The first episode of The Council surprised me when it came out. While it had some issues, the blending of RPG-styled stats into a classic Adventure game made for a winning combo. Episode 2 left me massively disappointed, as all the really cool stuff was ditched for obtuse puzzles and a lack of story progress. Now we have Ripples, the third episode in this series. Is it improved, or still failing to live up to that first episode?
Episode 2 ended without the story progressing much, but Louis did discover a servant's corpse inside the garden. The only other witness is President George Washington, who is at least willing to stall an upcoming conference to buy Louis some time to plan his next move. Of course, Louis can't really avoid the meeting and his search for his mother becomes tangled up in the political drama before long. Mortimer reveals what he's actually trying to accomplish with the meeting, Godoy is threatening war with France, and Washington keeps trying to make the United States work somehow.
While the political drama is interesting, it's really more of a backdrop to both the personal drama and the conspiracies. Jacques Peru, one of the only standouts of episode 2, finally gets his payoff here, while Emily's mysterious, and possibly evil, identical twin sister Emma finally shows her face. Furthermore, Louis' strange psychic visions get worse, often showing him what Mortimer's best friend, British dandy Gregory Holm, is up to. It's a bit like a soap opera, with dramatic revelations that are often goofy, yet difficult to turn away from. Each twist had me smiling. Sometimes from the sheer absurdity of it, and sometimes because of genuine interest in this story and where it's going.
This is the biggest improvement that Ripples makes over the last two episodes. The plot finally feels like it's finding footing as it begins to gain forward momentum. It's nice to finally get some resolutions to plot strings rather than just leading them along for another episode of questions. Thankfully, it also means the central plot has a little more breathing room without dragging along more side plots.
Unfortunately, the voice acting isn't quite keeping pace. While the actors haven't changed from the first two episodes, they now have more dramatic material to work with and most of them flub it. Washington sounds like he's sleepily mumbling his way through even his most outraged moments, while Peru's tone of voice fluctuates so often it's just ridiculous. Louis himself always sounds confused. This works when he's actually confused and less so when he's supposedly confident in his statements. I can only hope they manage to improve.
One thing I felt hurt the last episode was its weird focus on puzzles. This episode does the opposite by only having a single major puzzle. It's a time consuming one, requiring reading parts of the Bible, translating themes of Jesus' life, converting Christian calendars to Jewish ones, and using an armillary sphere to discover the moon cycle. It's a much smarter approach, leading to one hell of a tough puzzle that required me to really think it through. I was glad to see the RPG elements of the game also able to assist me here. Every step of the way, I could use one of Louis' skills to either get me hints, answers, or outright skip parts of the puzzle. It's not quite as in-depth as the first episode, but I'm happy its back.
Sadly getting to this puzzle, and finishing the episode, requires quite a bit of backtracking. You'll have to revisit all the environments from the first two episodes, and you'll hit quite a few of them more than once. One late-game segment turns into a fetch quest. This has you grab five different items from around the mansion only to bring them back to the crypt. This means you'll be spending more time at loading screens than ever before.
Thankfully, conversations play a big role in this episode. There are more of the battle-like confrontations, which have you trying to convince characters to see things your way. One requires you to convince Godoy to agree to a political move he may not be interested in, while another has you talking a character out of suicide. I still enjoy using the things I've learned against characters and exploiting weaknesses to help push them. It's especially interesting if you only know half the story, which makes any choice particularly difficult when you don't know where it'll push someone.
Sadly, this is probably the glitchiest episode of The Council yet. Several times characters mouths completely stopped moving, and I couldn't tell if they were talking or thinking. One scene lost all seriousness when Emily looped in a weird animation that didn't fit the scene at all. More than once audio would suddenly vary in volume, getting super quiet or loud when it shouldn't be. At one point, Napoleon just sort of vanishes into a void, never to be seen again.
The Council Episode 3 Review | Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, Ripples brought back a lot of the things I enjoyed about The Council. It's not as good as the first episode, but thankfully it redeems the series after the terrible second one. There are still two more episodes to go, so things could swing either way from here. However, if the focus remains on moving the plot forward, conversations and confrontations, and puzzles that the RPG elements can actually help with, then things are looking up.
The Council - Episode 3: Ripples was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.
- Plot Moves Forward
- Fun Drama
- Great Puzzle
- Annoying Backtracking
- Iffy Voice Acting