you end up trading repartee with historical figures the likes of George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. Uneven vision in both the narrative with last two episodes and gameplay hampers what could have been an outstanding game down into merely a decent one.
Full Review
Being my favorite genres I've waxed nostalgic for, one of the points that's nagged at me was always “how come adventure games and RPGs never had a closer relationship?” and appropriate answers failed to materialize. I'm talking about your Quest for Glory variety where character building has an impact on point & click adventure side of things. One glance at The Council and you may think it's a Telltale copycat, but I'm pleased to report game is more along the lines of what I wanted. Some production caveats notwithstanding.
Premise we're working with is an ingenious one that seems rather obvious initially, but the more you think about the setup the more you realize how well it all feeds in synergistic fashion where narrative and mechanics reinforce each other. Babbling aside – nearing the end of the 18th century Louis and his mother Sarah de Richet, Golden Dawn members who just dealt with the crisis of a certain occult tome, find themselves invited to Lord Mortimer's mysterious island where fate of the world seems to be decided every so often by some of the most prominent figures. Or should I say Sarah is invited, promptly goes missing not long after arrival and so her son receives an invitation in follow-up. Not necessarily to get involved in the talks themselves but to just find out what happened to his spry mother while putting some investigative skills to good use. There's more to the island than meets the eyes, though.
Historical figures game makes use of liberally were probably the biggest draw for me because while their fates are set in stone to follow actual history they're certainly flavored in particular fashion. This also means the whodunit story is somewhat compromised by character limitations, but made up figures balance out that package. Amusingly, George Washington's tooth aches even made it in. The Council is working with limited cast, and some have more screen time due to immediate introductions, so you better not end up disliking many of them.
While I'm on the narrative side of things, which is an overwhelming part of the draw in a game like this, it would only be fair to mention what I perceived as noticeable drop in direction and quality starting with episode four. I'm not sure what went wrong there to make the writers stray from established ideas and regular politicking, but their decision to upset the game board to such a degree made me audibly react when the non-existent TWEEST was revealed. It is truly Shyamalan worthy and it pains I can't discuss it due to spoilers. Penultimate and ultimate episodes were overall much shorter and more focused, something I won't hold against them because The Council made the exact opposite mistake in earlier ones due to non-narrative reasons. Which leads me to...
Gameplay, where you might be pressed to say something along the lines of “it's a point & click adventure game, what GAMEPLAY is there to be had beyond clicking on hotspots?” and surprisingly enough you'd be wrong.
Doing away with classical pixel hunting, substituted to a degree by collectible coin hunting if that's your thing, majority of The Council is spent mastering the game's dialog system and when to use your considerable skills vs limited resources Louis has access to. Entire game is presented in third-person, but there are very few classical puzzles you may be lead to expect considering the genre. That's not to say there aren't other obstacles in the way.
While we're on the subject of dialog and given its importance I should point out how some systems work in the game. At the very start you get to choose some starting skills fitting into one of the three archetypes: Diplomat, Occultist or Detective. No worries because you can pick and choose from all three as you level up throughout the game on per-chapter basis and depending on how many things you managed to accomplish (find items, discovers information about characters, make choices, etc). In an interesting turnaround all of fifteen skills have foremost dialog uses on top of your regular interactions. Game commonly has alternate routes and solutions to accommodate freedom in character building. For example, something like Linguistics can be used to straight up translate an ancient text and to converse about languages. With so many skills I'd be hard pressed to single out any that felt shafted or downplayed, and that is to game's credit. Skill rank also matters because it lowers the Effort cost required to use said skills and if you're spread out too much Effort becomes the bane of your existence since you're tempted to do everything while slowly nipping away at your reserves. Fortunately this is why The Council has restorative items meant to sustain yourself with, make the next skill use free, detect character' weaknesses to make better skill calls, etc.
I got my ending and settled for it, but looking things up after the fact does reveal developers don't subscribe to Telltale school of smoke and mirrors. There ARE tangible choices to be made and I can't allow my letdown closure to tarnish what's being offered. Just keep something in mind – play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Problem seems to be more along the lines of developers' inability to commit to that initial story hook so certain episodes bring very little of long term consequence in terms of choices. Peak action comes in the form of dialog Confrontations that could've been better realized had they not boiled down “reference my journal for character traits = exploit”.
Earlier I hinted at some non-narrative issues game has in earlier episodes. I was referring to episodes two and three where developers decided to go full puzzle mode which puts these episodes at odds with the opening and remaining ones. Problem? The Council doesn't actually have many “use X on Y” puzzles and instead goes for cross-referencing and information gathering to make your own calls. With no manual saving and one save per file this ended up being infuriating and I would not be at all surprised if you just decided to look how to open up a certain circular door starved for hands, for example. My point is where later episodes jumped the shark narratively these two episodes ground the game to perfect standstill with their “puzzles”. For added effect you have to take into consideration game doesn't let you skip lines until you're replaying episodes.
If there's one aspect of the game for which I have nothing but praise it would be the presentation. Game obviously doesn't aim for realism with character models and I think it nails the slight caricature look. Levels, as limited as they are in number and exhausted by the time you're halfway through, are breathtakingly realized with some of the densest and vibrantly decorated interiors I've ever seen. You're absolutely transported to this island mansion above worldly matters. Soundtrack suffers from general weariness after hearing the same offering while you trudge across the same half dozen rooms, but tracks themselves are very fitting. Plenty of piano pieces.

