Episode one of The Council was mostly about introducing us to each character and setting the scene. But episode two is more about getting our hands dirty in the nitty-gritty.
Quite literally, in fact. You see, there’s been a murder. And, like an aristocratic episode of CSI, it’s up to you to search the body, talk to suspects and gather evidence. You’re back in the shoes of Louis de Richet, a guest at the home of Lord Mortimer. The first episode, The Mad Ones, felt more scripted; we could explore a little, but mostly, the game guided us to where we needed to be. Episode two, Hide and Seek, feels much more open – at least, in part. Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a smaller space as you unravel clues and puzzles, but for a good portion of the chapter, you’re able to wander the upper halls of Mortimer’s exquisite home.
Louis the Great Detective
You’ll go from bedroom to bedroom, poking around each guests’ belongings, searching for clues. You'll also ask them probing questions about the murder that occurred the night before. For some reason, Lord Mortimer has entrusted you to carry out an investigation. There are plenty of clues to be found, and how well you piece them together is largely up to you. You can take as much time as you like to snoop around; the more carefully you peek into every crevice, the more you’re likely to eke from The Council’s complex and interesting narrative.
Not everyone will be happy to answer your questions when you’re interrogating them. As such, prising any useful pieces of information out of them will depend on what skills you have at your disposal. The same goes for looking for clues; your skillset and energy points are tied intrinsically to what you’re able to interact with, and how. So if you don’t have the right skills, or if you’re low on points, you’re likely to miss some critical pieces of evidence.
For me, that’s the biggest problem so far with The Council. Some interactions are free, but others are tied to skills. And to use these, you need to have both a certain level of proficiency in that skill, and enough points to carry it out. In episode one, it wasn’t so much of a problem; being more of a scripted affair, I generally had enough points to carry out each task. Not so in Hide and Seek. The game started me with minimal energy points, which meant it’s been a struggle from the very outset. I’ve continually come up against a brick wall of not having enough points to carry out the tasks I want. It’s not necessarily a dealbreaker; you usually can still continue onwards, but in the case of the murder investigation segment, it meant I was restricted from getting a decent amount of information.
In a way it’s a good system, as it requires you to think carefully about each choice you make, as well as what skills you upgrade. But without this information being carefully explained in episode one, you reach a point where it’s too late to do anything about it. Well, apart from starting the whole game again. It certainly encourages another playthrough, since allotting different skills and spending your energy points differently will drastically affect how the game plays – or at least drastically affect the options that are available to you.
Deeper down the rabbit hole
The investigation-style section isn’t all that there is to Hide and Seek, however, only making up the first part of another intriguing chapter. There’s a fairly lengthy puzzle section that confines you to two rooms; starting with one clue and a centrally important bible, we follow a trail of clues hidden around the room. This was the lowest point in the episode for me. While I appreciate being able to go at my own pace, this whole puzzle felt too drawn-out. Being confined to the room, too, meant you couldn’t come back to it later after exploring elsewhere. But it’s a minor blemish, and the narrative that unfolds around the puzzle, uncovering more detail about Louis’ mysterious mother, Sarah, is surely worth grimacing through.
Giving too much detail away about The Council’s story, though, is to surely do the game a disservice. After all, the true beauty of games of this ilk is in unravelling its narrative. Suffice to say, though, that The Council remains just as gripping as its first chapter. It raises more new questions, and with the introduction of a new character, yet another layer of intrigue is added to the mix. Needless to say, if you’re a sucker for a deep story-driven mystery, then you don’t get much better than The Council.
It’s a shame that the game’s character skill system feels a little prohibitive, and that your choices are often limited by the amount of points you have to spend, but all things considered it isn’t really enough to limit the enjoyment that The Council offers. Episode two, Hide and Seek, has me deeply involved in its dark and foreboding world, and just like last time, I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode.