The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones Xbox One X Review

The Council’s first episode is on the right path of providing an excellently open-ended narrative story, with The Mad Ones taking off from the starting line.

By Grayshadow, Posted 13 Mar 2018

The Council – Episode 1: The Mad Ones opens this 5-part adventure with a bang. Providing various paths for the player to take during its narrative. Unlike Telltale’s various adventures, Life is Strange, or Bendy and the Ink Machine  Big Bad Wolf has incorporated RPG elements that directly change how the narrative shifts. Different paths open not only base on your choices but what skills you choose to invest into. The Council’s first episode is on the right path of providing an excellently open-ended narrative story, with The Mad Ones taking off from the starting line.

You take control of Louis Mauras De Richet a member of a secret order called The Golden Circle. After learning news that your mother has disappeared you head to an isolated island owned by a rich entrepreneur named Lord Mortimer. The powerful aristocrat has invited several other powerful figures to his home for a gathering and like yourself, they all have plans of their own of why they’re there.

The Mad Ones separates itself from other episodic tales such as The Walking Dead, Life is Strange, and Bendy and the Ink Machine by incorporating RPG elements into the narrative. Louis has 3 options to choose from that includes Detective, Occultist, and Diplomat. Each one has sub-options that help enhance the skills such as reducing the number of effort points needed to use them. Effort points are used for special actions and dialogue options, these can be replenished using “Royal Jelly” and reduced by several ailments that can cure using a “Golden Elixir”. Points can be added by collecting “Amber Fragments” and all items can be used at any time. I did wish items were better telegraph since they only appear as white dots that can be easily missed.

At the end of each chapter, Louise gains experience base on what he succeeded, with tasks that were missed or failed being shown to give a player an understanding of what options are available. Extra points can be added by collecting books from the environment, but only one can be added per leveling cycle. These options provide different dialogue and actions, such as opening lockboxes or reading people. The game will alert you when an opportunity is missed and what skill you were lacking. For example, you need Psychology points to understand body language and Politics to determine when someone’s ideology doesn’t match up. You can always invest in skill trees outside the one you’ve chosen but it cost more points.

The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones,NoobFeed,Big Bad Wold,Focus Home Interactive,

The special traits are included in all the characters you’ll encounter. Each one has unique strengths and weaknesses that you must exploit if you want information or force them to do something. While these attributes are present in open conversations it’s in the game’s confrontation mode that things become hectic. Here you have a limited amount of times to convince the other character or risk failure. Base on what you know of the character you must pick the right options. Specific dialogue is limited to not only what you’ve invested in but your past relationships with each character. With some needed you to experience something in the story to gain the ability to choose a specific option.

This is a narrative based adventure, and everything you say will have a domino effect. The characters all remember what you do and interact with one another. The story changes and you’ll have to live with the consequences. During my 3 playthroughs, I encounter options within options that were unique in each playthrough. The story does have branching choices, with each one having 2 options, that lead to different paths but within those same decisions are a multitude of choices that could go back on your initial intentions. Thankfully you have up to 3 save options for multiple paths and can change your choices by choosing a checkpoint with the game’s story.

The gameplay is less straightforward than other narratives. The player is given various ways of how to complete their objective base on not only their skills but by thinking creatively. It does provide more ways to go around puzzles, but it can also feel limiting.

The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones,NoobFeed,Big Bad Wold,Focus Home Interactive,

Seeing all these different skills and deciding what to invest into is overwhelming. The Mad Ones doesn’t favor one talent tree over another but many times I felt handicap. A myriad of prompts appeared constantly stated that a skill I didn’t have was necessary to analyze this situation or perform an action.

The characters you’ll encounter in The Mad Ones do set themselves up nicely. Enough information is provided to give you a sense of who they are, but secrets are still withheld. A detailed journal helps you keep track of each one, including their strengths and weaknesses. Voice-acting is done well, with each character being wonderfully voiced and excellently written. But the character models can feel a bit stiff, especially facial expression which often look stoic.

The Council – Episode 1: The Mad Ones sets up this story nicely, providing a solid edifice of characters, lore, and finally a multiple conclusion that have me interested in the next episode. It does feel overwhelming and limiting seeing all the options pass me by since I didn’t invest in the right skills. But the branching narrative structure complements this RPG system, giving the player a choice of how they wish to develop Louise and how he can use those skills to his advantage. The Mad Ones is a strong opening and hopefully, Big Bad Wolf can continue this momentum with episode 2.

Adam Siddiqui, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One
Publisher(s): Focus Home Interactive
Developer(s): Big Bad Wolf
Genres: Cinematic
Themes: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2018-03-13

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