Fantastic Fairy TaleThe Wolf Among Us is the confirmation of the suspicion laid down by The Walking Dead. It proves that Telltale Games have a self fulfilling prophecy at their fingertips, the ability to elegantly copy, but not tarnish a formula of masterful storytelling and apply it to any viable host.
This time around, the suffocating morbidity of a zombie outbreak is replaced by another comic property, Fables, exploring a possible future for the various fairy tale creatures of our childhoods. The projected wholesomeness of these stories has been replaced with a modern adaptation that reflects their sinister background, just as the Grimm brothers intended.
During a vaguely mentioned disaster, the Fables were forced to flee to the human world, more specifically, Fabletown, Manhattan. Those that have difficulty blending in with “Mundies” (mundane humans) resort to magic known as Glamours to hide their true appearance. One of these Fables was The Big Bad Wolf, then, the human-eating monster of Red Riding Hood’s nightmares, now the town sheriff and protagonist of both the game and comic. I introduce you to the reformed Bigby Wolf. The driving force of the narrative is Bigby’s mission to solve the gruesome murder of another Fable, leading into a conspiracy of plot twists and red-herrings that make it a truly exciting ride.
Alongside this premise is the realisation of how deeply troubled these characters are. Never have traditionally child focused properties been appropriated in such a unique adult form. Among themes borrowed from TWD like death and violence, there are a host of vices that help define certain characters. Seeing prostitution, alcoholism, and poverty make the world believable while retaining a zany edge that produces moments of comedy and emotion that reflect the fantastic voice acting and writing that The Wolf Among Us leans heavily on.
“Never have traditionally child focused properties been appropriated in such a unique adult form.”
Gameplay is limited to quick-time-events that incorporate button mashing and timed reactions. While feeling less hands-on then TWD, there has been a distinct improvement in how these on-screen prompts are displayed and implemented, feeling more streamlined and less repetitive. The other form of gameplay is in small semi-open areas where Bigby investigates a location and gathers clues and items that can be implemented into the timed, multiple-choice conversation mechanic. On a keyboard, moving Bigby around with WASD can sometimes feel awkward to control, occasionally detracting from what is a cinematic and presentation heavy experience
And what a presentation it is. Returning from TWD is a distinct art style that emphasizes the uniqueness of the world. I found that while basically the same, this look was better suited to The Wolf Among Us, due to the more fantastical nature of the story.
Throughout the 2 – 2.5 hour episode, there remains various branching paths that can change the outcome of various situations, leading up to decisions that will most likely have far-reaching consequences as the rest of the episodes release. It may be a marketing trope in games, but The Wolf Among Us is definitely tailored by how you play; it’s just difficult to know how well this has been done without knowledge of the later content. At the end, you get treated to a screen that compares your major decisions with others that have played the game. This promotes multiple playthroughs, but personally, I became attached to the specific story I helped create, as was the same with the Mass Effect series, so replaying becomes strangely uninteresting to me.
My distinct memories of playing the game are to do with what happened to the characters in the story, and how much my choices mattered and had effects that changed the outcome. These are measured and pre-established by the developers. I didn’t survive that brutal bar room punch-up, Bigby did, I just helped, and if you think that’s an acceptable position to be in as a player, then Telltale’s latest offering will be a fantastic experience for you. This is definitely a title that’s worth sticking around with, provided the next four episodes maintain or succeed the level of quality put forward in the series’ first outing.
Episode one of Telltales latest offering - The Wolf Among us is the start of something fantastic. Definitely jump on this now.