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December 2018

The Council

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Release Date: March 13, 2018


PC Review - 'The Council' Episode 2 - Hide and Seek

by Cody Medellin on May 15, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

The Council is a new episodic narrative adventure game where your choices and character growth truly matter.

Buy The Council

Two months ago, the first episode of The Council was released. It promised a more involved take on the Telltale formula of adventure games, with real puzzle-solving going hand in hand with branching conversations to create a compelling experience. It worked rather well, but the real question was how prepared the team was to deliver new episodes in a timely manner. The premiere of the second episode, Hide and Seek, shows that the team is trying to complete the series in 2018. Based on this episode, it also shows that the game quality hasn't dropped at all.

To recap, you play the role of Louis de Richet, a member of the secret society known as The Golden Order. You've been invited to a party held in the manor of Lord Mortimer, a man with enough influence to have dignitaries like Napoleon Bonaparte and George Washington in his company. While this affair would be exciting, the real reason you accepted the invitation is so you can try and find your mother, who came to the island on unknown business. As you soon discover, her disappearance is the least of your worries.

The first episode established a good number of things to flesh out the world. It made quick work of introducing almost all of the major characters, giving you a good impression of their personalities. You learned that The Golden Order is a secret organization with members across the globe. You learned that your mother may be capable of some horrible things, and Lord Mortimer is hiding more secrets than originally thought. You discovered that Emily has a twin sister. Depending on your actions, you also learned that Elizabeth Adams, John Adams' daughter who supposedly dead at birth, was murdered and you've been accused of the crime.

The episode starts off with you finally meeting with Lord Mortimer and immediately being cleared of your crimes. From there, you're tasked with trying to find out who you think committed the murder. Not long afterward, you meet the final guest of the party, who informs everyone that King Louis of France has been beheaded, an event that will change the landscape of the country forever.

The two main traits that defined the first episode, dialogue battles and RPG stats, remain in Hide and Seek, but at a different frequency. You won't get too many of the former, but one of the first dialogue battles is tough since you can only commit one mistake before you fail the sequence. Despite this, every sequence remains exciting, which is the intended effect. As for RPG stats, trait development and the ability to equip more books for better skills starts to pay bigger dividends now. If you can get most traits to level one, the breadth of choices opens up nicely. You still don't have enough points to open up everything, but at the pace the game is going, don't be surprised if the full arsenal is available by the end of the third episode.

What will please adventure fans is the episode's reliance on more traditional elements. Traditional dialogue choices, where you select an answer without a timer or consequence, are a big part of the first half of the episode, where you have to investigate Elizabeth's murder scene and question all of the guests. Those who love a good story will adore the ability to use this situation to get a much better sense of the characters; none of the characters are as one-dimensional as you'd expect. The good news is that there's no single correct conclusion that must be used, so the story doesn't immediately lean in one direction.

The episode's second half puts the focus on puzzles, as there are quite a number to solve. Unlike most other adventure games, the solutions to the puzzles make lots of sense, provided you're observant enough and none of the observations seem absurd. Interestingly, one of the puzzles has a fail state that seems like it should be the end of the journey, but circumstances allow you to get bailed out anyway; it's a nice touch for those who may find that puzzle to be too tough.

By the end of the episode, you'll end up with the same number of questions as before, since some mysteries are solved but new questions arise. As before, the real hook is the end-of-chapter summary, which shows you the tasks you succeeded in and which ones you failed in. The alternative paths give you enough of a reason to replay the episode, since you can miss some parts but are forced to make some choices that feel like they'll have a big impact on the narrative.

For all of the things it does right in the story department, the game still has some stumbles in the presentation department. The camera acts up a bit more this time around, as it zooms in whenever you're close to a wall or object. The frame rate doesn't seem stable, as the game drops below 60fps even when not much is happening. Some loading during a scene causes the conversation to stutter. This also seems to affect subtitles, as there are some instances when they disappear before the dialogue is spoken. There are also some spelling errors, which you can easily miss if you aren't looking for them, but they drag down the presentation if you do notice them.

Hide and Seek maintains the level of quality demonstrated in the series premiere. Presentation aside, the classic and new systems in place make for some good gameplay moments, and the story remains as intriguing as ever. It answers a few questions while providing more queries to ponder. If the release schedule goes on as expected, it shouldn't be too long before the third episode arrives, and we can't wait to see what's in store.

Score: 8.0/10

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