With the very recent demise of Telltale games, the most well known and popular narrative adventure game developers, I feel other studios will begin to step up and become more well-known to fans of the genre. One such company is Big Bad Wolf, the developers behind the rather brilliant ‘The Council’ series. I’ve reviewed all four episodes so far, with the finale due around the end of November. Unlike recent TellTale games though, The Council utilises certain RPG elements in order to change the gameplay and also the narrative of the story – this encourages multiple playthroughs and varying your play-style.
However, the last two episodes didn’t really excite me as much as the first so I guess the question is, does The Council: Episode 4:- Burning Bridges deliver the same excitement and passion which was shown in the first episode? Let’s find out.
As usual, I would strongly advise you to only read the plot below if you’re okay with spoilers and/or you’ve already completed Episode 3. Also, I have multiple saves on my profile which I play through choosing different options, so I’ll refer to each as needed.
Burning Bridges‘ story doesn’t really alternate based on previous choices that much, which is pretty poor as all previous episodes have had some kind of narrative alteration based upon what you did in the episode before it. The story carries on directly from Episode 3, you have gained entry to the secret, rather elaborate, underground cavern which has a number of various ancient objects. *I’m being vague for a reason*. One of which is real and your first task is to speak to everyone and find out which one is the correct item – think Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail! Upon finding the item (you aren’t advised if it’s right or not in this episode), you’re tasked with returning it to your mother – depending on choices in Episode 3, certain scenes will or won’t take place.
Burning Bridges is all about discovery as you’ll be uncovering a number of truths, lies, deceits and manipulations. It’s one of the shortest episodes, at around 60-90 minutes, but it feels like more information and plot-points were crammed into this episode than all of episode 2 and 3 combined! I know that my description of the episode above stops rather abruptly, but talking more about what’s going to happen would basically be a massive spoiler as I would go as far as saying this episode is the most important one since Episode 1. As such, this is also the most linear and most narrative episode with fewer puzzles, once again, and not many choices which alter the current Episode.
So, let’s take a look at why I’m on the fence with Burning Bridges and why I feel certain things may have been shoehorned in just so we ‘know’ as exposition for next time.
What is The Council?
I’ve reviewed all four Episodes so far, I feel it’s most likely best if you just take a look at the previous reviews if you want an overview of what’s happened so far or an overview of the controls and how The Council operates as a game. There are a few really interesting mechanics, such as the RPG elements, and various abilities you can use during conversations to get the upper hand against the other characters. However, I explained it all in full in the previous reviews here:
As a very quick synopsis though, you play as Louis de Richet and you’re ‘trapped’ on Lord Mortimer’s island as you search for your mother. You’re joined by a group of highly respected and powerful individuals who meet there in order to discuss world events and ultimately agree on certain ‘things’ they can do to change the way the world is running. It’s also believed that certain individuals may not be mortal and there is more going on than people wish to admit, with a string of murders, lies, deceptions and mysterious events happening within the walls of Lord Mortimer’s manor. Seriously, if you haven’t picked this game up yet – I highly recommend the full season, you won’t be disappointed.
Burning Bridges is, in my opinion, the best episode in terms of story, the exact same in terms of bugs and glitches (which really isn’t acceptable), and probably the worst in terms of content, interactions, choices and puzzles. At the end of Episode 3, you were given a rather elaborate puzzle, a puzzle which could literally handicap you based on if you got it right or wrong. And thus begins my very first issue. As I mentioned above, I have multiple saves and I try to make them both as different as a can, if I pick to follow X in one, I’ll follow Y in the other, if I get the puzzle right in one, then I’ll purposely cock it up in my next one, etc…
As such, my second save file had me getting the final puzzle in Episode 3 wrong – thus being presented with a physical disadvantage. So, how does The Council deal with that? My mother is seen in the opening minutes managing to get the puzzle right, thus taking us to the same point as if I had got it right in the last episode (which I hadn’t), and only two people mentioned the fact I now ‘look’ different. If you’ve also had this event occur in the game, you’ll also be asking yourself, “why isn’t everyone asking what happened? Why are they all acting like they can’t see?” – the answer is because the choices and dialogue are almost identical in both pathways this time around.
I was really disappointed with this as previously the game would take previous actions and expand on what’s happened then build it into the story – Burning Bridges doesn’t seem to do that. Similarly, at a few points in the episode, you’re given a choice or what to say to people, as usual. However, I found that no matter what you did or said, you would end up automatically saying the same things and get the same answer regardless. Again, this is a big no-no! In previous Episodes, if you had a choice, it was a choice. Things would play out differently or the conversation would go off in a different direction. This Episode is really linear and it basically knows what you’re going to pick because regardless of what option you choose, it has the same outcome.
Sure, some choices are real choices, but those ones won’t reveal their consequences until the final episode (hopefully).
