We've reached the midway point of another episodic adventure game. Historically, that's meant players can reliably anticipate a dip in quality storytelling, but that's not the case for Big Bad Wolf Studio's The Council
. The series remains one of the most consistent in its genre and continues to push its mystery forward by answering some questions while asking several more. If you're yet to jump into this alternate history talking simulator, it's increasingly feeling like a safe move to make.The Council
's third episode, "Ripples," picks up exactly where the last one ended, although I'll try to keep this review spoiler-free since site numbers indicate so few have actually given the game a chance. The basic structure of this episode is just like the others. Through a combination of exploration and conversation, Louis de Richet is digging deeper into the mystery surrounding Lord Mortimer's conference of proverbial puppeteers. All the major political players return and although bodies are beginning to pile up, the party mostly goes on uninterrupted. That disconnect between mortal danger and their unceasing commitment to the political meeting feels stranger than ever, but to my surprise, the story explains this disparity in a way that makes sense later in the episode.
Conversations are still the highlight of The Council
, although if you've been diligent about searching for items and carving out a smart character build, Louis will meet less resistance by now. It feels a bit easier, which could continue to hurt the game by the finale, but for now it still mostly strikes a good balance. You'll struggle to get much crucial information out of people without knowing them well by now or using your items smartly.
By far the most pivotal moment in "Ripples" comes in the form of a plot twist probably no one could've seen coming. Although its reveal is met with Louis going back over clues to which we as players were privy, the dot-connecting that's required seems like next to no one would have put in the work, thus this new narrative angle feels like it comes out of nowhere. It's the type of twist that may be polarizing for players, as those who enjoyed The Council
for what it's been so far, a historical fiction and nothing more, may not like where it's going next. For those that remain along for the ride, however, it opens up many new avenues by which this story will evolve.
Like episode two, this final episode features a lengthy, detail-oriented puzzle that feels especially rewarding whether you solve it or not. It's possible to fail the puzzle and still have the story carry on in a dramatic way that once again represents how well The Council
handles player agency. I was 80% sure I had found the right answer and felt if I was wrong, I'd hit a game over screen and work out what went wrong. To my surprise, the game accepted my mistake and kept moving forward with dire consequences. Successes and failures feel earned in equal measure, and that's very powerful for a game such as this.
The pacing of the episode was nearly shot when Louis is tasked with finding several items around the maze-like mansion. It's in this sequence where the game's lack of any objective markers really hurts. You're told where items may be, but remembering how to get there in a building with so many dead ends becomes annoying. On top of that, some lip synching issues return, as they were seen in the second episode, and some occasional framerate drops got in the way too. Overall, though, these issues don't greatly take away from how much fun this series continues to be.
As with all of the additional episodes, there are just three achievements to be unlocked and they're not missable. Of course, if you haven't finished off some of the base game's achievements, many of those are available to be unlocked in any subsequent episode.
In the previous episode, The Council
proved to be more than a one-episode wonder. Now it's shown it can even avoid the dreaded middle episode slump that so often befalls episodic games such as this. With a huge plot twist, the story is beginning to take on a whole different shape. Meanwhile, smart RPG-infused conversations and more interesting branching paths keep it all well worth another trip to the mansion.
- Great use of player choices
- Dramatic twist adds a huge new mystery to the story
- Very challenging and rewarding final puzzle
- Avoids the poor middle episode syndrome that befalls so many episodic games
- Technical problems get in the way, like missing lip synch and some framerate drops
- More than ever, an objective guide arrow feels desperately lacking
The reviewer spent two and a half hours back in Lord Mortimer's mansion, pushing the narrative forward in huge new ways. He unlocked all three episode achievements. An Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
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