The Council gets biblical
The Council is back for round two. The first episode ended with a simple case of a missing mother developing into an interestingly complicated and intriguing mystery. Unfortunately, despite a nicely-scheduled 2-month gap, this episode suffers from post-season-opener decline.
Louis De Richet is still looking for his mother. But now he has the death of one of Lord Mortimer’s guests to contend with. Plus the mysterious Lord Mortimer finally arrives on the scene. The plot threads are interestingly poised. And yet the execution of this and the would-be interesting key puzzles feel like it should have had at least another month on the development table. The high-fidelity visuals are often marred by poor frame-rates and bad animations. And the voice-acting, particularly that of the already-insufferable protagonist De Richet, has somehow gotten worse. The same can be said for the subtitles, which often cut off before getting chance to read them, and even the odd spelling inconsistency. Connection has never been spelled with an X! It’s baffling that this episode feels a little broken, and could potentially ruin interest in the remainder of The Council’s release for many.
Everyone is a suspect
This second episode is entitled ‘Hide and Seek’, but you’ll often feel like a victim of hide and not-seek. Like a child being picked on, left to eventually snap out of the charade and realize you’re all alone. But then realize you’re better off for it. The element of fun has been stripped away, revealing an uneven mash of puzzles supposedly reliant on biblical/historical references. One room, in particular, relies on particular New Testament chapter and verse, with clues dotted around various historic paintings. Sounds interesting until the realization that episode 2’s gauntlet of riddles and puzzles can be solved by plain old brute force. It’s a method that ends up taking over far too often because the puzzles simply are not interesting enough. And thanks to brute force, they are ultimately redundant.
As for plot development, there is little progress this time around. Largely due to the length of time taken on the aforementioned puzzles, this episode is significantly shorter than the first, taking a mere 2/3 hours to complete. In the first episode, confrontations took place with many of the cast – don’t forget this is no pedestrian cast either, with George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte among others – yet here in episode 2, there are hardly any conversations of note to speak of. At one stage a key revelation is disclosed regarding De Richet’s mother that would surely have been better represented as a flashback sequence. Instead, it is delivered merely in passing conversation. It was a moment left wanting, and disappointing that nothing was made of it. Instead, you’re left reading bible references and paintings for over an hour.
Hidden doors, codes and historical references aplenty
Episode 2 also exposes the weaker side of the skills system. Here it relies much more on having boosted historical knowledge and lock-picking skills, as opposed to reaping rewards for diplomacy/manipulation in episode 1. This may well advertise more than one play-through overall, once The Council reaches its conclusion. But, given the drawn-out, laborious riddles, there is something inherently wrong that the second play-through of a mystery-genre title will likely be more fun. It’s a little concerning given there are 3 episodes still to go in this already very tangled web. There is just enough at the very end to keep the interest alive for The Council, so there is always the hope that episode 3 can improve on this.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Focus Home Interactive; Developer: Cyanide Studio/Big Bad Wolf ; Players: 1 ; Released: March 14 2018 ; ESRB: T for Teen
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of The Council given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.”