The Council Episode Five: Checkmate Review

When you come for the king you best not miss

After all the intrigue and political manoeuvring, it all comes down this final episode in The Council, and let me tell you that the title of Checkmate is incredibly apt, not just for this episode but for everything that has come before in this episodic adventure. That being said, this final episode isn’t as satisfying as it could have been.

Warning: There may be some minor spoilers ahead.

Since the revelations of the fourth episode, a lot of the relationship dynamics have changed and power has shifted. However, with all of this coming right at the end of the season, there isn’t much time to explore how it impacts all the different characters. Not only that, but the way it manifests itself in the final episode almost makes all the other character’s actions meaningless, since the main thrust of the story becomes so concentrated on a select few.

It’s a factor of The Council’s design, and a natural problem of trying to bring the story of a climactic point, that the game would hone in like this, but it means that characters that felt like they had more to offer are no longer pertinent to the story. While you gain a lot of knowledge about each of them at the end, there are only a couple you really need to focus on, with other choices not seeming to have a real bearing on the final plot point presented.

In one way it kind of makes things feel a little meaningless, but from a narrative perspective it really plays into the theme of choice that weaves through the story. Independence and the right to make choices become the central narrative point, and removing some of that agency or shattering its illusion is something that makes at least one of the characters fall into the exact kind of trap they hated. It’s tough to balance that as some of your own choices do matter, especially near the end, but at the same time so many of the choices you may have agonised over earlier do not.

The various major plot points in this final episode feel a little rushed, and the puzzles aren’t as interesting or exciting as ones that have come before. Checkmate feels a little like the developers really wanted to show how it all ends, but didn’t quite know how to wrap your player choices into that. As a result, the journey getting there feels a bit clumsy. And then it does end and depending on some of your choices you’re given an update about what happened to characters after the events of The Council.

What’s Good:

  • From a narrative perspective, the question of choice is explored well
  • The ending is okay
  • One character grows a lot in this episode

What’s Bad:

  • Feels a little rushed
  • Some choices don’t matter
  • Many characters pushed aside

Checkmate isn’t a bad ending to The Council, but it also isn’t the best way to wrap up the story. In part, this is down to pushing aside characters that had large roles early on in the series and narrowing the scope considerably to a select few. Additionally, the major plot twist from the previous episode and the events that followed deserved more elaboration instead of squeezing it all into one episode. Not only that, but the puzzles are hit and miss. As an entire series, The Council is worth playing, but the conclusion could have had so much more to explore.

Version Tested: PC – Also available on PS4 and Xbox One.

1 Comment

  1. I also felt like the final episode and specifically the ending were somewhat rushed, especially with how slowly the plot was developing in the previous episodes. Having said that, I played all five episodes back-to-back over the course of two days and started to feel really at home and comfortable inside of the manor the game takes place in and I enjoyed the general mood and atmosphere the whole game gave me.

    Their skill/class-based decision-making mechanic was a nice change from the usual Telltale or Quantic Dream game. And I’m also a sucker for stories that mix fiction with real life history, with a touch of the supernatural, (I’m looking at you, Metal Gear Solid) so that aspect of the game was right up my alley, too. If these developers were to make another game with this mechanic, I’d definitely check it out.

    There is one tiny thing that bothered me more than anything though, even though it was probably just put in as a joke you can easily miss. I’m keeping this vague, but there is a moment in a previous episode where you can feed a specific food to a pet and if you do, it dies instantly. It belongs to a certain character, so I thought it would have consequences but it’s never brought up in the future, even when said character is staring directly at the corpse of their former buddy. haha

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