Content of the article: "Spoilers The Council: God Forgive Me I enjoyed it at Parts"
During your life, you've probably played many games. Some are remembered fondly, others are bad enough or bland enough that they are completely forgotten — but then there is the strange grey area. A twilight zone inhabited by games that, years down the line, you remember just barely. The concept was cool, but the execution was terrible. Or: The execution was excellent, but you couldn't understand what any of the characters were speaking about, half the time. You vaguely remember having fun, and then thinking "huh?… Why did that just happen?", and then having fun again, and (this is important) never having quite a proper sense of what you are doing, or why. One day something sparks a memory: "Oh my god, right! There was that game! It was a thing! Where you had to depose the ropot tyrant in Brazil-occupied England! And there was that banana-harvesting mini game! What the fuck?"
I thought that this esotric experience, of coming across a game like this, was something that I'll never experience again. I'm not a child anymore, this isn't the 90s, studios have upped their game. A certain amount of polish and common sense is expected of them. Under the panopticon of the internet, the experience of the acid-trippy-yet-entertaining mediocre game that none of your friends have heard about, and you think might have been a fever dream, can never happen again. And then I found The Council at the digital store, for basically nothing, and I said, sure, why not. Supposedly a story-heavy visual novel, but with RPG elements, and a heavy occult storyline, so, like… Life is Strange meets Deus Ex meets Planescape: Torment… right?
Thankfully, even going in, I knew better. If the game I had just described actually existed, and was done well, I would have heard of it by now and it wouldn't be available for "oh God just take it off our hands please" somewhere in the nether regions of the digital store. Deep down, I knew that I was going to play someone's labor of absolutely no love, a project purposefully forgotten by its developers after a good night's sleep. But I think only 60% into the game I fully grasped what a glorious train wreck I was playing. Usually I have 2 or 3 complaints against a game's plot; this time, I cursed under my breath for not taking notes from the start, and even if I had I am really not sure I could really convey the pure, distilled essence of crazy at the core of this game. Maybe this is one of those things that you can't be told about and need to see for yourself, like The Matrix. But don't really go buying this off the online store just because you're curious, ok. I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be really played, and might be a front for some sort of money laundering scheme.
Really, how can I get across the unique experience of playing this game? I can't. You can enter an intensive sexual affair with a woman and then at the endgame find out that she is your sister, and this is resolved in two lines of dialogue. You can invest a billion skill points in becoming a god of logical deduction, but there's that one specific puzzle that if you don't get right the first time, you get slapped with a permanent dunce cap on your character sheet that makes all logic checks more difficult forever because forget the rest of the things you did, that specific blunder says something about you as a person. You are handed a heavy story-altering choice between backing Robert or backing John, and after 4 episodes of tirelessly working to see Robert's scheme come to fruition a defeated John meekly cries "oh no! I am done for! Please help me! It is not too late to join me and defeat Robert, he is an evil poopy head!", and your character says "Yes! OK! I am sorry! Forget everything I just did in the last 40 hours of gameplay!". Your character also says things like "ooh you know next time I should really listen to my mother" while in the middle of a major quest that he kicked off by completely ignoring the last thing she said. A major conspiracy to kill you is unearthed 5 minutes before the endgame. The main villain behind it, who is also your father (because of course he is), is a neoliberal demon who explains at length how humanity will bow before godless secularism and the two-income trap. One moment you're conscietously objecting to the idea of passively reading minds, the next you're being sent to gruesomely violate their psyche and force them to do your bidding and your character is like "cool, let's roll". The ending proper is 10 slides of "where are they now". If you kill the villain, the game throws a sequel hook at you reprimanding you that he was just standing in the way of an even worse villain, and you should have listened to him. If you don't kill him then you're an idiot, because everyone tells you he's an evil sociopath and will stab you in the back 5 minutes after the credits.
