The final chapter in The Council has a lot to live up to. Amazing endings are talked about forevermore around a water cooler on an afternoon coffee break, so with The Council wrapping up its enigmatic and absorbing story – one that I’ve generally loved this year – the question is can it really deliver on all that it has promised?
The four chapters before this finale have proven to provide a fascinating blend of world building, all whilst mixing historical, political and supernatural elements into an entertaining and, at times, spellbinding bit of gaming. The fifth chapter of The Council begins again from exactly where it left off after the fourth episode, and if you want to read my reviews for the other ones please do so because this won’t make much sense otherwise.
Basically put though, we find ourselves slap bang in the year 1793, playing the hero of the hour, Louis de Richet. He has come to a certain Lord Mortimer’s private island in search of his missing mother. The huge house at the centre of the action is holding a conference for some of the most famous people of the time and it is from there where proceedings move forward. In the first episode, you discovered secret rooms, unusual artifacts and a murder. That was followed in the second where you met the mysterious host Lord Mortimer and discovered some of this motives, finding a crypt in the garden and then finishing by seeing your mother holding a gun at your head.
In the third chapter, it all kicked off with some very clever political chess playing, asking you to take sides. It also became very clear about the ramifications and purpose of the council and a darker aspect about who Mortimer really was. Were there such things as demons? In the chapter before this one, the fourth episode, a lot of the big questions were finally answered, letting you in on exactly who you really were and the plans for the history of the world. The guests were left divided into two factions and Louis gained a strange power which allowed him to read minds and possess a host to do his bidding….
In this final episode, Louis is asked to persuade a number of guests from the opposite viewpoint of Lord Mortimer to come over to his side. You do this and an important vote about the control of the southern states of America is decided. Then a major twist occurs and Lord Mortimer plays his major joker card. What happens next is a brilliant mix of puzzle and a strange journey into someone’s mind. The final battle is set.
The first issue I had with The Council this time around though was that I had a problem opening any doors in the house, with them all locked off. I walked around for what felt like hours, thinking I was missing something and even resorting to checking out walkthroughs. In the end, I had to play the chapter afresh, without my old save, with the game happy to then let me progress. After spending hour upon hour with The Council over all previous chapters, it’s a massive kick in the teeth to see a previous save corrupting the final chapter. It doesn’t help matters that there are more than a few other little bugs in this episode too; minor lip syncing problems and some graphical glitches.
The story does deliver – at least for me – but the whole thing feels a bit rushed, failing to end the full game on a high. But saying that, it does tie up all the loose ends nicely, closing the epic world of intrigue and fantasy it was always destined to be. Away from the narrative and the RPG elements are still in play and it’s a pretty robust system that works well, however I do question whether all the leveling up and smaller bits of game management actually matter in the end.
The Council does look great though, with some brilliant character design and great interior layouts depicted in glorious graphic detail. However, Chapter 5 – and I understand it is a concluding piece – doesn’t bring much extra in terms of location except a sort of rebranding of existing areas which they do with aplomb. The voiceover work is still brilliant and the soundtrack is good, even though at times it does sometimes overwhelm the action on screen.
To conclude and The Council Episode 5: Checkmate isn’t quite as I hoped and the problems I had with my saved game has unfortunately marred my overall experience. That aside though and I have really enjoyed my time with The Council as a whole, loving the world, story and game mechanics throughout. As a full season, you’re certainly looking at something around the 4 out of 5 mark, however this single chapter fails to reach those heights.
On the whole though, I have to recommend The Council because there are tons of brilliantly original pieces of gameplay and design elements throughout.
Adios Louis, I hope to see you again soon.