After an excellent debut a few months back, I was underwhelmed with the previous episode of The Council. Hide & Seek still had plenty to offer plot-wise, but a series of tedious puzzles slowed the pace to a standstill. Since this was a fairly simple problem to correct, I had no reason to believe that Big Bad Wolf couldn’t rebound with the third episode of the series, Ripples. My faith was mostly rewarded with an outing that continues to raise the stakes, but also showcases some of the bigger issues the series has.
Picking up immediately following the events of the previous episode, Ripples is largely focused on the political ramifications of the upcoming conference. The larger purpose of Lord Mortimer’s gathering has only been alluded to previously, but this is the first time we see how this large-scale meeting goes down. At stake is a land dispute involving the burgeoning United States of America, Spain and France. Mortimer and Washington sit on one side, while Holm and most of the others oppose them. Louis will not only be forced to pick sides, but must also work to sway the opposition to his side as well. This is, of course, on top of the greater mystery of what his mother has been up to on the island.
One of the things I have appreciated about The Council so far is that it is always working to move the plot forward. Whether it’s the actual meeting or a side confrontation, the various mechanics of the story are always being developed. Ripples is probably the best example of this so far, with just about every story beat being important. It offers up a handful of interesting moments that will no doubt play a role in how the rest of the tale unfolds. One of the other things I really enjoy about the story so far, is that it is willing to play fast and loose with history. The major discussion at the heart of the episode will be familiar to any American student, but it’s twisted in a unique way here. It also re-contextualizes real-world figures such as George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte in new ways. Knowing that things aren’t entirely historically accurate makes making important choices even more tough than they already are.
After going hard with them last go-around, Ripples is largely devoid of puzzles. Instead, most of the action taking place this episode is of the talking variety. More so than any other chapter, this one is heavy on the confrontational aspects of Louis’ investigation. Some of these heated discussions are based around the events surrounding the conference, while others are related to entirely different subjects. All of them have massive implications on the future of the story, though. Perhaps the most important one, which centers around Duchess Hillsborrow, doesn’t fit the mold of the other confrontations. Instead, you’ll need to rely on your history with Emily in order to navigate a tense situation. These character building segments were some of my favorite parts of the previous two episodes, so I was happy to see them take the spotlight for this one.
That’s not to say that the third episode of The Council is entirely devoid of puzzles, however. With the episode once again chopped into three different segments, the last portion is built around a devious riddle. Deep within the caverns of the island, the Trial of Faith waits to test those who seek it out. In order to solve this test, which carries a particularly nasty punishment for failure, Louis will need to seek out a series of items. These objects all relate to the answer for the Trial of Faith, but you’ll need to be perceptive of details in order to pass. It’s very similar to the puzzles found in Hide & Seek, but this one doesn’t seem quite as obtuse as those ones did. It still felt a little exhausting pouring over ancient texts again, but with the amount of these puzzles getting cut down substantially, it didn’t feel nearly as off-putting this time. Or maybe I just appreciate how positively Jigsaw-ian this obstacle is; who can say.
I remarked upon this in my review of the previous episode, but Ripples may just be the worst performing episode of The Council so far. The game has been rough from the start, but this was the first episode where it felt like the problems were coming non-stop. Almost all of the dialogue wasn’t synced up with the character’s lip movements, a repeated buzzing sound popped up every time I opened a door, the game just wouldn’t recognize me looking at objects from time to time, and constant slow-down mucked things up. The load times also continue to be a killer, and since Louis has to go all over the mansion for his quest, you’ll spend almost as much time on a load screen as you do playing. It’s not quite on the level as some of the worst Telltale Games moments, but it’s working it’s way there.
Ripples mostly gets The Council back on track after a disappointing sophomore outing. The plot continues to intrigue, and the fantastical elements seeping their way into things is a promising development. The episode moves at a brisk, but welcome pace, as the tedious puzzles have been largely dropped in favor of more dynamic confrontational moments. Still, though, the rampant technical issues and continued ugly visuals mar the experience. It’s a little too late to save the look of the game, but hopefully in episode four, Big Bad Wolf can clean up the many bugs plaguing their episodic adventure.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Focus Home Interactive.
Despite suffering from a gamut of technical issues, Ripples is a solid bounce-back for The Council. The plot continues to unfold in an interesting way, and the stronger focus on character interaction was a welcome development for this episode.