So, here we are again, placed back into a world of mystery, intrigue, backstabbing, literature, and art. A sort of action-packed Antiques Roadshow, mixed with murder, sex, and world domination. I loved the first episode of The Council with its storylines, characters, design and brave refusal to dumb down to its audience. Can Episode 2: Hide and Seek keep my level of interest up or is it like the terrible second album? Just a quick warning – prepare for spoilers ahead from the first episode.
The Council Episode 2: Hide and Seek begins from where we left off first time around and let me say from the outset this certainly isn’t just a one-hit wonder.
Set in the year 1793 you still play the hero of the hour, Louis de Richet, a sort of French occult expert/detective who has come to Lord Mortimer’s private island in search of his mother who has gone missing two days earlier. After the events of the last episode, which involved meeting a host of famous faces from the past, some bad occult goings-on and a collection of famous artifacts from around the world, my thoughts were racing about what might happen next. The last episode finishes with the arrival of the infamous Lord Mortimer and a killing, and so you start this one being asked to investigate the murder. The best thing about it is that you have carte blanche, access to all the rooms and the permission to interview all the guests. Let the fun begin.
Once again we see The Council mix that delicate balance between exploration and dialogue choices. What this game did last time around, that was very original, was to use the RPG elements of specialisation in a certain skill, like politics or diversion tactics that would help in particular situations. For example, a lock-picking skill helps in an obvious way whilst a knowledge of politics brings an understanding that can help you win over an argument with an individual. You have a number of skill points that you can use, but these get depleted during confrontations or engagements to achieve your desired outcome. You can replenish these points by eating some Royal Jelly dotted around the place, and there are times a Golden Elixir helps you resolve negative attributes that you might obtain. It has to be said, The Council is a lot easier the second time around, dropping you into this system with ease and allowing the player to utilise it fully.
By taking part in a confrontation or conversation with a character, you will examine and gain knowledge of their psychological vulnerabilities and immunities for your role in the interrogation. The confrontations are especially tense as you have only three chances to get the right result and gain the information needed. Again what makes this game unique is that you can fail in certain choices and things will continue, only for them to bite you later on as your decisions begin to have a direct impact on future episodes to come. After each chapter completion, The Council takes you through the things which you failed at and the possibilities you didn’t discover or find, making a replay a tantalising prospect.
This episode has some nice touches included, particularly a great murder investigation with some tough choices to make. There is a really hard section that involves manic puzzle solving, examining the price of art dotted around and collating it to Bible passages, before finally dropping you in to a tricky maze puzzle. The conversations and choices are still exciting too – even if you seem to fail to make the most of your interactions. Story-wise, Hide and Seek is very solid and isn’t afraid of making its strands complicated and verbose, however a shorter affair this time around, it doesn’t have as much impact as the first one did. But I’m still very excited about the future instalments.
As far as the visuals go and it’s pretty much the same as first time around; they are still very strong, with brilliant character design and opulent interior settings. It is nice to get the chance to head outside in this episode and the lighting is a treat. The recreation of the great pieces of art thrown around is a bit of a special feature, as are all the room designs and extra details. The soundtrack meanwhile is good, but at times it does get a bit too repetitive throughout. The voice over work is as excellent as before though, as is the writing in all its glorious detail.
Overall and The Council Episode 2: Hide and Seek is, once again, a very good addition to an experience that delivers a complicated, interesting and thoughtful story, constantly hinting at a much larger overriding narrative arc. The looks and writing of the game are still of a very high standard and the work put in excels throughout. The cliffhanger at the end is a good one and you will be engrossed throughout the journey. It may not quite have the impact the opener did, but it still manages to deliver a great episode that leaves you hungry for more to come.