Story adventure games have become a common sight in the gaming industry in recent years, each one usually containing a creative and enjoyable story surrounded by great music and graphics, solid world-building, quick time events, and the occasional puzzle. However, they all tend to play out quite the same way and going into the first episode of The Council, I was worried that I would start to feel burned out.
This was not the case, though, and I was pleasantly surprised by how the game blends elements from regular story adventure titles with a classic role-playing game (RPG) progression system. Though the performance is a bit buggy, The Council's pilot episode is nevertheless a fresh take on the genre.
Story: Murder mystery vibes
The first episode of The Council begins in 1793, with you playing as a secret society member known as Louis de Richet after being invited to a mysterious gathering on a private island owned by a man called Lord Mortimer. However, Richet's mother goes missing on the island, and as you interact with the people also invited by Mortimer, it quickly becomes clear that each of them seems to be hiding something.
Your job, as you can expect, is to learn as much as you can about the situation, and while this who-done-it type of drama can admittedly feel cliche, immersing yourself in the characters and the setting is a treat. Each one of the cast of people involved in the story feels unique and different, which is an impressive feat for a narrative that revolves completely around rich aristocrats. One would expect stereotypes, but only a few of them exist in The Council.
Gameplay: Play your way
Though it retains the "walking simulator" mechanics that story adventure games are known for, the rest of The Council's gameplay feels very different than what is normally found in titles of this genre. Whereas most games force you through a story by making you progress in a specific way, The Council is significantly more open-ended. In order to manipulate the cast of characters in ways that you wish, you can use a variety of methods, with anything from charismatic discussion to investigative sleuthing being equally viable.
In order to achieve this, the game utilizes an RPG-style skill leveling system that allows you to specialize your character to be however you'd like him. It's simple and lacks significant depth, but it still works well nonetheless. It's a breath of fresh air for a type of game that is almost always linear and structured.
Performance: Hiccups of all kinds
The Council looks and sounds great, but the most unfortunate issue with the game during my time with it was the frequency at which framerate would begin to dip and audio would temporarily cut out. It was never to the levels where it was unplayable, but it was very annoying and fairly immersion breaking as well, which is a large blow to a title like this where connecting to the story and setting is critical.
The Council Episode 1 for Xbox One conclusion
Though rough around the edges overall due to some performance issues, the first episode of The Council has laid a strong foundation for this intriguing story and fun gameplay to continue down the line.
- Fun, unique gameplay.
- Intriguing story.
- Well-written characters.
- Uncomfortably frequent performance problems.
The Council Complete Season is available now on Xbox One for $29.99.
This review was conducted on an Xbox One, using a copy provided by the publisher.