Major spoilers from episode one right off the bat – you are warned.

Episode 2 of the innovative narrative adventure, The Council, is now released and continues immediately on from the dramatic cliff hanger of the previous episode. Louis has been accused of murdering the on edge Elizabeth, but a more mild mannered Mortimer – whom we had yet to meet – does not suspect that Louis is the actual culprit, and so in an interesting turn tasks him (and thereby us) with investigating the death for him.

While this episode continues with the game’s RPG-lite skill progressions, confrontations and effort point management during dialogue and investigation, throughout this instalment we have a degree more freedom in our sleuthing. Starting out we have access to the murdered Elizabeth and her room, but also the rooms of all the other guests so we can search for clues and question them about the incident.

Investigating the murder and the guests plays out in the same fashion as exploring the manor in the first episode. You look out for glints in the scenery to investigate, then can examine the evidence (or not-evidence as is also the case), gleaning unique insight if you have the correct skills to do so. In doing this, again we must manage our effort points and stock of consumables. There’s one thing this episode does that the first failed to do however, and that’s to hit home the importance of managing your effort points.

By this I don’t necessarily mean simply looking out for Royal Jelly to fill yourself back up again, but in making intelligent decision about whether or not to use your points. You don’t always have to spend points to investigate something, and in many cases you won’t actually get any useful information from it. For example, you find a book about an era of history. It could contain information relevant to the case, but it could also just be a random book – therefore you must decide whether investing effort into examining the book – with your knowledge of logic or whatever it may be – is actually going to be worth the risk. Wasting points could lead to you not being able to thoroughly question a guest, or even miss out on finding evidence.

The murder is a particularly gruesome one, and so after thoroughly examining the body and the room, as well as questioning the guests, Louis can return to mingling and searching for his mother. In this area episode 2 throws a few puzzles our way. Your mother being a tricksy sort, she appears to have left notes/riddles in her wake. The puzzles are more logic based, and as a result have you making good use of your skills, or some impressive guesswork. For example, you find a vague note in a gallery room, which leads to you investigating the paintings and, using your knowledge of their history and dates, can try to figure out what her message meant.

The episode really doesn’t hold your hand when trying to figure some of these puzzles out, and as I’ve already said, you have more freedom to get on with your investigating this time – fewer restrictions such as blocking rooms off, and generally not being specific with where you need to go. This is good and bad, for obvious reasons really. Not having a guiding hand makes things a little more confusing, especially as some of the puzzles, as already intimated, are actually fairly challenging (coming from a person who’s not very good at puzzles). This can lead to a bit of frustration, and in line with the game’s multiple paths/choices and consequence design, it is possible to just fail at some of them, potentially leading to difficulty later. On the other hand, it does provide a challenge and allows for you to get properly invested in the machinations of the manor owner and guests and the mystery that resides there.

I will say, however, that combining the challenge and lesser direction, the effort and skills systems show themselves to be a bit hectic. I appreciate the encouragement to properly manage your effort and make intelligent guesses and decisions, but it needs to be a bit more contained. In some scenarios I found myself throwing effort points around because I wasn’t entirely sure what to do (struggling with a puzzle or with progressing with the investigation) and far too many times the fruits of this were not very useful. There are a lot of opportunities to use your skills, but not a lot of information for you to decide whether or not to use them. There also being a lot of red herrings exacerbates this.

On a positive note, the episode continues to impress with its intrigue and characters, including introducing a new face. The dialogue/voice acting can still be a little cringe worthy, but I’m willing to forgive this due to the overall plot being engaging. The episode even ends on another tense cliff hanger after a dark discovery. Thankfully the issue I had with mouse sensitivity in the last episode seems to have been resolved now, making it much easier to control Louis and have a look around, though I did experience some framerate issues, which I didn’t encounter last time.

Otherwise though, it’s a good continuation from the first outgoing. Perhaps a little short, but fuelling my desire for more nonetheless. You get to see some consequence of your previous actions in this episode, but there’s still much to see I feel, and despite some really interesting characters I am disappointed in a lack of interaction with them, but hopefully we will see more of both these points in the next episode – this episode still feeling somewhat of a run up to get the story and mechanics going. If you enjoyed the first episode there is reason to continue, though don’t expect things to progress too much yet.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29