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The Council is one hidden gem

Content of the article: "The Council is one hidden gem"

The Council is a story rich RPG game by Big Bad Wolf Studios and published by which is everything I expected Telltale's Game Of Thrones to be but it went in a totally different direction and tried to focus a bit too much on drama than actual politics. Good thing I found The Council; because this game delivers!

Story and Characters

The story takes place on a mysterious island where all the major figureheads of all the major countries of the time gather for an illuminati-style conference. The island is home to the leader of "The Council" and is basically a ginormous luxury mansion overloaded with beautiful renaissance-era art including books, paintings, sculptures, etc. everywhere you turn. The story itself is pretty good too, although, at certain times the "hints" to solve puzzles are a bit off and can throw non-Westerns off completely because of the cultural difference. The ending (Ep. 5) felt a bit rushed and the climax, possibly because of my flawless choices made during the gameplay, ended… prematurely? The climax in particular felt a little too short at only a few seconds long. Overall, I don't get people's complaint about Episode 4, however I do agree that Episode 5 could have been much better. Unlike many other games which screw up in this regard, all characters in The Council, since the beginning, were very distinguished from each other with each having their own individual visually distinct silhouettes, memorable personality traits, fleshed out features and mannerisms, etc. which greatly helps the player remember who's who. These characters are instrumental to the gameplay and so this was more or less a necessity which Big Bad Wolf studios have succeeded in nailing down. The only issue that I found in this area was the laughing/smiling animation. They just can't seem to be able to make these characters laugh, even though the laughing voiceover is playing in the background. No idea why but I'd like them to fix this for 100% immersion! The only other thing where they could have improved, in my personal opinion, is the player character. I'd have loved if we had gotten a character which was more interesting by himself. For example, Cmdr. Shepard from the Mass Effect RPG can be whatever YOU want him to be, but he still has an imposing presence, some of his own personality that sets him apart from basically every other character in the game. The Council has the same RPG "build" elements and our character, Louis, can be whatever I want him to be thanks to the progression systems, but on his own, he's a weak character and does not really have a trait of his own that would make me fall in love with him like I fell in love with Shepard. Not saying that I need the freedom to customize the character's looks (although, that'd be great), but I really hope they keep up the good work and improve upon this!

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Gameplay and Mechanics

I have to say the gameplay is actually very well thought-out than the trailer lets on. We're not talking about a walking simulator like Gone Home or a point and click adventure like The Walking Dead here (although, there's nothing wrong with both of them as I absolutely love playing those games too). This game is every bit as good as those two and then some! It ALSO has Dishonored 2/Arkham Knight/Lara Croft series-like detective puzzles, Hitman 2 styled but watered down "opportunities", RPG "builds" & progression systems with a fully fleshed-out skill tree, Deus Ex type inventory management (albeit not as deep) and a setting that I've been dying to play in- something set in in the late 18th century so I can play pretend Sherlock Holmes (which I can, thanks to the nature of the story and the game mechanics). What more can you ask for?! The RPG skill tree is noteworthy here as one of the major mechanics of the game and unlike a lot of other AAA titles I could think of, it actually makes sense in this one; as in every character has weaknesses and strengths and during dialogues, skills invested in trees can help you persuade them. But that's not the remarkable bit- what's remarkable is that based on the characters' backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses are in accordance with common sense most times and if you can take advantage of that, you'll come out victorious. Even during non-conversational gameplay, especially while solving puzzles, you can either use your own common sense or spend some points to make the player character give you helpful hints which is great because at least you're not left guessing everything and the game actually helps you via a reasonably balanced trading system- lose some to gain some. Oh, and this game absolutely does not hold your hand at certain points during important choices. Meaning- there are no right or wrong answers because if the question is open-ended, the game absolutely does not provide you with hints to the correct answer; it's as it is in real life; you might have to go through the entire episode without the game ever revealing whether you made the right choice or not, you'll just have to live with the uncertainty if you were uncertain at the time of making the choice and the same goes for everyone else who plays the game too so no colluding with them either! At one point, solving a puzzle wrongly can actually scar your character permanently and since you can't just rewind from the last checkpoint thanks to the absence of a manual save system, the game is "roguelike" in that regard. However, exactly two of the many hints (for the major puzzles) have been slightly misleading and I'm not sure how they got past QA.

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Graphics

I don't know how this happened but… well, you see, I started out with a very low expectation bar for this game as far as the graphics were concerned. I had never heard the studio's name before and the fact that they had given the first episode away for free made me real suspicious as to the quality of the graphics. I'm delighted to say that I was wrong. Big Bad Wolf Studios not just exceeded my expectations, but successfully managed to set a new bar for any future games belonging to this genre. In certain scenes, I often marvelled at the level of meticulous detail that has been put into damn near everything- from environments to characters and everything in between! The lighting is a bliss, the textures are fabulous and the models are flawless! The game simply looks fantastic and load times (with an SSD) are merely a couple seconds long! Refer to UI/UX section for a major flaw regarding the graphics settings.

UI/UX

The HUD is minimalistic and yet functional. As it should be. Not much else to say. It provides all the information one can need, looks amazing but never distracts you in any way. The subtitles could use work though, as I found a fair amount of mistakes there. Nothing misleading though. Coming to the settings, they were horrible. For the first 3 episodes, I could not figure out, for the life of me, whether the game was just poorly optimized or whether it was locked at constant 30 FPS because I could never find the video/graphics settings anywhere. By Episode 4, I had enough of it so I decided to google but even then, it took me hours to find out a Steam thread where the dev had revealed the biggest secret of the game- You have to start the game (load a previous or new save), then press Esc and exit out to the main menu. Then go to the settings option to access them. And neither the splash screen nor the pause menu of the game provides access to those settings. Only after I turned VSync off did I unlock the full potential of the game so if you're an AMD user like me, you may want to perform the above ritual to save yourself from pulling your own hair out. I was left wondering why my beast of a rig was struggling to play a game like this at full settings. However, the optimization is just god-awful on top of said flaw and after a lot of struggling when I finally managed to unlock the FPS, it was all over the place from 44 to 84 FPS. Despite having changed the settings, the game locks itself to the same 30-34 FPS once you close the game. The solution then becomes that you must launch the game, load a save, then quit and restart the game to get your high FPS back.

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Source: reddit.com

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