A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Although social skills are rewarded, encouraged, it's in context of manipulating others for your own gain.
Positive Role Models
Players manipulate characters, who are are also trying to manipulate players, though positive side is that the game rewards you for protecting yourself emotionally, having others earn your trust.
Ease of Play
Regardless of how encounters go, there's no "game over." You'll keep going, adapt.
Violence & Scariness
References to usage of torture, poisoning, gun violence to influence others. Violence is present as a brutal but not graphic plot element.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Cleavage aggressively displayed by one female character in historically inaccurate 18th-century clothing. Women referred to as "sluts," references to rape, and one scene includes elements of seduction, implied sex after camera fades to black.
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"S--t," "hell" said frequently.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References to consuming absinthe, wine, even holistic crystals for supernatural purposes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Council is an episodic, downloadable narrative-focused adventure for Windows, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. A tale of intrigue and manipulation set during the meeting of a secret society in 1793, this is a game of cunning and careful planning in conversations. Although social skills are rewarded and encouraged, it's in the context of manipulating others for your own gain. The flip of that is the game also rewards you for making sure others truly earn your trust and that you always protect yourself. There are references to and sometimes depictions of torture, poisoning, and gun violence to influence others -- the violence isn't graphic but is a consistent element of the plot. The game's camera also seems to go out of its way to show one female character's era-inaccurate cleavage. Women are referred to as "sluts," there are also references to rape, and one scene includes elements of seduction and implied sex after the camera fades to black. "S--t" and "hell" are said frequently. Finally, there are also references to consuming absinthe and holistic crystals for supernatural purposes.
Is It Any Good?
There's something infectious about the blend of mastering straight-ahead conversation against the backdrop of conspiracy theories and fictionalized Georgian-era history. Many games claim to be "narrative adventures," which is a misnomer because all games are about their story even if there isn't much of one, but The Council is truly about its characters, requiring players to strategically pay attention to every encounter, making note of others' vulnerabilities and immunities. There's no real way to prepare for each exchange, since you won't know what might come up and how you might react. All of this shines, thanks to one simple, slick decision in how saving the game works: You can save the game whenever you want, but there's no going back and trying to do things differently. This is a subtle move that reinforces an attitude you should have throughout: to make choices and commit to them.
As a game, it's a blend of point-and-click adventure and conversation trees presented almost as fighting games. That is, "blunders" in conversation will affect your reputation not only with who you're talking to, but also with those the character is aligned with. The better you do, the more experience you earn, which allows you to invest skill points in areas of knowledge like politics, picking locks, or being more perceptive. Sometimes the video game-ness of this is silly, like needing to meet certain criteria to be more inquisitive? It's a constraint that nonetheless works, because the core play here is so compelling. It's up to you as the player to solve issues with diplomacy, delve into occultism, and expand your historical and scientific knowledge, or play detective and see what others don't perceive. The first episode shows a lot of promise for the next four chapters, but don't wait for it all to be out to give it a spin if you're interested in something unafraid to be different.
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