Telltale Games is back and as strong as ever with its famous cartoony cel-shaded graphics. Pushing aside Zombies for a bit, this time Telltale tackles the well-known (and not so well-known) fables in a modern day setting based off Bill Willingham’s comic books series Fables. It’s certainly an interesting premise and has grabbed a lot of people’s attention. But does The Wolf Among Us hold up to the renowned Walking Dead series, or does its bark fall short?
The Wolf Among Us begins in Fabletown, which is located in New York City. The Fables have migrated into modern-day civilization by using magic called Glamour. It makes them appear human allowing them to blend into society. It doesn’t take long for the game to show you that the setting is a gritty one. With dirty streets and small stained apartments, the picture is clear: this is not a nice little town for the charming fairy tale characters we all know and love. Add in some perfectly themed music that feels a few decades old, and you have a dark Film Noir type city filled with bad blood from the old days.
You play as Bigby, better known as The Big Bad Wolf. You are not a well liked person (wolf technically) among the other Fable characters primarily because of your past. Every kid knows the Big Bad Wolf, yes it is the same one that blew down the Three Little Pigs’ houses, and let’s not forget Little Red Riding Hood. Not the nicest of protagonists to play as, but it’s a refreshing take on the otherwise do-gooder hero that gamers are so often forced to play as. Bigby is no longer a bad guy—well that’s up to you actually. He’s not the villain at least, since he is now the sheriff of Fabletown, and is trying to keep order among all the Fables. It’s not an easy task with all the bad blood boiling from the old days. It only gets worse when someone is murdered, and it’s up to Bigby to figure out who did it. The story’s alluring mystery really hooks you in from the very beginning and never lets you go until the credits roll.
The modern recreation of these fairy tale characters create an amazing sense of intrigue mixed with recognition. You hear a name and immediately know who it is, and if they have a problem, you are able to understand why that may be so. It cuts away the need for constant character development, since the characters have already been developed in our minds from our childhood. Don’t worry, the characters aren’t stuck in some format that is expected of them. The new take on our favorite childhood fables in modern times certainly keeps you engaged in this game. Some characters have fallen greatly from the stories we know, and it radiates an all too realistic feel to what may happen to a fallen icon.
A character will only be successful if the script holds up, and it most certainly does. With great voice actors to breathe further life into the story, the script really makes the story come alive, and brings you right into the drama that is unfolding. Every line delivered feels like it was plucked out of a mystery novel or dark film noir movie with you playing the primary detective. When you ask a character a question, you analyze every word that comes out of their mouth. Did they just lie to you? If so, why would they lie? What are they hiding? What if they are telling the truth? How can you make sure? And if they are lying…what do you do to get them to tell you the truth?
The choices left up to you are amazing and really puts the pressure on. Every time the game informed me a character would remember what I did, I felt a mini panic-attack inside me wondering if that was a good thing or not. Did I want the characters to think of Bigby as a tough-as-nails no-nonsense sheriff to fear, or should I show more compassion in hopes people would confide in me? When someone was giving me attitude, do I keep up pleasantries, or just punch them in the face over their unhelpful demeanor? I don’t know what the right way to play the game is—if there even is a right way to play, and I love that. Each choice you make really seems to matter and affect the story. It makes you think carefully about your choices in a wonderfully terrifying way. I’ll just have to wait and see how my choices play out in the later chapters.
The game plays exactly like the previous Telltale Games’ have. It’s mostly walking around with point-and-click basics. You examine rooms and chose dialog options most of the time. Not that this is boring by any means, often times a conversation can be terrifyingly intense. There are other times when the action picks up, and it really does pick up. There are some frighteningly powerful scenes to take part in. This is when quick-time-events take over. They are nothing new, but that doesn’t mean the action scenes are any less intense. The fights are real and gritty, from smashing a bottles over someone’s head or running them into a sink, to wrestling on the floor and feeling panic when they start getting the upper-hand in the fight. Is that a coat-hanger near you? Grab that and smash it across the person’s head to get back in control. Each fight is jaw-dropping in its course and abrasive style that matches the dark story perfectly.
The first episode of The Wolf Among Us is short as you would expect it to be, only running a little over two hours, but it’s a thrill-ride from the very beginning. The only real problem encountered was a troubled frame-rate at certain intervals of the playthrough. There were multiple instances where I thought my system froze, because the game was frozen that long. Other times, the game will stutter for a moment or two before getting back on track. Besides those jarring breaks of immersion ripping you out of the story, everything else about the game stands strong for what Telltale has become famous for. The always interesting fairy tale characters mixed with a modern noir vibe creates one hell of an atmosphere. The mystery waiting to be solved will eat away at your mind as you wait for the release of the next episode. Better strap in, it looks like Telltale is about to take us on another amazing adventure.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of The Wolf Among Us developed and distributed by Telltale Games.
- Decisions Matter
- Gritty Noir Setting
- Poor Frame Rate