He’ll huff and he’ll puff and he’ll…arrest some criminals?
Fairy tales living among us. That is, in essence, the premise of The Wolf Among Us. Based on the Fables graphic novel series by DC comics and Vertigo, we are taken to a world where fables have been booted from their stories and hide among us.
Telltale Games chose to give us another episodic adventure. Reminiscent of choose your own adventure novels and games of old, The Wolf Among Us is more of a story telling medium than what most people might consider a game. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to the player to decide. Regardless, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Telltale’s last popular title, The Walking Dead.
The Wolf Among Us
Console: Xbox 360, Playstation3, Mac, PC (reviewed)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: October 11, 2013 (PC, Xbox 360)/ October 15, 2013 (PS3)
MSRP: $4.99 (Per Episode) / $24.99 for the whole pack.
Players take control of a man named Bigby Wolf. More aptly, The Big Bad Wolf; Of such stories as Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. He has turned over a new leaf though, and given a new start after the exile. A sheriff now, he watches over the fables and acts as the law where mundanes cannot.
Set in a modern New York, the Fables seem to be doing whatever they can get by. Non-humanoid fables were sent to a place called The Farm, while the rest of them use magic spells called Glamours to blend in with the rest of society.
Bigby sets out to investigate a domestic disturbance called in by Mr. Toad but things quickly snowball. Especially once a decapitated head finds it’s way onto Bigby’s doorstep.
The Wolf Among Us seemed to be packed with interesting characters. Having never been exposed to the comics themselves, my faith in Telltale was rewarded with a rich and diverse cast. While there were a few characters that lacked depth, most of them seemed to be multifaceted and real. At least, as real as you can be in a story about fairy tales.
To top it all off, they are voiced pretty spectacularly, with one or two exceptions. The delivery and tone of the lines were spot on. The dialogue seemed convincing, not like the jarring monologues you sometimes see with bad writers.
At times, these characters made me laugh, feel sad, question their motives and want to smack them. From Collin, the pig that tries to bum off of you by using your shady past as leverage; to Snow White, the woman who just wants what is best for all the fables.
These feeling are further evoked by the extreme Noir stylization. Scenes transition stylishly, settings are often dimly lighted and everything has a very grungy look to it. I think Telltale made the right call in this department. On a whole, the game looks and feels how it should for the tone of the story.
The graphics appear to be a bit of step up from The Walking Dead but not by much. Textures are inconsistent at times. A character’s face might look amazing, but the hands might be pixelated messes.
Given the format, I think Telltale does an excellent job.
Now, how you interact with these characters is pretty limited. Given the format, I think Telltale does an excellent job. That being said, game play really boils down to quick time events and choices. Controls don’t stray much from pressing a key when instructed, choosing your dialogue option and investigating objects.
The Wolf Among Us can be broken down into a few distinct parts. There are usually long stretches of dialogue in which you make your choices, punctuated by action.
Action scenes typically have you either press a button (presented clearly on the screen) or have you line up your mouse to area on your screen and click. These are all timed and may or may not have disastrous consequences. You can fail, causing Bigby to die or otherwise screw up the story, but the worst this does is send you a few moments back in time to re-try the event.
Finding out the controls was never a problem due to the simplicity. There was no need for any hand-holding tutorials, which I was thankful for. Sometimes, the cursor didn’t move the way I expected during fights though, resulting in a few re-tries. Luckily if something happens in the world around you, pressing the space bar at any time will pause the game. A small addition, but a welcome one.
One minor complaint was that I either had to position myself perfectly to interact with an item, or click on it and wait for the painfully slow animation to finish lining me up exactly how the game wanted it. It wasn’t a large enough problem to annoy me much during my first play through, and honestly I’m picking nits at this point.
My favorite parts were actually the investigations. At various parts in the story, you are asked to examine a crime scene and piece together the clues to find out what is going on. Whether the story hands you the answer or not, I found it interesting to try and find out what happened. At one point, you can even attempt to catch a character in some lies by examining your surroundings. You can also point your finger at who you think the culprit is, though at this point what impact it has on the story is unknown to me.
These interactions may be a bit too linear and telegraphed, but they at least try to make the player participate by using their brains. Even if it is going to happen the same way, it lets the player feel smart. Even better, sometimes your choices can come back and bit you later. For instance, giving money to a stranger may lock you out of a “good” option later.
Score: 7/10 – Review Scale
Although flawed in some regards, I think The Wolf Among Us succeeds in what it is attempting to do: an interesting story, Involving the player, simple and intuitive controls, and characters I care about. Choice, or even the illusion of it, continues to captivate me.
Overall, I think this game is worth purchasing if you are in to interactive novels or other story telling mediums. If you liked The Walking Dead and and are hungry for more, look no further.
If you need more interaction, direct control in your game, or aren’t that interested in the concept, you might want to look elsewhere.
Me? I’m eagerly anticipating the next episodes. I want to see where this goes.