The Council boasts fantastic attention to detail when it comes to its environments, which it fills with historical characters and depictions of real artworks and literature. The player character often has some insights or quips to share, but how accurate are the depicted people and artifacts considering their setting in 1793, and should you be playing this game?
When it comes to the bones of the game, I think we can call it a winner in its genre. Being a story driven detective game at heart, exploration and conversation stand front and center, and these two have been made satisfying and interesting. The environment to be explored is beautifully designed and dotted with things to find, whether they be items to be used in your investigation or parts of the scenery you can take a closer look at. Essential to it’s gameplay are the action points at the bottom left, they dictate how many specialized actions you can carry out, be it picking a lock, translating an ancient text, or utilizing your psychological knowledge in a conversation. This mechanic forces a player to prioritize and plan when to make use of their skills and gives more weight to each action. As the game progresses, you learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of all the characters and can optimize your usage of skills and action points. Overall the gameplay compliments the setting and story greatly, and remains enjoyable all the way through.
The Council provides a large cast of characters to encounter and converse with, depending on your choices some may become your friends while others may come to despise you. Not all of these characters are however historical, and as such we will be focusing on the one’s which we can either find directly in history, or may be a reference to a specific historical figure. These characters include the two most well known of the bunch, Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington. Despite these shining stars The Council presents other historical figures, Johann von Wöllner, a Prussian pastor and politician and Manuel Godoy, prime minister of Spain. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them.
The founding father and first president of the United States has overall been well represented, however there are a few small flaws to be pointed out. Impressively, Washington stood at 6’2”, this is not only tall for modern standards, making him one of the five tallest U.S. presidents in history, but was even more extraordinary for his time period. This means he should have realistically towered over the rest of the cast, but the way he is portrayed he barely tops Napoleon, who while not extraordinarily short for his time, was surely shorter than anything close to 6’ feet.
Little details aside, one of the most glaring errors is made in regard to Washington's election. During a dinner the player learns that Lord Mortimer funded his re-election campaign, being to thank for Washington's second term. Although the game accurately states that Washington did not intend to run for a second time, he ultimately only made himself available at the last moment, a mere month before the electoral college was meant to cast their votes, meaning there was never a campaign to fund. Nevertheless the council gets the timing right, as Washington would have just started his second term in 1793, setting this exchange up perfectly.
Although it is true that Napoleon took on the name we all know fairly early in his life, the first recorded signature of it is from 1796. This would suggest that he may have still introduced himself with his Corsican birth name of Napoleone di Buonaparte during the year of The Council. The period places Napoleon just after his fleeing from Corsica to Toulon, where his next battle would take place, this may be the battle for which he is trying to acquire cannons by talking to the protagonist. During a dinner, he is introduced as a Lieutenant, however he would have been promoted to the rank of captain in the July of the previous year.
Johann von Wöllner
The Council portrays Johann to be of great influence to the Prussian King. Although this was true, the Prussian King is reported to have described him as a "treacherous and intriguing priest,". Nevertheless, von Wöllner was a member of both the freemasons and the Rosicrucians, where he rose to great heights, he found himself as the Oberhauptdirektor, or Supreme Director in many circles, owing to his great eloquence and impressive personality. Wöllner would have been nearing the end of his life during the time of The Council, with an impressive 71 years of age, and only seven years from his death in the year 1800.
The reason all of these people have decided to come together is a secret meeting, the conference. One of the centerpieces of The Council's story and as such it seems to have gotten a large amount of attention from the developers in attempting to make it fit into history as rationally as possible. The subject of the meeting remains a mystery until about halfway through the game, where the protagonist is finally let in on the matter of international significance that is to be discussed. The host, Mortimer, claims that these meetings have been held for as long as one can remember, and that many of the great events of history were first decided here. This time, the discussed event is the transfer of the Spanish territory of Louisiana to France.
Present for this meeting are many of the important actors necessary for such a plan, representatives from France and the United States, as well as Manuel Godoy of Spain. Surprisingly, the game has managed to choose an event that fits marvelously into the premise of the council. Louisiana was lost by the French in the 1760s, when they ceded the Eastern half to Great Britain, and the Western half to Spain as a result of the French and Indian War. Historically Spain returned the territory to France in 1801, only eight years after the events of The Council. What makes this such a perfect event for the game, is that this treaty of 1801 only confirmed the agreements of a previous SECRET meeting, in which the transfer had been decided. Additionally, when this is first proposed in the conference depicted in the game, Manuel Godoy is strongly against the proposition, seeing it as unfair to the Spanish state. The player is tasked with convincing Godoy of the proposition, which if all goes well eventually succeeds. This strongly mirrors the situation in the real world, where Godoy was first opposed to the terms, claiming that it greatly benefitted the French. He later justified the treaty at great lengths in his memoirs.
Overall, The Council does a fantastic job at taking people and events from history and representing them in an interesting fashion. Although some liberties were taken, and some details overlooked, the story line and background provided are coherent and accurate enough to give the experience additional gravitas. This is a fantastic game for anyone with interests in history, especially if you are inclined to story driven experiences.