One step forward, one step back. Honestly, what’s the story with The Council? I mean, literally. After Episode Three: Ripples went forward with the infamous council we have all been waiting for (that’s me), offering nice powerplays and some intriguing surprises, Episode Four: Burning Bridges feels like a cheap thrill novel where you can’t stop reading because there is some outlandish revelation waiting at every turn, leaving you to ask yourself: WTF?
That said, there will be SPOILERS. Also, ramblings. Also, this is not a full playthrough, I did not want to spoil everything.
No structure, more surprises
Remember that I praised Episode Three: Ripples for bringing some structure into the storytelling? Episode Four: Burning Bridges seems to have only one goal: to turn pretty much everything we have learned so far on its head. Is that a good thing? Well, you sure get a lot of thrills out of this episode. Once I had finished it and everything had sunken in, though, I grew angry. Really angry. Because of the same thing that had me annoyed about Episode Two: Hide and Seek: Leaving the obvious questions unaddressed is not to be confused with clever writing.
To be precise, if Lord Mortimer mentions his father every other sentence during a particularly detailed conversation with Louis, WHY is there no option to ask who exactly this ominous patriarch is? Not that the game doesn’t hint at it, the artwork in Lord Mortimer’s reception hall and study speaks for itself, here.
So, let’s recap: The game started out with an ominous Golden Order seeking some dangerous ancient book, the Necronomicon or or Al Azif (I have never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, so I have no idea what that means). Said search led first Sarah de Richet and then Louis to Lord Mortimer’s island. There, a council was set to take place, one that would influence world politics immensely. It also became apparent that Lord Mortimer and Sir Holm did not see eye to eye on the matter.
Which is where their guests came into play. Each one of them were influential representatives of powerful rulers and governments. Some were also members of the same order Louis and his mother belong to. There were some subterfuge, some double-dealings and also nervous breakdowns, but everything pointed in one direction.
Then, there were daemons.
There be demons. Lots of them.
In the last chapter of Episode Three, Louis met with his mother, who revealed to him that she believes that Lord Mortimer and Sir Holm are, in fact, ancient demons, capable of controlling the minds of humans.
I can’t say that comes as a surprise, and neither does the revelation that Louis himself is a demon, spawn of Lord Mortimer, no less, which makes Sir Holm his uncle. I actually thought his conversation with his “father” quite fascinating. Then everything went sideways.
But, let’s start at the beginning.
Who is Sarah de Richet? In fact, who is everybody, really?
Episode Three: Ripples ended in the underground chapel, where Louis had to solve a riddle in order to open a secret vault. There, his mother hoped to find the spear that pierced Jesus, the only weapon capable of stopping the demons’ nefarious plans. Whatever those are. Remember, though, that she lost her arm when she herself tried to open it…
Unfortunately, I did not get the combination right and so Louis wakes up in this fourth episode minus one arm. Having witnessed her son’s failure Sarah at least learned how to open the vault safely. Upon hearing her explain how she did that, I felt a little betrayed because I was sure I had done exactly the same. Well. Apparently not.
Hunting for the spear
Trauma wounds don’t seem to affect the de Richets very much. Which is why the two of them enter the hidden cave, where stone coffins and spearheads are aplenty. Sarah excuses herself and tasks Louis with finding the right spear then join her at the wharf, where she will go to prepare their departure. They shall return, she claims, rested and better armed. She also cautions against engaging in any conversation with the demons on the way out. Louis is to grab the right spearhead and make a run for it.
Since Louis has no clue what the spearhead looks like, he goes to ask Piaggi for help. But when he finds the cardinal, precariously balanced on the very edge of the dining hall’s open terrace and in obvious distress, something is wrong. Piaggi first refuses to look Louis in the eye and when he finally turns around, his nose is bleeding. Assuming that Piaggi is a demon himself or possessed by one in that moment, I did not want to give anything away including what I needed the spear for and so the Confronation failed.
I then decided to look for clues in Mortimer’s study and went back to the chapel, armed with the knowledge of the spearhead being copper-lined and leaf-shaped. There are several copper-lined and even leaf-shaped spearheads lying around in the strange graveyard. Only one does not bear the Christian symbol of the fish, but the Egyptian symbol of Ra. That was the one I picked, since the original spearhead could not have been imprinted with the Christian symbol of the fish. We shall see if that was the correct one. Or if it even matters, considering the choices I made.
Making my way out – almost
Having secured the spearhead, Louis hurries off, only to be confronted by an angry Bonaparte. Flustered, I failed that Confrontation also, but got the chance to knock him out before he could arrest Louis.
Next, Louis passes through the reception hall and of course Mortimer is waiting for him there. If there was an option to make a run for it, I did not see it, so I chose to speak with Mortimer.
Now, not only does Mortimer confirm that Louis is a demon and, in fact, his son. Surprise! He can now also read the minds of men and demons, though the latter is considered very bad form. Mortimer proceeds to reveal that there are several families of demons controlling the fate of mankind. And he tells Louis that Sarah is not, in fact, his mother then sends him off to confront her at the wharf.
That’s a lot to take in, right? Yet that’s where things went crazy.
An unexpected encounter, or two
Hurrying to the wharf, Louis finds Sarah dead (apparently, but, you never know, she was shot before), shot by Emily. Of course I decided to use my mind-reading powers, only to find that I was mistaken in the first place.
Poor Sarah. Well, given the fact that she apparently tortured Elizabeth Adams, maybe I am wrong in pitying her. But hey, come on! This old lady loses her arm, traipses around the island for weeks and then is shot by Emma Hillsborough, Emily’s evil twin sister, somehow survives, uninjured, mind you, and then is shot AGAIN by Emma, who I thought I had killed in the previous episode, with Emily taking the fall for it. So, yeah, it appears that I made the wrong choice back in Episode Three.
Of course I had Louis take revenge and kill Emma. Or so I thought.
Overwhelmed by the happenings, Louis retreats to his room and tries to come to terms with the fact of who he is. His uncle pays him a visit and sheds some light on demon society. He neglects to divulge the identity of his siblings (oh, right, Louis doesn’t ask, does he) or that of their patriarch (this time Louis does ask).
Sir Holm also mentions that he thinks democracies overrated, a view not shared by his brother, hence the siblings’ powerplay. Since Louis sided with Holm in the third episode, I had Louis agree to that and also renew his support of his uncle. Holm then sends Louis to speak with his father and learn of his intentions. Lord Mortimer has some ideas on why democracies are a better tool for controlling man. He also reveals his endgame.
Oh, and I found Emma Hillsborough. Who I thought I had just killed. Turns out she is a daemon too. And therefore Louis’ sister. She also does not seem quiter herself.
Forging that letter
So, demons like to mess around with people’s heads, which is exactly what Mortimer asks of Louis. He ist to take control of Piaggi and forge a report meant for the Pope. Louis can either discredit Holm, Mortimer or both. I chose the third option.
To lend credibility to the letter, Louis has to encode the date, using a specific code. The key to the code is tattooed into the palm of Piaggi’s left hand. To crack it, you have to match letters and numbers, but, actually, I rather believe you have to match the letters to the numbers only to get started, the rest is counting stars. Yes indeed, the stars that decorate the edge of the tattoo.
Let me explain: In the letters found on Piaggi’s desk, it seems that the day is not encoded. But that is not quite right. The day determines where you have to start counting stars. An example is the 17.01.1793, encoded EHHBCF. Notice that the letter E is written underneath the 0. Now, number 17 corresponds with the letter E, so that is where we start. Clockwise, count the stars, and keep on counting, even if there are no stars. H is next to E and that counts for one star. So EF stands for 01, see? Now, moving clockwise and starting with E each time, count as many stars as the number written above the letter tells you to. You will find that this method will correspond perfectly with both dates on the existing letters. So I decided I’d go with that.
Now, the date Louis has to encode is the 24.01.1793. So you start on the letter A, which corresponds with the number 24 and write it underneath the 0. Count one and you have F. And so forth. The resulting code is AFFDEI. I hope it is the correct one. Whatever it is good for.
Tough decisions to make
Finding out you are a demon, or daemon, is tough, and Louis has to decide how to deal with this. Does he count it as curse or blessing? And, when the time comes, does he choose to embrace his daemonic nature, or does he remain human?
I thought Louis being a daemon is a curse and still decided he’d have to embrace what he is. Tough luck.
We shall see how The Council plans to conclude this adventure once the last episode is out. Am I excited for it? You bet! I’ll just go with the flow. Maybe, in the end, it will all make sense. Even to me. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Update: Here’s my review of The Council, Episode Five: Checkmate.
Until then, keep on playing!