When you talk about adventure games these days, Telltale Games' cadre of titles is usually brought up without fail. Everyone loves their simplistic take on the genre, which moves the games away from their predecessors like LucasArts and more towards interactive television or movies based on popular properties like The Walking Dead, Batman, and Game of Thrones.
While the Telltale Games formula has borne excellent games, it's beginning to feel a little dated both mechanically and visually. That's why, when developers like Big Bad Wolf step up with newcomers to the genre such as The Council, it's an exciting new prospect—especially as The Council takes an established concept and meshes it with interesting design decisions that work brilliantly. The Council is the next evolution for what we know now as adventure games, and we can't wait to see where it goes next.
The Council is a tale set at the turn of the 19th century, where the fledgling United States takes a backseat to revolutionary-era France and the United Kingdom as an important part of the world's hierarchy. You enter the stage as Louis de Richet—a man in pursuit of his mother, who's gone missing, on Lord Mortimer's island. Both of you are members of an enigmatic organization known as The Golden Order, and as your mother has disappeared while on business at one of Mortimer's famous parties, you've got to figure out where she's disappeared to.
Your character's mother was a part of one of Mortimer's clandestine meetings, which often included personalities like George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as other influential figures who have all had a hand in the world's political climate and what's going to happen next in terms of history. It's a lot to take in, and Louis finds himself struggling to understand just what goes on at Mortimer's parties and why he's so important. What appears to be a murder mystery (or not?) involving your mother's disappearance plays out at a brisk pace in The Council's first episode, which is absolutely divine.
Episode One, "The Mad Ones," serves as an excellent introduction to a a story and setup that's unlike what other adventure games are currently trying to accomplish. As Louis, you'll still wander around and collect information, clues, and talk to other characters, but there's a generous smattering of RPG mechanics to make the game more interesting than a choice that doesn't matter very much in the grand scheme of things. In The Council, your choices do matter, a great deal, to the point where you can have an entirely different adventure than someone else does due to the interactions and skills you decide to level up throughout the game.
You can choose between three fields to make Louis an expert in at the start of the game, such as Diplomat, Occultist, and so on. Your skills will determine your conversation choices, and how well you'll navigate them. You'll need to pay close attention to what others say and how they behave if you want to get the most out of the game, as well as expend Effort Points to use the skills you have at your disposal. If you're not fairly well-trained in a certain skill, it just won't be available to you.
This keeps you from being able to simply try one response over another to spam some sort of resolution that you're going for, and it's a much more intriguing game because of it. Without spoiling too much of The Council, know that these mechanics and more ensure that you're always kept on your toes, not left to sit and watch the story unfold instead of actually becoming part of it.
If you're looking for something to sink your teeth into that's not a Telltale game, and you've already exhausted everything Life is Strange has to offer in terms of more modern, cinematic-styled adventure games, then you'll want to check out The Council for some more realistic exchanges, characters, and dialogue that forces you to think fast. There's a lot of potential with the first episode, and after you reach the end of it you'll be begging for more.