After an uneven opening episode that set the stage for ongoing intrigue, The Council episode 2, “Hide and Seek,” hides its exciting aspects very well.
Title: The Council episode 2: Hide and Seek
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: May 15, 2018
It’s always fun to see different developers take on episodic adventures. The team at Big Bad Wolf presented an interesting first step out on their own with The Council back at its launch two months ago, presenting the case of our protagonist’s missing mother at a meeting of well-regarded diplomats in an 18th-century island estate.
Observation, conversation and information served as the equipment prepared for Louis de Richet; a member of a secret society called the Golden Order. Picking certain traits in a skill tree helped prepare you for subtleties and opportunities, while other options allowed you to exploit weaknesses of opponents to learn something you shouldn’t.
Episode 1 of The Council gave a solid look at a world of aristocrats and the battle of wills, while episode 2, “Hide and Seek,” squandered all goodwill as you ran around a manor solving puzzles and completing fetch quests.
The pacing of this second episode is entirely dependent on choices you have already made in The Council. Though the roads fork back together down the line, you can either end up spending an hour roaming the halls of the manor aimlessly playing detective or have a nine-minute conversation and get to the same point.
As such, players are subject to wildly different experiences starting out, with me personally trudging through the halls. It’s not only disagreeable due to the poor pacing, but because these conversations with the manor guests often force the camera in tight near a corner, producing garish visual bugs and clipping through the character models’ faces.
Production quality overall took a major decline in The Council episode 2. What started out as a jump from encounter to encounter throughout the manor, complete with engaging cutscenes and rousing debate encounters, turned into an adventure game decidedly geared towards puzzles first. I’m not opposed to that style of game; it’s just that it’s not what players were billed.
Even the voice acting seemed ho-hum in episode 2, with reserved expressions and inexplicably worse accents. With dialogue carrying the weight of gameplay, it is important to immerse people into the story. It doesn’t help when Frenchmen either have no linguistic traits or turn into a caricature. What made things worse is that characters like Piaggi and George Washington take a step back this time around.
The writing is superb, even if it is delivered in wooden tones.
What makes things frustrating when talking about The Council is that it is a fascinating video game in theory. Turning adventure mechanics into an RPG skill tree-based series of decisions create a Louis that uses his strengths wherever possible. Just because you don’t know how to speak Latin doesn’t mean you can’t deduce what a threatening passage has to say based on erudition.
Furthermore, “Hide and Seek” strings along the intrigue of its historical figures as its cast of characters. They’re all called to the manor by one of the most influential men in the world for a reason we still don’t know about 40% of the way in. Yet, it’s enough to draw in Napoleon Bonaparte to speak ill of Gudoy of Spain while players dance around the intricacies of international politics. The writing is superb, even if it is delivered in wooden tones.
It’s the lack of direction that brings The Council episode 2, “Hide and Seek,” down into the mud. There is a decidedly adventure-centric focus to the episode, solving a ton of puzzles throughout, and I do appreciate the need for external logic to conquer them. However, they are slapped together haphazardly. One minute you’re investigating a grizzly case, the next you’re told, “Nah, forget that person; this other idea is more interesting.”
It’s hard to say exactly why it’s so bizarre in its tonal dissonance without getting into spoiler territory, but it makes no sense when you think about a group of people reacting logically to the events surrounding an important historical figure. Regardless, bringing in more encounters with other characters will help keep these bloated three to four-hour episodes feel more evenly paced.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.