*Spoilers ahead

After a bumpy and, frankly, bizarre ride we have arrived at the conclusion of this Georgian set mystery adventure, and in Episode 5 of The Council we get a fitting, if typically short, finale that ties up your affairs with Lord Mortimer and his devious plans.

If you’ve already played episode 4, then you’ll know just how bat-shit this series becomes. Losing all subtlety and throwing such a strange curve ball in revealing Mortimer to be, not only a demon, but also your father (making you a demon as well), it’s become quite difficult to place this series for me. When it began, I had hoped for a murder mystery with political and social manipulations – the addition of real figures from history making this even more interesting – however this quickly gave way to silliness and janky gameplay that, while interesting in its own way (and funny, even if non-intentional) wasn’t necessarily what we were looking for, and certainly not what we were expecting. Yet, from this a middle ground was found, and utilising the mechanics and context introduced in Episode 4, this episode is one of the more enjoyable and shows some potential – if only the game would continue on to make use of that.

At the episode’s beginning, Louis has discovered his demonic nature and relation to Lord Mortimer and co, and the finale of the conference is looming. By this point you’ll have decided whether to back Gregory Holm or Mortimer, and so dependent on that choice you will begin by being instructed by either to sway the remaining guests into voting for them. This will of course require some skill use in dialogue and winning a few confrontations. Overall, I didn’t find it particularly difficult to persuade any of the guests, however I suppose this will be dependent on the areas you have specked into.

The conference after this takes a rather dramatic turn, which obviously I won’t be spoiling, but regardless of your choice of side, things become overall a lot more sinister. The development of events throughout these 5 episodes has been untempered to its detriment, however Episode 5 manages to make good use of this pace and actually creates a fairly tense and intriguing twist to advance through. Most of the exploration has gone, as this is the final episode and by this time there’s none of the mansion that remains undiscovered, however the environments shift somewhat and the game provides you with a few reasonable puzzles, as well as some opportunity to use your newfound powers.

Invading the minds of the other guests gives you a snippet of their thought process, and so you can inform your dialogue choices with this – of course, costing points to do so. There’s also another body swap scenario which is fun to witness. It is a shame though, that this mechanic wasn’t taken to further lengths, or perhaps introduced earlier. It feels like wasted potential, particularly considering some of the less interesting moments of previous episodes.

But this brings us back to one of the biggest problems with, not just this episode, but the series as a whole. It’s all just too short. While I maintain that the few twists the game offers are ridiculous, and would be no matter the length, perhaps they would have been less jarring if there was a proper build up to them. More time to prepare you for the story turns, more time for puzzles and more time to expand on the game’s choice system and light RPG mechanics.

The confrontations in dialogue are enjoyable, especially when combined with your various skills, but you don’t get to experience enough of it throughout, and the idea that they would, on top of not providing enough opportunity for the base mechanics to shine, introduce new ones on top of that in the last episode (or at the end of episode 4, anyway – not that you got to use them much) is a bit ridiculous.

The ending of episode 5 of course comes with the long awaited conclusions to your various choices and ‘paths’ taken throughout the game. These may not be noticeable, aside from the ending screens of each episode (showing successes and failures), but The Council has certainly proved that it has an impressive amount of diverting paths and choices – some of which impact fairly significantly on your character, including getting your arm chopped off in episode 3. It is a little disappointing that most of the conclusions for the various characters are given to you in text (this person goes on to live happily ever after, etc), but it’s still satisfying, at least for me, to see it all end and notice the effects of your actions.

The Council is clearly a game that you can, and are encouraged to, play more than once, but my experience of the series as a whole leads me to question whether anyone would really want to. It’s a quirky game with some interesting mechanics and twists, for sure, but it’s very inconsistent tonally and there’s too much attempted to squeeze into what is actually a fairly short series (14 hours playtime for myself across all five episodes sounds fair on paper, but spread across 5 episodes that are filled with ‘exploring’ running from A to B and a lot of uninvolved dialogue, this certainly doesn’t feel like a lot).

Ultimately the series feels like it’s missed an opportunity. It’s hit a certain quirky nail on the head that results in this, while silly, at least being generally enjoyable, but it’s overall more simplistic than it presents itself as, and a lot of these exciting features boasted about before the first episode’s release are overblown – political machinations and RPG style skill trees aren’t nearly as in depth as you might initially think. Overall I feel more positively about the series than negatively, however this, in terms of recommendation, is very much a “grab if it’s on sale” affair.



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. 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