Parents' Guide to

The Council

By David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Thrilling tale is blend of intrigue, careful conversations.

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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.

Game Details

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