Review: The Council: Episode 5: Checkmate

Posted 2 years ago by Patrick Hancock

This one is dedicated to you, Soulbow

For those who have not been following along on the community side of things, Destructoid user Soulbow has been consistently pestering me, for over a year now, to keep writing these reviews for The Council. I mean, this episode came out like forever ago, and I’ve been putting this off forever because my mental health is struggling enough as it is!

Luckily, Soulbow did his own reviews for each episode, which you can read here. If you are looking for my opinion on the final chapter of this episode, I guess you can continue, but you know what’s coming.

The Council – Episode 5: Checkmate (PS4, Xbox One, Windows [reviewed])
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Released: December 4, 2018
MSRP: $29.99 (All episodes)

This game sucks.

There has been so much potential wasted in these episodes. Things finally started to get interesting during the third episode and then nothing cool happened afterward. I mean, by now, we’re reading minds and manipulating people by exploiting their weaknesses and shit but it all feels so regimented and boring. There are a lot of neat systems at play here and they all feel underwhelming.

THE FIRST SCENE has terrible clipping issues. Part of me feels like they made all of these episodes before releasing any, and then just scheduled them all to release at a certain time. No effort has been taken to use the criticisms and make the game better, one of the main benefits of episodic gaming. Conversations have jarring cuts that make it hard to follow along, and there is even a line that says “She just needs time. I don’t mean to rush you, but time is short.”

I don’t think anyone behind this project cares about it very much. It’s a neat enough idea from the jump, with a strong series of systems in place for the player, but nothing works as it should. Even the puzzles in this episode continue to underwhelm. The best puzzle is one where you need to shuffle characters around because “so and so can’t be next to whatshername, but whatshername really loves Frank.” You know those puzzles, right? Yeah, they’ve been brain teasers for ages. So to recap, the best puzzle in this video game is just one that people have been doing for ages.

The “biggest” puzzle is one of the most tedious puzzles ever. This is one of those games that makes me think back to Thirty Flights of Loving, realizing just how much in games exists only to fill time. Walking slowly between a million different points of interest just to compare the lines of dialogue is not anyone’s idea of exciting and engaging gameplay. 

If you wanted any real form of closure, it’s not happening here. I was honestly shocked when the game ended. Not because of some amazing revelation that blew my mind, but just because The Council simply… ends. This is easily the shortest episode, yet it still feels like it drags at times. Now that is what I call an accomplishment.

That’s it. The Council is over. I am now writing the last words about this godforsaken series ever. I think there are two parts of my life: pre- and post-Council. I am not the same man I was when I started playing these games. It’s time for me to move on. Sayonara, The Council.

Oh, and you’re welcome, Soulbow. I love you.



Went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice it has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.

Patrick Hancock
During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've personally backed Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Dead State, SPORTSFRIENDS, Torment: Tides of Numera, STRAFE, and The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls. I have previously written for and continue to support them whenever possible (like HumbleBundle).