Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes series of games are what come to mind when you first think of the mystery-detective genre. However, their scripted sequences don’t leave much room for actual investigation of your own initiative. The Council is one game that shines in that area. A narrative adventure split into episodes, it stays true to it’s name. Secret societies, conspiracies, powerful aristocratic figures and occult are the core themes of The Council.
Developed by The Big Bad Wolf Studios (…), you follow a French aristocrat Louis, as he follows his mother’s trail into a world of deceit, intrigue and two faced individuals. In more ways than one, the Council is a first of it’s kind detective adventure. Firstly, it features an RPG like character development with three classes. Although you aren’t restricted to your own class, dedicating Louis to a class in the beginning gives you an edge in it’s respective skills. Secondly, certain actions grant you character traits, like in the Prologue I let my mother take the lead in taking down the bad guy and I in turn gained the “trusting” trait.
The Council: Where It Really Shines
The most important feature of The Council is player choice. Every episode offers you half a dozen opportunities where you can take different paths, culminating in a completely different scenario. There are multiple such branches in the story which add greatly to the replayability aspect of the game. Paying attention to what the other characters have to say and making deductions on your own go a long way. This game won’t hold your hand or nudge you in the right direction. Your own intuition and observation skills come into play, as the other characters will often fake laughs and try to extract information out of you. Only, you have to beat them to it.
The Council features some really well constructed puzzles that have the perfect level of difficulty. You won’t spend hours looking for the solution but without some patient looking around progression isn’t quite possible. Riddles, cracking codes and a bit of mythology and history make up for some enjoyable puzzles. One puzzle from the second episode of the Council that particularly impressed me involved cracking a number lock.
The game really tests you to see if you’ve been paying attention. The character to whom the lock belonged to tells Louis that he loved the history surrounding the crusades and that one of his ancestors was part of the latter crusades. Now there are a bunch of books in the area of the puzzle, one on the crusades, one on the family tree of the owner, etc. It’s scientifically proven that people often choose passwords based on a topic that is close to their heart. The same applies here. You are supposed to find which four figure number is associated to the person in question here and what you’d set as the code if you were him. Not really hard if you pay a bit of attention, but if you skip some of the dialogs it might prove to be a headache.
Likewise the other riddle too requires some basic knowledge of history, but even if you don’t have it you can find books lying around to educate you, plus depending on your character’s skills he’ll too comment on the subject. I usually don’t really like puzzles, but The Council has some amusing ones.
If you are into history, there is a lot for you here if you don’t mind the cliched conspiracies. From the British East India company, Napoleon, the French Revolution and even some celebrated Polish and Indian kingdoms like that of Tipu Sultan. The sheer amount of history and the like stuffed into this game actually took me by surprise.
The Council: Are There Any Flaws?
Other than the lousy lip sync, there is actually nothing about this game that really bothered me. The Council is pretty much a perfect mystery adventure. One thing that did feel a bit off is Louis’ accent. Call me picky, but when a French aristocrat has an American accent while all the other characters sound as per their respective backgrounds, it does sound awkward. It’s nothing that makes the game any less enjoyable however. Just my perfectionist nature looking for faults where there are none.
So as Louis would say, let’s recap. The Council is a mystery-detective thriller that borrows heavily from history as well as a bit from the sci-fi genre and makes for a really immersive and authentic experience. This game greatly rewards attention to detail and intuition while the impatient will probably find themselves frustrated with not just the puzzles but also with regard to finding clues in general.