If you’ve played The Council, or read my previous reviews, you’ll know that I’ve been more and more disappointed with each Episode as they have either reduced the number of puzzles or made them quite difficult. I’m happy, and sad, to say that at least The Council is consistent in this approach as Burning Bridges has a total of two puzzles. The first, discovering which item is the real one, is quite a fun one, even if it’s a bit long winded. Technically you could just run over to any and pick them up, as there are no repercussions within this episode but I imagine next time you’re going to regret it if you took the wrong one! However, the last puzzle wasn’t really too hard other than the fact you can hardly see the clue/key you’re supposed to use in order to solve the puzzle, as the dialogue text covers up a lot of the text you have to look at!
Once again though, the puzzle is solved regardless of what you do, we won’t know if we’re right or wrong until next time. I actually like this – it means you are left in anticipation and the progression from one episode to the next is really good and very welcome. However, due to the lack of episode-specific puzzles, it really did make this particular one feel like a long cutscene with minimal interaction.
One thing which was quite exciting and interesting is the fact we are given a new ability during this episode (I can’t talk about it due to it being a massive spoiler if I do). I’m quite excited to see how this will come into play in the final episode but I’m also disappointed that it’s come this late into the game. Introducing new things near the end has always been a pet hate for me – it always reminds me of things like the Assassin’s Creed series where you unlock the best gear and new weapons when you finish the game – when you no longer need them!
Bugs and Glitches:
One of the biggest disappointments I’ve had with the recent releases has been surrounding the issues I’ve encountered whilst playing The Council on the PS4 Pro – Burning Bridges is no different. I’m like a broken record at this point but the developers don’t seem to take on board any of the complaints about the technical issues which we have been experiencing. Sure, there is nothing game-breaking, but it’s quality of life and really should be resolved as it makes the game less enjoyable to play in my own experience.
So, what’s wrong this time?
• First of all, we have a few cases of the voices not matching the subtitles again. This time it isn’t as crucial as the wrong combination being given like it was in Episode 2, but still – this kinda thing shouldn’t happen.
• We also have more cases of talking without the characters actually moving their mouths – I know the lipsyncing isn’t the best, but literally no mouth movement whilst talking is something that should have been fixed in Episode 2.
• As I mentioned before, the final puzzle actually places the dialogue options over the key you need to use in order to solve the puzzle, thus making it a bit hard to make out what the answer is.
• There are a few instances of ‘jumping’ in this episode. Going in/out of the cave causes you to ‘flip’ between both instances as it isn’t a real extension of the underground. There are also conversations with jumpcuts so obvious, it feels like I’m watching a Vlog on YouTube. This hasn’t been an issue I’ve spotted before though.
• Louis talks over the other guests and Mortimer. Usually, you don’t have the conversation options until the other person has stopped talking. In Burning Bridge, some appear before they shut up, meaning you can pick an option and have Louis literally talking over the other person and having both dialogues going off at the same time.
I’m literally on the fence with The Council: Episode 4:- Burning Bridges. On one side, the story is great as it reveals a lot and it has the largest amount of crucial plot-points than any other episode, it also has some really cool encounters with certain people based upon who is still alive from the previous episodes. However, Burning Bridges is still full of annoying bugs and glitches, the episode felt too linear, and considering the amount of information we got, it’s one of the shortest episodes and I felt it should have been longer in order to ‘play’ with our new abilities more.
If I take Burning Bridges and put it into the collection (like I will be doing in a final ’round up’ review once Episode 5 is out), then I would say this is the turning point and a major piece of the puzzle. But reviewing and looking at the episode as it’s own entity, ignoring the other episodes, I would say it’s technically the weakest but narratively one of the best. All I can say really is that I really hope the developers can deliver the final episode which this game deserves. Based on choices I’ve made and people who are still alive/dead in my playthroughs, I can see a possible three to five endings – I’m just hoping they don’t do a Mass Effect 3 and decide that none of our choices actually matter and just force everything down a funnel into one simple ending as I’ll be incredibly disappointed if that happens.
I would still highly recommend the series to all fans of the narrative genre, especially if you’re a TellTale fan and you’re looking to get your fix somewhere else now. If you pick up the complete collection, or you buy the Episode 2-5 pack, then you get two days early access to the final episode and it’ll work out a little cheaper than buying them all on their own.
Official Trailer (for the series):
The Council: Episode 4:- Burning Bridges is the most important episode in the series to date, yet the least interactive. This time around, the story is very linear and almost identical – regardless of your choices in the previous episode. Sure, you’ll have a few alternative scenes depending on who is still alive, but the episode doesn’t really change as much as previous ones did. However, with both of my playthroughs, I can feel something major will/should be different in the final episode as you make a few big choices this time around. With only two puzzles whose consequences won’t come to fruition until next time, this episode can seem more narrative-focused than interactive within it’s shorter playtime.
If you’ve been playing The Council so far, this is a major episode. Just don’t expect a lot of changes or differences until the finale in November.
The Council - Episode 4: Burning Bridges£5.79
- The strongest episode so far in terms of it's narrative and main story exposition
- Some interesting scenes to uncover based on who is still alive
- Access to a new ability
- The most important episode so far
- Only two puzzles but their consequences won't occur until next time - which is good as it keeps you in suspense
- Still has the same bugs and issues since Episode 1
- Still has no new trophies to give more depth to each episode
- Shortest episode with a lot of info crammed in
- Not much interaction as this episode is quite linear with little differences caused by choices