The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones (Xbox One) Review

By Josh Di Falco 05.01.2019

Review for The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones on Xbox One

New French developer Big Bad Wolf has got a haunting and an eeriness about their newest videogame. Described as a narrative-adventure, Episode One of The Council is rightly titled The Mad Ones, in what is a five-episode season. Set in 1793, the main character of the piece is Louis de Richet, a member of a secret society who has partaken in key moments in history. He is summoned to the private island of the equally mysterious Lord Mortimer, who has also invited a host of other strange but highly prolific guests, after the disappearance of Louis' mother. This follows the trend of other "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" stories, but it does experiment with RPG elements to make this an intriguing tale.

One of the big things that makes this story very intriguing, but equally odd from the get go is when Louis arrives at the island of Lord Mortimer, only to see that some of the other guests consist of the President of the United States, George Washington, as well as French military tactician Napoleon Bonaparte. Once these two prominent figures from history are introduced in the story, then the entire plot grows to a new level that transcends just Louis trying to find his mother, who disappeared on the island after she had been summoned by Lord Mortimer, and even the mystery surrounding the owner of the island is further heightened by his lack of a visual performance. From the moment the guests start piling into the lobby of his esteemed manor, Louis finds the "dodging" Lord incredibly frustrating and rude. However, each of the guests also have hidden motives that seems to suggest that there are much larger things at play here.

Screenshot for The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones on Xbox One

Unlike the Telltale Games formula of watching a sequence of scenes play out, and choosing different dialogue decisions to change the story, Big Bad Wolf instead has taken the approach of giving Louis more of a sense of a role-playing element. Conversations are not exactly about choosing between two different dialogue options. In The Council, there are a series of different dialogue options that can be chosen that depend solely on which skills on the skill-tree have been learned. This interesting take on the visual-novel formula surprisingly works well for what this is trying to accomplish. There are a series of different skills that Louis can learn, however with only a limited number of skill points that are awarded, great care as to what skills should be learned further depends on which type of role Louis is going to play. With 15 different skills, this holds the cards for changing the story to a degree, due to the different variations that these skills play on the dialogue options, and as such, the path that the story will take.

Louis can either play the role of the diplomat, who can safely politicise their way through the various dialogue sequences, or he can play the role of the occult expert, who relies on scientific and historical knowledge. The final role Louis could play is that of the detective and learn to read the body language of those he speaks to, as well as notice anything out of the ordinary in people, as well as the environment. Learning new skills will open unique dialogue options, and as more skills are learned, and more dialogue trees can be taken, Big Bad Wolf have got themselves got themselves quite a sophisticated interaction-system.

Screenshot for The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones on Xbox One

Beyond just basic dialogue sequences, this also features Confrontations. What makes these confrontations even more harrowing is that each character has specific strengths and weaknesses that Louis must learn, and then exploit to learn new story elements to find his mother. Unlike Telltale's stories where there are opportunities to reset a sequence if the character fails a button prompt, Louis' adventure has a permanent consequence for everything. Should Louis successfully confront a person and break down their weaknesses, he will learn vital information to help him in his quest. However, if he triggers one of their strengths, and that character stands their ground on giving out information, there is no way for Louis to try again. That information will be forever lost on him, and he must then rely on what information he has left. While these moments can be quite harrowing due to the urgency of not wanting to lose these confrontations, the episodic story does suffer from the same limitations as others in the genre.

Screenshot for The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones on Xbox One

Win or lose, whether Louis gets the information he wants or not, the story still must reach a head and come to a point. However, Episode 1 makes a very brave attempt at creating a fork in the tale, from which the next episode could have many different starting points from. Without giving away spoilers, this episode can end with many different ramifications, that makes the next episode even more interesting to see how it deals with these forks.

Of course, using these skill-specific dialogue options uses Action Points, which Louis has a finite number of. While he can refill that metre using consumables that he can find throughout the manor and the island, it is still best to approach these dialogue branches feebly. At the beginning, many a mistake were made when Louis burned all his Action Points on useless dialogue trees that got nowhere, and then when the story presented a real defining moment, Louis didn't have enough points to see it through, much to his dismay. Confrontations alone require an Action Point recharge just to get to the end of it, due to how demanding they are of the points. While this does set back the entire system a little bit, it will hopefully be something that can be approached a little more carefully in future episodes.

Screenshot for The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Episode One: The Mad Ones of The Council launches a riveting, dark, and twisted story of secret societies, engulfed with key historical figures such as George Washington and Napoleon. While Louis is trying to find his mother on the Lord Mortimer's island, he slowly uncovers that there may be much more at play as each of the characters have their own motives for doing what they are doing. Louis must slowly extract who is reliable and who he can trust and filter them from those who seem to have ulterior agendas. With a dialogue-skill tree system, there is enough reasons to replay these episodes using different approaches to generate new endings or forks in the story, though the inability to skip cut-scenes makes this a grind. However, this is a great start from Big Bad Wolf, and the wait for future episodes is made a lot harder due to how engrossing this story is.

Developer

Big Bad Wolf

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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