It’s heartbreaking to play a game like The Council which offers so much promise, yet ultimately fails to deliver on expectation with Ripples.
Sadly, The Council is dangerously approaching that territory with its biggest misstep yet. Ripples finally advances the plot in an interesting way and shows glimpses of what made The Mad Ones so good, but it is bogged down with horrendous technical issues and inconsistencies which can’t be overlooked.
Big Bad Wolf Studios have put their foot on the gas, but clearly haven’t figured out how to steer the vehicle.
So, the good news is that The Council has finally found its narrative footing. It takes until the halfway point of this episode to get there, meaning over ten hours of the game have been quite uneven, and you have to endure a lot of long-winded waffle. But there’s a revelation which changes the goalposts significantly and puts an interesting spin on what The Council actually is.
I won’t spoil anything for you, but it’s a twist which makes sense based on everything you’ve seen so far and actually creates some interesting discussion points for the remaining two episodes. Good work, Big Bad Wolf, you got there in the end.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d got there, I was frustrated, confused, and a little bit peeved with the game as a whole because this episode is absolutely riddled with technical problems from top to bottom.
The most concerning of which is that some of the choices I’ve made through the episode and those prior, somehow, appear to have been forgotten. This revealed itself late on when I spoke to Napoleon about another character and Napoleon acted as if I’d sided with him on a particular subject when I’d actually gone against him.
The decisions centered around the main plotline seem to be intact, but once or twice I picked up on some baffling responses based on smaller interactions I’d had that did not fit in with my story. A narrative game like this lives and dies on that branching storyline, something Telltale and Don’tNod have mastered over the years. Sadly, Big Bad Wolf’s attempt has already started to come undone in The Council.
Another big problem is the voice acting is completely out of sync. During Ripples, I had to sit through long pauses of silence where there should have been a line of dialogue. On other occasions, the actor would start reciting their line but then it would be skipped over entirely or interrupted by another character. There was even a point where a line of dialogue was mixed up and actually in the wrong place so it came across out of context.
I’m fairly sure Big Bad Wolf are trying to create the illusion of characters talking over one another while also capturing their inner thoughts, but all combined, it fails spectacularly.
To make matters worse, the subtitling is completely and utterly wrong. It’s not just spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes either. Several times during the game a character will actually say the complete opposite of what the subtitles say. One time, for example…
Louis says “Jesus went to Nain”
The subtitles say “Jesus never went to Nain”
And this actually has an impact on the plot and puzzles because another time I wasn’t exactly sure how many items I had to collect to fulfill an objective. The subtitles told me I needed to collect five items, while the character speaking told me I had to get six. Bonkers!
Ripples also seems to suffer from a visibility issue. As the episode is taking place at night, there were a few times I couldn’t see character models or items to interact with despite having my brightness up to full. While I respect the continuity from a narrative perspective, it’s hard to appreciate it when you’re trying to play the damn game.
And the smart mechanics which originally seemed quite creative and intriguing have become convoluted and long in the tooth. Now it feels like you’re missing out vital information during every exchange, no matter where you’ve been placing your talent points. Royal Jelly can help you out most of the time, but unfortunately that has started to become a rare commodity.
Suddenly, The Council has gone from being a game you organically want to replay to see how things might have turned out differently, to a game that frustrates because of its insistence on withholding things to forcefully maintain an illusion of secrets.
But, look, Ripples isn’t all bad. There’s a few scenes in here that really give the game the kick in the ass it needs, one in particular with The Duchess is very memorable and no, it’s not what you think!
As we also saw at the end of Episode Two, Louis is finally reunited with his mother, Sarah, but that exchange does not go the way you might expect. Players will also learn a good deal more about the enigmatic Mortimer which puts everything they’ve previously learned into question.
Basically, Ripples turns everything on its head in The Council, purposefully for the narrative, involuntarily in the technical department.
The good news is the story is finally going in the right direction, despite the poor and abrupt ending. The bad news is that Big Bad Wolf have some serious problems to overcome for the last two episodes.
If lines are being skipped and the subtitles are unreliable, how can they tell a story? And even then, if decisions are being ignored, what even is the point? That completely wipes away the illusion that every action has a consequence.
Ripples has inadvertently exposed The Council at a core level and leaves us deeply concerned for its future.
+ Some of The Council’s best scenes to date
+ Narrative finally going in the right direction
– Decisions forgotten by the game
– Voice acting out of sync
– Subtitling inconsistent with voice acting and often wrong
– Visuals suffer with contrast and brightness issue
– Gameplay mechanics becoming convoluted and frustrating
– Framerate and clipping problems remain
– Boosting items are becoming harder to find
The Council Episode Three – Ripples
5 out of 10
Tested on PC