The third instalment of developer Big Bad Wolf’s premiere video game has just been released but for those not yet up to speed – or who have not even heard of this, a quick recap is necessary.
Episode 1 of The Council released on 13th March 2018 and introduced players to the protagonist Louis de Richet and his mother, Sarah de Richet. Not in the usual happy family scenario, however, as they are both tied to chairs looking like the end is nigh.
Even in this opening moment, The Council throws a major crossroad decision at you; fight your attacker solo, or with help from your mother. Unsure – yet – of just what Sarah is capable of, I opted for a solo attack, and ended up with a huge scar across the bridge of Louis’ nose and under his eyes. I’ve grown to love it. The other option has you take down the enemy as a duo alongside your mother but you don’t end up with the scar and your version of Louis looks far less interesting as a result.
A couple of months pass and Louis finds himself approaching an island, invited by the mysterious Lord Mortimer. Sarah has now gone missing – believed to be somewhere on the island – and Louis is determined to find her. Here is where the game opens up and Louis starts the meet the rest of the cast. Each member of The Council appears to have their own personal agenda on the island, and it becomes pretty clear to Louis that he will need to work with some of them to achieve their goals and his own.
Episode 1 is split into four different quests that has Louis investigating his mother’s disappearance and getting to know the other guests, some more friendly than others. And then there’s the inevitable cliff-hanger but its all-around a great opening chapter.
Episode 2 – released on 15th May – begins exactly after the cliff-hanger and has Louis quickly going from prime suspect to private investigator, tasked by Lord Mortimer himself to investigate a murder within his mansion. Once reviewing the situation and interrogating all available guests, I present my conclusion and nominate my suspect.
Then follows arguably the most frustrating element of The Council so far; a puzzle involving Bible quotes and dust on paintings hanging on the wall. It was a very cumbersome design that could have been my impatience but I managed to stumble through the lengthy back and forth puzzle without really understanding why. Thankfully, the following puzzle to “Go beyond the nightmare” was a lot better designed and works a lot better.
Murder and death is a frequent occurrence in The Council and this extends into the latest chapter as well, Episode 3 which is titled ‘Ripples’. It’s an apt subtitle for any episodic narrative game where any action will have consequences, and this latest offering for The Council is no exception.
Minor plot spoilers follow for those who have yet to complete Episodes 1 and 2.
Up until now, guests at Lord Mortimer’s island mansion have been patiently waiting – amongst all the murder and deceit – for the arrival of the final member to arrive and the main purpose of their visit to begin. Thankfully, they aren’t left waiting for much longer and can finally get down to the nitty-gritty.
Lord Mortimer reveals his grand plan; the state of Louisiana in the newly formed United States be passed over from the French to the Spanish, which isn’t entirely based on fiction if you look into the Louisiana Purchase.
Naturally, the Council is split after an initial discussion, and it is left up to Louis to convince other members either way. As usual, though, other issues get in his way.
The Council re-convenes but is once again cut short in a way that is starting to become synonymous to The Council and at this point, I am starting to wonder if anyone is safe. The Council adjourns again, and Louis returns to his room to try and get a bit of sleep.
Or so he thinks, until hearing commotion from Emily Hillsborrow’s room.
After making his way in through the balcony outside, he witnesses his mother lying on the floor and Emily and her identical twin sister Emma at gunpoint. As mentioned before in the game, both take the moniker of Emily for various levels of deceptions but now things have gone a bit pear-shaped on their agreement and Louis ultimately faces the decision of deciding which is the real Emily.
Thankfully though, after this confusion, Louis’ mother wakes up and takes him back to the crypt. Here, Sarah de Richet finally reveals the real reason she is in hiding on the island, and it completely turns everything you thought you knew on its’ head. To have this revealed mid-way through an episode and not used as a cliff-hanger may seem a risk. However, the resultant fetch quest that follows and the actual episode cliff-hanger make that a shrewd decision. My only advise for the final quest is look at Sarah’s left arm and double check before placing yours inside the hole, less you want the same fate.
The story of The Council and overall narrative received a big shot in the arm after the slightly flat 2nd episode, but more noticeable now are a few bugs and glitches. A couple of times Louis’ voice has pitched higher on one sentence, only to return to normal the very next sentence. When a sentence is at the correct pitch though, it sometimes does not match the subtitles shown on screen. Forgivable as this is likely due to translation issues, but when a crucial code number is correctly shown in the subtitles as ‘6466’ but then said incorrectly as ‘6646’ it becomes less and less likely to forgive.
Another issue that has been becoming more frequent is the load times. Or rather, getting longer and longer. Transitions between rooms were almost instantaneous at the beginning but are now locked behind load times in excess of 60 seconds. Sometimes even simple interactions between characters have also required a load time, something that never existed at first.
The game also feels limited in its location; with everything taking place in the same mansion, and by Episode 3 most of the rooms have been uncovered and are accessible at most opportunities. This means there is not much left to discover. Furthermore, with a narrative game, it revolves around the characters and your interactions with them, so any opportunity to do so typically requires Louis running around the entire second floor knocking on each guests’ bedroom for a chat. This has started to become tedious by Episode 3, but with the number of characters left starting to dwindle, it doesn’t take up as much time anymore.
The overall story and the characters involved are very well written and as the primary focus of any episodic narrative game then it does its’ job well. I’m excited to find out where the story will go next after the big revelation, and by now I have my favourite characters that I naturally have started to side with, and some characters I would happily throw under a bus. Despite them being unable to make a decision as a group, The Council is shaping up very nicely.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*