The Council’s conclusion comes swiftly, leaving some plot threads hanging.
Please note that since each episode of The Council features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our complete thoughts on that, refer to our review of The Mad Ones.
The Council’s finale episode, entitled Checkmate, comes on the heels of the penultimate episode’s revelation that series protagonist Louis is a demon spawn with magical powers. As the finale opens, a number of plot threads feel like they’re coming to a head, from that huge reveal to the pending confrontation with Lord Mortimer to all the unanswered questions about The Council and Louis’ family heritage.
What happens, though, is a relatively short episode — only about two hours of gameplay, which is shorter than the 3-4 hours of previous episodes. There is a final confrontation, there are some bloodline revelations, and the game’s core mechanic of powers and ability points via an RPG system in an interactive fiction setup, all of that is there.
The problem is that you get only the bare bones level of resolution with any of that. There’s some choice, but the variations are little, and a lot of the hows and whys behind those actions, even with a dip into the metaphysical world, leads to either head scratching or plot holes.
In fact, the episode is so short and relatively unfinished that it feels like it could have been tacked onto the previous episode sans the final moments. In between, there could have been enough space to let various plot threads come together, breathe out an appropriate conclusion, and give the story proper weight.
Instead, The Council concludes with an enjoyable but ultimately unsatisfying few hours. Which is fitting given the series took a lot of goodwill from its initial innovative episode and squandered it with repetitive puzzles, up-and-down narrative choices, hideous character design, and uneven voice acting.
In short, the experience works better as a tech demo than a successful game. Hopefully this formula — which definitely works — will be picked up by other teams that can deliver better execution on the overall package.
The Council’s final episode is a decidedly mixed bag that squanders the potential that the series faced as a landmark game changer for interactive fiction. It crosses the finish line, but struggles to do so and is ultimately more memorable for technical innovation rather than its narrative.