Since its first episode back in March, I’ve been kept suitably intrigued by Cyanide Studio’s The Council.
Now on episode three, we’re starting to get a better understanding of the game’s characters, their motivations, and just what the hell is going on. So far, The Council has played its cards close to its chest; drip-feeding us interesting tidbits of information and carefully meandering between exciting scenes. Episode three, Ripples, is no different.
At the end of chapter two, we left Louis hot on the trail of finding his missing mother. Chapter three picks up right where we left off. Sarah de Richet is still missing, but Louis is closer than ever to finding her. Unfortunately, before he can continue her trail, there’s business to attend to: politics.
A dull opening
With a name like The Council it comes as no surprise that politics plays a role in the game’s narrative. The first part of Ripples is concerned with the (apparent) real reason why Lord Mortimer has gathered you and the other guests at his mansion. Here ensues a 10-plus minute long conference where the characters – many of whom are world leaders and royalty – haughtily discuss taking ownership of each other’s territories.
Perhaps it is intrinsic to the main plot, but honestly, I found it very boring. Conferences are dull enough in real life; I don’t need to sit through them in video games. I couldn’t even fully switch off as my concentration was needed to complete a few quick time events to prompt Louis to say the right thing at the right time. Maybe 18th century politics are fascinating to some people, but to me, it was a weak start to chapter three.
Leading the way
Thankfully, once that section was over and done with, The Council got back to what had intrigued me about it so much in the first place: mystery, deception, and of course, a good bit of murder.
Chapter three felt substantially shorter than the previous two chapters, with its progression feeling fairly linear. Aside from a few player-led conversations, there seemed overall less choice of freedom; Louis was led by cutscenes and I was given less opportunity to wander around at will.
That’s not such a bad thing though; now in the third episode, there’s not much of the mansion that remains unexplored. Episode two in particular suffered with poor signposting, leaving me wandering aimlessly for extended periods of time, so I was glad that was not repeated here. One section of Ripples involves traversing the mansion in order to find a series of items; but you’re given a list that tells you which room you’ll find all the items (bar one) in. It’s a simple case of using your map and quickly scouting the room when you reach it. Even the one mystery item is fairly easy to locate once you’ve had a conversation with another guest.
Puzzling it out
The previous episodes of The Council introduced us to fairly complex, multi-layered puzzles, and episode three is no different. In the last section of the chapter, you’re faced with a large puzzle that requires a mix of logic, reasoning, comprehension – and perhaps a little dumb luck. Interestingly, you don’t need to get it right in order to proceed, either. I was very sure I’d found the correct solution, but apparently not. As such, the episode ended with a rather grim outcome for Louis. Or perhaps it was all a trap – and there was no right answer? Such is the mysterious world of The Council.
Apart from Ripples’ somewhat dull opening conference scene, the narrative once again packed plenty of twists and turns. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say that some of the directions the plot takes will keep you on your toes. It seems a little far-fetched at times, but it certainly does enough to keep the story just as engrossing as the first chapter started out being. And, just as ever, I’m left on tenterhooks waiting for the next chapter to land.
Unfortunately, chapter three of The Council seems to have more technical issues than the previous two chapters. Poor character animation has been irksome from the start, but here there are instances of characters completely missing any kind of lip syncing or facial movements when they’re speaking. Playing on Xbox One X, there were also several instances of the game freezing for a few seconds at a time. And one section in particular saw Louis get stuck to the spot for around 20 seconds after speaking to a certain character. Nothing game-breaking of course, but frustrating nonetheless.
With all that said though, The Council: Episode 3 – Ripples offers another fascinating look into this alternative history 18th century. New plot twists are carefully added, and the narrative continues to get darker and more sinister. It makes a few duff choices, making it perhaps the weakest of the three chapters so far, and the technical failings are less than ideal, but it still remains fascinating. The cliffhanger, on the other hand, is perhaps the best so far – at least, in the way my game ended, it was – and episode four is set up to be the darkest and most twisted yet. I can’t wait.