The Council: Episode 2 (Xbox One) REVIEW – Squandered Potential
After a great opening episode, episode 2 of The Council falls flat.
Developer: Big Bad Wolf Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Review copy provided
This review is the second part of an ongoing narrative adventure game called The Council. Therefore, we’re focusing more on things specific to this episode. If you want to know more about the gameplay, how conversations work and all that, check out our review of episode 1. Also, spoilers. Obviously.
When episode 1 of The Council burst onto the scene back in March, we were blown away by how the game tried to innovate the narrative adventure formula. An intriguing mystery and some well implemented RPG elements combined to create something poised to reinvigorate the crowded genre. If it sounds we’re building episode 2 up for a big fall, we are.
While episode 1 relished in the conversations between strangers, where unknown hidden agendas drove the narrative forward, episode 2 seems perfectly content to meander through aggressively dull puzzles and very little exposition or payoff from the previous episode. We’re only on episode 2 and we’ve hit what feels like filler content. Strap in, this ride could get bumpy.
Depending on your choices in the first instalment, episode 2, entitled Hide And Seek, either sees Louis De Richet finding out about a character’s demise through the now present Lord Mortimer, or in a compromised position next to the dead body. The first part of the episode is then spent investigating the murder. You have to scan through the crime scene, interpret evidence and interrogate the different guests on the island in order to determine who you think the killer might be.
It’s a decent opening that provides more of the type of gameplay we liked from the previous episode. Louis’ interactions with the characters provides some of the better revelations and highlights of the game. Unfortunately, that all seemingly gets swept under the rug once you’ve pointed your finger towards a potential killer, and the rest of the episode is essentially devoted to Louis playing a game of riddles in search of his mother.
The puzzles themselves involve dates and characters involved with the Bible, the Third Crusade and Greek mythology respectively, which sounds interesting but it’s anything but. At best, it’s an unwanted diversion from the best parts of the game you’ve come to expect, whilst at worst the riddles are implemented in a way that’s frustratingly obtuse in its execution.
Whilst this problem will be offset post release by the inevitable barrage of video guides and solutions to the game, anyone looking not to sully themselves with that kind of cheating will probably have to resort to trial and error until they find the solution. At the very least, you can at least replay the episode again after you find the solution so you don’t have to waste precious effort points on analysing every clue you come across. The downside to that is that you have to redo the episode again.
The disappointing gameplay of the second episode is one thing, but that disappointment extends to the technical side of things too. Episode 1 wasn’t the most well put together games you could find, but Hide And Seek is even worse in a lot of regards. The frame rate does suffer in certain areas, the delivery of voice lines feels off in some places and the loading screens are a huge bugbear when navigating the manor. When you’re greeted with a loading screen that lasts for 30 seconds and all you wanted to do was inspect a chest, you know you’ve got problems.
Perhaps the worst transgression of episode 2 of The Council is that the most interesting parts of the episode are merely just the planted seeds for a storyline payoff further down the line. There’s a plot that emerges when new character Samuel Godoy arrives on the island to announce that King Louis XIV of France has been executed as part of the French Revolution, at the apparent behest of Jacques Peru. This announcement leads to some discontent between the characters, which could cause some tensions later on.
We also get to see the more sinister nature of Sir Gregory Holm. The face painted old boy looks set to be a bigger threat moving forward, as a number of characters appear to be working for him. The ending of the episode also establishes a decent cliffhanger, as Louis makes a discovery beneath the island and encounters an unknown assailant.
Whether or not that’ll lead to any significant narrative payoff is up in the air right now. Episode 2, Hide and Seek, had all the potential in the world, but it ended up being squandered. Now we have to wait another couple of months to find out if Hide and Seek is just an outlier in a great narrative adventure game, or if this is indicative of things to come.
What do you think about our review? Have you been looking forward to episode 2 of The Council? Sound off in the comments below.