It’s been a couple months since we last journeyed to Lord Mortimer’s island in Focus Home and Cyanide Studios’ episodic narrative mystery game The Council. Thankfully the wait is over, with Episode 3: Ripples launching on July 24, and with two excellent episodes already under its belt, I was hopeful that lighting would strike thrice and keep the momentum going for a title that’s quickly becoming one of my favourite games of the year.
For those wanting a thorough recap of the game’s proceedings, I encourage you to check out my reviews for Episode 1 and Episode 2. However, a quick summary of events so far will reveal that Louis de Richet, who has come to Lord Mortimer’s island in search of his missing mother, has picked up her scent and must follow the clues she has left while figuring out whom he can and can’t trust in a secret society known as The Golden Order.
Let’s talk business
Naturally, Episode 3 begins where Episode 2 concludes: in a crypt in Lord Mortimer’s garden. Here you discover a body and you have to figure out if your mother had any part to play in the demise of this poor soul. Alas, time is of the essence, with Lord Mortimer’s conference (the whole reason for the Order’s get together) beginning momentarily. In order to keep suspicions low, Louis attends the conference and bares witness first-hand to what it is that the Golden Order does and why Lord Mortimer summons his esteemed guests to his island once a year.
With a lot of the foundations already laid down in the previous episodes, Ripples presents a handful of opportunities to build on those foundations with its clever dialogue system. Louis will have several important choices to make that will affect the story, such as supporting or going against Lord Mortimer’s plans. Although your destination is the same no matter your choices, each decision you make will considerably alter the path you take, as well as who is ultimately with or against you.
Louis, such a schmoozer
There’s a good balance of exploration and discourse in Ripples, with Louis having to engage in a few verbal donnybrooks along the way. These Confrontations (as they’re called) can lead to some tough decisions facing Louis, which is where exploration and your skill choices come in handy. For example, while snooping through one of the guest’s rooms I came across some letters that appeared to be of importance, but due to Louis not being fluent in Spanish (because I chose not to utilise the linguistics skill) I was unable to translate the letters and discover some juicy secrets about one of the guests, which may or may not come in handy later down the track. This is what makes The Council’s narrative-based RPG elements so enthralling, because no matter what skills you choose to focus on, there’s always going to be opportunities missed, and it’s the intrigue that surrounds these opportunities that make you want to play through again. One disappointment is that the lip-syncing issues prevalent in the previous episodes still remain. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does create some awkward cutscenes.
Games with dialogue-heavy gameplay often run the risk of becoming a little tiresome, but the narrative manages to stay fresh thanks to a revelation towards the end of the episode, and one that will drive the story forward in the remaining episodes. It’s this revelation that leads to one the game’s more intriguing puzzles and requires Louis (read: you) to put his detective prowess to use. To The Council’s credit it doesn’t hold your hand, with plenty of hints all around you, it’s just up to you to see them.
Talk about a hole-in-the-wall
The storytelling, gameplay and world of The Council continues to suck me in and if it weren’t for the game’s episodic nature I would keep playing it until the credits roll. But thanks to a late-game narrative twist, Ripples has given me a lot of food for thought while I eagerly wait for Episode 4.
Reviewed on PC / Review code supplied by publisher