“The Council looks good” I typed as I watched its trailer with my computer muted. “Oh no,” I typed later with the volume up. “The Council sounds bad.” And that’s the story of how I began to write this news post, which is about an episodic murder mystery adventure game called The Council starring… George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte!?
It’s from Cyanide Studios, the developers of goblin stealth games Styx: Shards of Darkness and Styx: Master of Shadows. [Correction: Despite what it said on the game's website at time of print, it's actually being made by Bordeux-based Big Bad Wolf, with "help" from Cyanide, we're told] . Here things are a bit more human. You play an aristocratic young man of the roaring 90s (1790s), whose mother has gone missing on a private island off the English coast. As luck would have it, there’s a party in the island’s grand mansion, hosted by a strange dude called Lord Mortimer, and you’ve been invited.
Here, recreate my mixed emotions by watching the announcement trailer first in total silence and once again with the sound on.
What a striking collection of visages. Thick noses, narrow chins, milky eyes, pointy sideburns. A household straight from the Dishonored school of sculpted faces. I like it. The voice acting is, uh, well, yes.
The moment-to-moment doings of each episode are less obvious than the occult undertones and conspiratorial patter. The creators say you’ll be “manipulating and maneuvering through character encounters using the unique Social Influence system”. So, probably some conversation trees. Here they go into some more depth about that:
Players will be rewarded for their knowledge of each character’s psychological vulnerabilities and immunities, as well as their preparations made during prior exploration and investigation. Failing an encounter does not mean ‘game over’, and no action can be taken back. The consequences are permanent, and may result in persistent physical disfigurements or mental traits that help or hinder the rest of the player’s adventure.
There will also be 15 different skills, they say, ranging from diplomacy to perception to scientific knowledge, which will let you solve problems or approach conversations in different ways. What that looks like in action, we don’t know yet. But I’m banking on picking at least one lock to inspect the room of a certain suspicious French leader.
The first episode, called The Mad Ones, will be out in February 2018, they reckon, and the whole game will last five episodes.