The Council has had me really split from the get-go. On one hand, the theme, the setting and the game’s mechanics are vastly interesting. On the other hand, the game hasn’t done a good job at keeping its pace on point, with poor voice acting and daft character animations holding it back to some degree. Now, here we sit at the midpoint. By and large, it’s now or never for The Council to truly shine as brightly as it can. The question is, however, is whether or not episode three (Ripples) can achieve more than its predecessor episodes have.
It’s hard to talk directly about the game’s story at this point without giving away any major plot points. What I will say is that if you’re interested in this series and wish to come into it without any prior knowledge whatsoever, you may want to look away now. Still with us? Great, let’s proceed. Ripples takes place directly after the conclusion of Hide and Seek. Players are once again thrown into the role of Louis de Richet as he maintains his secret mission to uncover the truth regarding his attendance at Lord Mortimer’s sprawling mansion.
I’ll give Ripples some credit that I didn’t feel dishing out in Hide and Seek or The Mad Ones, the voice acting is much better here than it ever has been. As a result, engagement with the several characters within actually feed more impacting and meaningful, lending the game a sharper edge as far as its narration goes. The general aim of the game is to guide Louis through the mansion and the plot via some good old investigation, interrogation and deduction. Despite the fact that attendees are falling left, right and center, the mysterious gathering that is The Council, goes on.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit jarring to be in the center of what seems like a murder spree, whilst everyone seems more bothered about the overall gathering, but this is well relayed later on and makes the scenario easier to digest. My only beef with the plot in this episode is that there’s a lot to take on board overall, making me often wonder why plot-threads were not better paced across the three episodes so far. Nevertheless, the core gameplay loop remains largely the same as what we’ve already witnessed in this episode journey so far. Which is only a good thing if you ask me.
You see, The Council shines at its brightest when you’re given the freedom to proceed and explore at will. Ripples may not entirely loosen the leash in this regard, but it does find its footing much swifter here than before. The gameplay typically amounts to deep conversations with the “guests” in an attempt to withdraw that all important information, seeking out clues through the innovative environmental puzzles, object finding, and using whatever character build you’ve put together to your advantage. In this department, I found Ripples to be the most balanced episode so far.
The shame in all of this is that it’s arguably taken too long for The Council to find its comfort zone, though you know what they say, better late than never. I was pleased to see the episode’s large pivotal puzzle crash down with unique consequences, solved or not. Telltale would do well to take a leaf from The Council’s book here, because unlike most of Telltale’s recent servings, The Council knows how to put the pressure on and, as seen in Ripples, will route you depending on your play. I hope all of the selected narrative roads that lead up to and out from now, are equally as meaty when it comes to consequences later down the line.
Sadly, the daft character animations are present once again, as are the framerate issues, the latter being less frequent than the former. We’re three episodes in and we’ve still got performance issues to contend with on top of poor animation? That really isn’t a good sign and I would hope that the developer has this ironed out as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong, The Council: Ripples is not unplayable, but it’s, at times, too hard to overlook nor forgive the game of shortcomings like this. With that to the side and in mind, I have to say that this is the best episode in the series so far. Hardly stiff competition, I know.
However, the game should take credit wherever it can grab it. Once again the mansion is stunningly detailed with a lot of regal diversity throughout. There isn’t much of anything new to gawp at, but Ripples uses its setting quite well regardless. The cast of characters also remain interesting and do well to uphold their plot-lines, and as such, the overarching story. Those of you that have been following the story so far will feel right at home and will likely enjoy the balance that Ripples brings. For me, now more than ever before (warts and all), I am quite excited to see what happens next.
It’s a shame to see that issues with the framerate and the daft character animations are still yet to be resolved, however, with that in mind, Ripples presents the best and most balanced episode in the series so far. I’ll credit the voice acting too, which sees a notable improvement throughout. The mansion is as stunning as always and the story that’s set within remains intriguing, exciting and fairly well paced.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.