Try The Council, a really good game of 18th-century intrigue, for free on Steam

The Council is a narrative adventure game about a secret meetup between historical figures from the 18th century on a private island off the coast of England. Guests include Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, various other aristocrats and potentates, and you. You're actually not entirely out of place: Your mother is the powerful founder of the mystic secret society known as the Golden Order. She was attending the meeting as well, but she's missing—and so you've arrived to search for her, while navigating countless intertwining narratives and intrigues.

It's a bit like Telltale's adventure games, as your progression is largely based on choices made during interactions with NPCs. But the chit-chat is deepened by the game's skill system, which opens up unique conversation trees and also special abilities. Focusing on diplomatic skills might enable you to make friends and influence people more easily, for instance, but a detective skillset can reveal items that others would miss, possibly opening the door to knowledge and secrets that would otherwise go overlooked.

It's really quite good, and now you don't have to take my word for it, as Focus Home Interactive has made the first of The Council's five episodes free on Steam. It's pretty meaty, despite serving primarily as an introduction to the setting and cast. During my time with it I annoyed Napoleon, got punched in the face by a French Revolutionary judge, and put the smooth moves on an attractive opiate addict who later, uh, ended up dead in my bed. Which was totally not my fault.

If you dig it, this is also a good time to pick up the full game: The Council Complete Season is on sale on Steam for 70 percent off—$7.50/£7/€7.50—until March 30.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.