Editor’s Note: There are potential spoilers for The Council - Episode 3: Ripples below.
In the last episode, we got many of the answers that we were looking for, primarily relating to Louis’s mother, Sarah de Richet. However, what seemed like a very straightforward narrative took a sudden turn into the supernatural, involving demons and their ability to influence some of the most important and key historical figures in history. Even though this episode, Burning Bridges, features less of the invited guests, and a whole lot less action, I consider it one of the most powerful episodes yet.
The fourth episode in The Council picks up immediately after the stunning conclusion to Episode 3: Ripples. If you remembered your gospels (or happened to get lucky), Louis didn’t lose one of his hands trying to solve the final puzzle to open the secret door. While I did play through the episode with both hands intact, I did restart the episode failing the final puzzle in the previous chapter, and conversations didn’t seem to vary as much as I would like. I mean, one of the guests loses a hand (just like his mother) and no one bats an eye. Lord Mortimer plays a significant role, progressing much of the narrative through his conversations with you, especially at the mid-way point in the episode where he drops a major plot point. On top of that, instead of action-focused gameplay, this episode features plenty of confrontations, much more than any other episode.
Considering the number of items that can be scavenged throughout the mansion will be dwindled by now if you relied too heavily on Louis’s abilities, confrontations can be that much more difficult. Typically you’ll be allowed multiple choices at succeeded, but here, the developers have raised the stakes, offering you only a couple or even one chance to succeed. Considering the fact the game has delved deep into the belief of the supernatural, you won’t know who can be trusted. This makes succeeding that much more critical, especially when other guests start asking about the Holy Lance (and some wish to acquire it themselves).
The first real challenge involves searching the deep reaches of the catacombs for the right Holy Lance or the Spear of Destiny. Of course, there are nearly a dozen of options, and you don’t want to pick the wrong one. While you can roll the dice, the game does offer subtle clues on where to gather vital information. There is no way to tell when you found everything, and some information may be untrustworthy, so it is well worth your time to search every nook and cranny in the mansion. I think I spent almost two hours gathering info before making my decision, but I’m sure that is a bit on the long side. For the first time in the series, the developers introduce a new ability that comes in handy in the second act and should provide much-needed assistance in the upcoming final episode. I'm intending to keep it a secret as it is deeply connected to the true nature of some of the guests. I can say that it does offer a chance to get inside the mind of others, but even then you must be careful. It also explains all of the visions (and bloody noses) that plagued Louis during the first three episodes.
On the technical front, Burning Bridges doesn’t fare much better than the previous episodes. When interacting with a specific object, Louis’s inner monologue sounded like a high-pitched mouse. Other times you’ll notice that mouths fail to move during conversations (either staying closed or open). One time it even seemed like Louis was meant to say something in the middle of a debate, but remained quiet. The frame rate doesn’t appear to be improved at all, especially during cutscenes and when running through the mansions second floor.
Being the penultimate episode in The Council, Burning Bridges has set the stage for what should be a stunning conclusion. The newly added ability, which I won’t spoil, combines both a new gameplay mechanic and helps fill in some missing gaps in the narrative. It also opens up all new questions and hopefully things can be solved in the final episode without feeling rushed. If it weren’t for the continued technical failings, Burning Bridges would be scored higher. It was a shame that some of the most pivotal choices in the game don’t alter how all the other guests react to you.
Note: The Council - Episode 4: Burning Bridges was reviewed based on a digital Xbox One copy of the game, provided by the publisher.