I thought I had gotten used to being the chosen, the messiah, the insert-foreign-word here in games. This game manages the amazing feat of having the player character be apparently a nobody, but still making the general scene surrounding them a ball a smarmy grease more smarmy and greasy than every other game I've played this year combined. In the very first scene your player character — who is basically Monkey Island's protagonist Guybrush Threepwood if he were high on an infinite amount of self-satisfaction — produces a monologue to the effect of "Oh oh oh, mother; it sure is lucky that we both belong to the illustrious Golden Order! Let us now get rid of our foes with haste! I'm smirking right now just imagining one of those addlepated simpletons scratching their heads in confusion as our genius plans unfold themselves before their eyes. What fools.. how I pity them =)". And it just gets more smarmy from there. You spend the entire game locked up in a mansion with important historical figures such as George Washington and Napoleon, all of whom can barely resist your charm and force of personality, and you are repeatedly told that basically you are the most important person in the world right now being a part of this illuminati conference, so you had better not fuck up that upcoming conversation with Napoleon, and before you pick your next dialogue option you should duly consult your journal to see Napoleon's strengths and weaknesses in the type advantage chart…
Yes, you do have to do that. You have to consult a type advantage chart for Napoleon. Napoleon is immune to politics and conviction, but is weak against etiquette and electricity. Also, your sister who you can unknowingly get your Lannister on with is immune to logic. "But wait," you say, "how can a person be immune to logic? Suppose that you have two apples, and to those you add two additional apples; and you explain the situation to this person, then surely they will have to concede that the amount of total apples in your possession has now become — " "a duck," your sister and/or fuck buddy says menacingly, while narrowing her eyes. Boom, you just got shut down, mister. That's a point permanently off your bullshit mana pool, and if you run out, you can't bullshit people any more. Don't worry, though. The bullshit mana restoration potions are everywhere. Not that you usually need them, anyway; most of the time the difficulty of dialogue encounters is insultingly easy, presenting the facade of a challenge but rigging its parameters so that you have to be a complete idiot not to win — like some sort of fellowkids edutainment game that's supposed to prepare third-graders for joining the illuminati and dealing with Napoleon's strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, the third-graders would never get past the puzzles; most of those were made by the same extremely smug old-school quest nerd who idolizes inscrutable old-school puzzlers like Myst and Shivers, and has a burning and specific hatred for escape rooms and the way they appeal to filthy casuals. Once I understood this I bypassed all the puzzles with a walkthrough just to spite this person.
The people who put this game together know that its premise and execution are both indefensible. You spend half the game searching for your missing mother, and then when you finally find her she is missing an arm and is shrieking madly at you that she has no time to explain anything, but: 1. it is imperative that you do exactly as she says and prevent the proper formation of the United States of America as seen in the history books, and 2. surely you are able to see that everything that has happened in the game, from the moment you have clicked "start", has made no sense. On the one hand the people who put that scene there must be commended for their honesty, but on the other hand the fact that they felt the need to put that part in there at all should have given them some pause. All of that is meant to ready you for the big twist: Demons! The party host's a demon! His bitter rival is a demon! You're a demon! Your sister / fuck buddy is a demon! Her twin sister is a demon! Your mother is actually your sister, and a demon! I'm sure they wanted to make Washington and Napoleon your demon sisters too, but cooler minds prevailed, somehow.
I think I could sit here for posterity and write paragraphs about things wrong with this game. This is a rare achievement on the producers' part in and of itself. But the horrible thing is, the game was not not fun. I mean, I kept playing, and I have to take responsibility for that. I wanted to see what was going to happen, even though I had a sinking feeling I wasn't going to like it. I wanted to improve my skills and become an uber-detective and verbally spar with Spanish Dukes and figure out how to deal with my clearly insane mother who had apparently tortured John Adams' sister since birth but had her reasons. I wanted to discover everyone's strengths and weaknesses, and I saw this whole game through to the end without putting down the controller in disgust and uninstalling it. I can only conclude that I have terrible taste and should probably be sent on some sort of rehabilitation program.
I am now going to play Persona 5 because I heard that it's 700 hours of Japanese schoolgirls shooting laser beams at each other and maybe this will be enough to scrub the fact that I played The Council and decently enjoyed it from my memory.
- I have a friend who is having an insane amount of fun with my campaign, but he is becoming problematic for me and a few of my party members.
- Revisiting Napoleon in the Era of Warhammer
- Just got done with my 12th playthrough. It still cuts me to the core every time.
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