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Posted on Dec 26th 2014 at 12:00:00 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC, Wolf Among Us, Telltale, game review, 2014


The Wolf Among Us
Telltale Games, 2014

I've been a fan of Telltale's adventure games for a while now. In a sense, their adventure games not only reinvigorated the genre - they redefined it. You could almost start talking about adventure games in a Pre- and Post-Telltale way. And though they had plenty of good and interesting games leading up to it, it's hard to not point at The Walking Dead as the moment where they fully nailed the formula. In The Walking Dead, the user interface was as equally as well-designed for a controller as it was a mouse. The story was strongly written with characters you could care about and who you felt like you got to know well. And most importantly, your decisions seemed to matter, and actually shaped the rest of the story going forward. This device seemed even more important when Season Two of The Walking Dead was released and you realized that many of your decisions and experiences carried over from the first game if you had a save installed.

The Walking Dead: Season Two and The Wolf Among Us finished up their episodic runs and saw retail releases as finished products around the same time this past year. And truth be told, I was far more interested in the former title. I couldn't help but want to see what happened next to Clem, and I figured that a game about a zombie apocalypse would interest me far more than one about fairytales. How wrong I was. [Disclaimer: It is nearly impossible to discuss a Telltale game without any sort of spoilers being involved. Though this review will stay clear of divulging anything that feels like it would truly 'spoil' the game, just mentioning characters, settings and the tiniest of plot points will indeed be spoilers to some. You've been warned!]




The story of The Wolf Among Us is intended as a cannon prequel to the comic book series, Fables. You play as Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown in 1980's Manhattan. The idea is that all fairy tale characters are now living in Fabletown, NY having escaped their original homeland. Here in the real world, they must use glamours to make themselves look like regular humans ("mundies") to fit in. It is up to the mayor, Ichabod Crane and his office, consisting of Snow White and the ex-Big Bad Wolf (our sheriff), to keep Fabletown safe. But times are tough. The poor economy of Fabletown means that glamours are hard to pay for.  You can't get a job if you don't have glamours, and you can't get glamours if you don't have a job. This sort of conundrum leads to many of our beloved fairy tale characters branching out into the more "unsavory" sides of town. And while everything may look like bright, neon bliss from the outside, the emergence of a serial killer who starts beheading some female residents of Fabletown mean that Bigby will start to slowly uncover the seedier underbelly of the community.

The full plot is stretched out over five episodes, like most Telltale games. Each episode runs around two hours in length or so depending how you might approach it. These kind of bite-size episodes are really a cool way to play a game. Personally, I always wait until the full season is done before I start one up, as I like knowing that I can plow through the entire game by simply playing an episode a night for a week.


Much like in The Walking Dead, the choices you make here will shape your experience. Though the story here feels a bit more subtle in how they affect you. Much of the decisions seem to be about Bigby at odds with himself, always conflicted about shaking his Big Bad Wolf image of the past and doing what's right for Fabletown, even if that means he must show his teeth in order to do so.

The game adds in some quick time events to include an element of action to its mostly adventure blueprint. Interacting with the world around you is resolved by clicking on hot-button items to solve puzzles, but the real delight comes from interacting with other characters. Do you choose to be tough or sympathetic with a fable when he can't afford glamours? That sort of thing. One thing is certain, your image as sheriff certainly matters, and the game slowly reveals a sort of Haves vs. Have-Nots tension within Fabletown.

I think that these deeper tones are what makes the game so compelling. And in playing the game, I couldn't help but be reminded of David Lynch's Blue Velvet. The idea that these are story-book characters that have things so dark lurking underneath is fascinating. Hearing Mr. Toad swear up a blue streak because he's living in poverty, or seeing the Little Mermaid making ends meet via prostitution is all a bit jarring. These storybooks feel even darker when urban legends such as the Jersey Devil and Bloody Mary are brought into the mix. Yet, it's all done with such brilliant writing that it meshes wonderfully and creates a world that is so believable that you will actually care about these characters.


Another nice touch in The Wolf Among Us is that as your investigation goes on, you will slowly unlock background stories about the various fables that you're interacting with. In this sense, you learn more about these fables and get to flesh out the story further should you feel so inclined. As I've said earlier, I don't want to spoil any of the many twists and turns that this game will unveil to you. Just be aware that there are plenty. In usual Telltale fashion, each episode will end with some reveal or cliffhanger that will keep you coming back for more. Furthermore, the ending will haunt you and send you off to sit in a quiet corner somewhere to think about what you've just experienced. The Wolf Among Us is a truly wonderful game that I cannot recommend enough to fans of the genre. What's more - I now think it's possible that perhaps The Walking Dead isn't the apex of what Telltale can accomplish and am left looking forward to what else they might have in store for us in the future.


-Images courtesy of Jungle_Toad.


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Comments
 
This was an enjoyable read. I played The Wolf Among Us and really enjoyed it. A friend played through his version of events with me so it was interesting to see how things differed between our individual paythroughs. Plot points remained the same, but certain characters reacted differently to Bigby or were alive who had died in my game.

When Walking Dead came out I was very excited because it was a breath of fresh air for me. Then when this was released I had more reason to be excited. These quieter thought-provoking games were an appreciated change from high octane shooters or grind-tastic RPGs. I was very impressed with what Telltale produced but partway through Wolf Among Us I started to lose faith in the developer. The wait between episodes grew longer and bugs (while minor) were never fixed. It was worth the wait, but boy did we season pass holders have to wait. Now that Telltale is taking on Borderlands and Game of Thrones I can see that they've grown a lot, and probably too quickly. I worry that they won't be able to juggle all the projects. I feel like something will suffer from Telltales' ambitious undertakings.

I'm not downplaying the developer at all; I think they're capable of great things. I just hope they didn't bite off more than they can chew.
 
I look forward to eventually diving into my copy. I am a fan of the Fables series, and Bigby is one of the most interesting (next to Jack of Fables) characters in the whole series. Telltale made me a fan with Walking Dead, and if this game is anything like that one, I wont be dissapointed.
 
I bought this on PS3 a few weeks ago. It was the first new game I had purchased in over 10 years!... Maybe 15. Really looking forward to playing this with my wife.
 
@singlebanana: This game is great when played with someone else. I like hearing about how people react to and interpret the events of the game differently.

It's exciting to see a revival of the point-and-click genre.
 
I really enjoyed plaything through this, and the plot played out in an interesting way. I'm hoping that they do another one of these in the future.
 
I am a huge fan of the Fables and loved this game. Very true to the comic and the characters. It is weird to hear the characters voices since you read them in your mind a different way but the voice acting was really well done.
 
I recently picked this up on Vita, looking forward to diving into it.

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