Review from Steam

Société d'élite
Imagine a group composed of ones of the most influential individuals in the world, people who either directly or indirectly steer the world politics towards their common interests, and you are invited to join their midst and take part in their next world-changing decision making conference. You come over with your own agenda, but fulfilling it is not so easy as it seemed at first. The place, where The Council is held, is filled with mystery, there is deception on every step and politics, deduction, knowledge and other soft skill play vital role in your advancement in this place.
The Council is a great story-rich adventure game and I really pleasantly surprised how well the game masters grabing my attention and holding it until the very end of the game. With every hour played I wanted to know more and more about everything in the game, I went through every little corner, talked to everyone about everything just to know more about this. About high society of the world at the end of the 18th century, about influential art pieces from this and previous time periods, about individuals met in the game such as Manuel Godoy, Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington.
One of the best parts of the game, in my opinion, is how well crafted the conversations were and how many possibilities there were on how to deal with them. This was also masterfully combined with skill tree, which had three main branches - Occultist, Detective and Diplomatic skills. One thing I also would like to mention is that the game is not that easy, some of the puzzles are a really hard nut to crack, which was a pleasant change in contrast with other games of this type.
Summary
Pros
✪ Immersive story
✪ Sophisticated and very engaging conversations
✪ Detailed environment
✪ Symbolism
✪ Choices matter - decisions and actions have real consequences
✪ Great skills/skill tree usage
✪ Extraordinary puzzles
✪ Atmosphere
✪ Impeccable voice acting - I love usage of accents in the game (especially Napoleon)
Cons
✪ Camera position was not optimal for me, and there was no option to change it (zoomout)
✪ Animations are not of the highest quality
✪ Story ending was a bit rushed, but still enjoyable to play
9.5 /10
As other reviews mention the game worsens towards the end, but still it is an amazing experience and it is definitely worth playing.

Review from Steam

One has to commend The Council for its ambitious narrative. From what I can tell, there is not just the mere illusion of choice we've come to known from Telltale Games (RIP), but there are multiple actual, meaningful decisions throughout all episodes.
Sadly, it seems that the game ran into budget constraints on the later episodes. While the plot itself and the puzzles keep their high quality throughout, the storytelling and the direction of the cutscenes and cinematics start falling flat more and more.

Review from Steam

for me one of the best games is the one that makes the player sad when the story ends and have to part with the characters. the story, the connection to real history, and the emotional connection amazed me. sad that the story had to end and I'm the type of person who wouldn't replay a Choice Matter game. when it end, it end. i dont really care if my decision really effect the story line or not, i choose and i enjoy. farewell.
oh and the puzzles are awesome, i solved some of them by reading history on internet. crusades to be exact.

Review from Steam

This visual novel is beautifully done. The animation is great (minus a few bugs with the mouths not moving when they should) and the story is quite interesting. You are looking for your mother in this political and occult story. Your choices obviously matter. I got all the achievements in two playthroughs. Once you fully beat the game (no matter the outcome), you can use space to skip most parts (not the choices) in your second playthrough. Be careful as the point of a second playthrough is to make some choices differently and to hopefully obtain different results. I did my first game without any guides and I played my second game with a guide. A guide for your second game shouldn't ruin too much. The story will mainly remain the same, but you will see a few different cutscenes. You can have a different ending and save or have certain people die/do the opposite from your first game.
TIPS: Walk around holding the E key. It highlights and picks up anything that you can interact with. Do not be afraid to restart a chapter. I restarted them more than once in my first playthrough because I hadn't chosen the proper skills to get the information that I wanted/to achieve what I wanted. Once you've reached a chapter, you can restart it at any time or replay any previous chapters.

Review from Steam

Bought this on the winter sale for about 6€. Money well spent.
Animations and voice acting is a bit questionable but the story is really good. Did not expect it to be as good as it was. Choices throughout the game matter and even small details can have an affect on the outcome. The game also features historical characters such as Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington which made the game more interesting. The game also has a Christian theme which is pretty based.
KEEP IN MIND: This game requires you to be thoroughly engaged in the story and to pay attention to details, like a true detective. Playing the game without paying attention will make you fail
Great story game. Buy it