Note: As new episodes for the game release, this review will be updated. As such, we aren't currently giving the game a proper score.
Describing last year’s The Walking Dead as a tough act to follow would be a monumental understatement. The hit not only told a wonderfully emotional story — with great characters and dialog to boot, but it also effectively breathed new life into point-and-click adventure games, an achievement developer Telltale has been working toward since inception. It proved that not only could the genre provide intense gameplay moments when called for, but that was capable of adequately hosting an engaging narrative. At the same time, it managed to generate a strong following of fans who have been clamoring for a second season to the episodic zombie drama. While that’s certainly in the works, for now fans will have to settle for another empathy-based choice-driven Telltale game, only this one takes place in a drastically different setting.
The Wolf Among Us takes place in the same universe as the Fables comic series, in which fairy tale characters secretly live adjacent to regular humans, and are nowhere near as charming as you might think. Among them is the player-character, Bigby Wolf, a “Fable” (as they’re called) who previously made his living blowing down the houses of unsuspecting pigs, and eating the grandmothers of crimson-shrouded little girls. Now in the real world, Bigby is known as the Sheriff, and is responsible for governing the actions of his fellow Fables. Making sure the strong ones don’t get into fights, making sure the monstrous ones maintain a human form, it’s all in a day’s work for our lycanthropian protagonist. And it’s all presented with an aesthetic very similar to that of The Walking Dead, but it takes-on a few shading upgrades, and a heavily increased amount of color-use, both of which I can comfortably get behind. The in-game violence matches-up well with the story’s film-noir tone, and is made even eerier by the comic-like styling.
Episode 1: “Faith”
After years of what could loosely be described as “peace” among the Fables, the unthinkable happens: a murder. The number of suspects is outrageous, with all of them having similarly compelling motives. The setting makes up for an interesting ride to say the least.
As The Walking Dead did before it, The Wolf Among Us boasts of its story being “tailored by player-choice” right from the get-go, and it’s crowing isn’t unfounded. Decisions are abound, but unfortunately none feel as dire as those in The Walking Dead. That said, it’s still very early-on in the story, and it isn’t really fair to juxtapose it with The Walking Dead. Unlike it, The Wold Among Us features characters who are well established in the comic it’s based on — which takes place after the events of the game. Unfortunately, this makes the game feel a bit inconsequential at times, at least for those who have read, or looked-into the comics. Don’t see a character in the comics? Maybe they wont last too long. See a character in the comics? Well, there’s probably nothing to worry about. It’s a tad bit odd, but as I said earlier, it’s still early-on. There’s still plenty of time for those signature Telltale curve-balls, and this first episode is far from bankrupt of them.
One boon, however, associated with having previously-established characters, is that there’s already a grand amount of documentation describing each character’s individual idiosyncrasies. This surely made Telltale’s job a bit easier, and ultimately made each character feel less robotic than some did in The Walking Dead. While I personally have never read the comics, I felt that voices matched characters wonderfully. And whether likable or not, each Fable proved to be thoroughly interesting, and a lot of fun to look at up against my understanding of his/her fairy tale counterpart.
While not perfect, this first episode, “Faith”, was a pretty exciting start. As such, I remain optimistic for the series’ future episodes. The episode was interesting, the characters were similarly interesting, and the dialog was incredibly smart. Let’s hope the remainder of the season can keep the trend up, while still managing to throw-in a few of those gut-wrenching Telltale surprises.
Episode 2: “Smoke & Mirrors”
It’s been over a quarter of a year since the Episodic The Wolf Among Us made its dazzling premier. It set up a story of intrigue: a killer of fables on the loose in a world where fairytale characters live in hiding among society as we know it. It was a long time coming, but the aptly-named second episode Smoke & Mirrors doesn’t only continue an interestingly set tale, but it reminds us that things aren’t always as they seem in a world of fables.
Understandably devastated, and angry thanks to the last episode’s conclusion, Bigby Wolf’s hunt for a brutal murderer with little taste for subtlety takes him to some of Fabletown’s darkest corners. While neither the journey nor the destination reached in this episode are dull, its duration is jarringly short. And, unfortunately, there is little time for character development by the time it’s all said and done.
Telltale frequently champions their use of player-decision in story-telling, but thus far, very few have been presented, and even fewer – nay, none have actually added any meaningful nuance to the story. It’s an incredibly compelling tale thus far, but with Telltale games – and Wolf Among Us especially being so light on actual “gameplay”, the lack of real, meaningful decisions makes one wonder why this couldn’t be a television show. Sure, there are dialog choices that shape what other characters think of you, and those small choices may add up to something in the long-haul, but at the moment, I don’t feel like I’m shaping this story very much… if at all.
Even so, it remains compelling and smart; the two things I want most from a TellTale game. The events of this episode made me even more eager to see where the narrative ends up, let’s just hope the next chapter wont keep us waiting quite so long.
Version Reviewed: PC
While, again, we aren't ready to score the game, we would, at this point, most definitely recommend it.