Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 10/11/2013
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The Good: Emotional plot, fantastic characters, stellar voice acting, dark atmosphere, tough decisions, tense action scenes, great console controls, fantastic soundtrack, good collectibles
The Bad: Bad keyboard and mouse controls, odd camera transitions, occasional weird animations, technical issues, rigid “five moral choice” system
The Wolf Among Us had to meet up to a lot of high expectations as Telltale’s next game following their critically acclaimed and beloved The Walking Dead. Fortunately, it meets up to those expectations with a well realized atmosphere, fantastic characters, and the tough moral choices Telltale has become known for. It is based off the comic series Fables by Bill Willingham, which quite frankly, I didn’t know existed before starting The Wolf Among Us. It’s okay though because despite sharing the same protagonist (Bigby Wolf), The Wolf Among Us is a prequel so you don’t need to have any prior knowledge.
The Wolf Among Us sets up its enigmatic tone right from the beginning scene, with the Woodsman (commonly identified as the “good guy” in fairytales) beating a mysterious girl up. Why is the Woodsman beating this girl up? Who is she? In what way is Mr. Toad, who lives downstairs, involved in this? Scenes like this really twist your expectations on how you expect fairytale characters (“fables”) to act. In one scene in which one of the three little pigs looks very tired and depressed and asks for a cigarette, I didn’t feel amused or start laughing out loud because of how bizarre the whole scenario was. Instead, I felt very bad for him. This is one of the biggest strengths of The Wolf Among Us, to be able to turn something that seems so comical into something that is actually very bleak and dark.
The overarching plot is that the fables were pulled out of their world and put into modern day New York. The ones who have enough money to afford glamour (a potion that temporarily disguises animals and other creatures as humans ) or were lucky enough to be humans in the first place get to live somewhat normal lives in New York, but the unlucky ones who can’t afford glamour and aren’t humans are sent to a place known as “the farm.” Most of the fables have migrated to a city known as Fabletown (what a creative name) and Bigby Wolf (previously known as the “Big Bad Wolf”) is the appointed sheriff. After all, everyone gets a fresh start no matter how evil they once were. When a fable gets murdered early in the game, an incredibly difficult feat considering how fables are near-invincible, sheriff Bigby is put on the crime scene and sets off to discover who the murderer is before he/she can take the life of another fable.
I would call The Wolf Among Us a noir/detective game, however you literally can walk out of most crime scenes with little to no evidence. The action scenes are clearly much improved from The Walking Dead, where they were extremely easy and linear. In The Wolf Among Us, combat is still a heavily scripted quick-time event, however it now requires strategy and quick-thinking. While not necessarily fun it does add an extra level of tension, which is exactly what it sets out to do. Having the timer tick down while someone is attacking you, knowing you’ll quickly need to block them, will put you on the edge of your seat. This game actually uses it’s quick-time based combat to it’s advantage, as there’s no way it would feel this tense if it played like a typical third person action game.
Remember how I mentioned the games darkness and sadness earlier? Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – Faith masterfully blends in humor with the sadness. Sure, there is an overall feeling of hopelessness and confusion, but the (often black) humor really adds an extra layer of charm to the game and it’s cast.
The moral and conversation choices in The Wolf Among Us are very difficult to make. On the conversation-side of things, a lot of the time you have to decide how much of a jerk you want to be, not whether or not to be a jerk. Bigby is not a nice guy, even if he has got noble intentions as the sheriff. On the moral side of things, no one is gonna judge you if you pause the game to think your choice over. It’s just a shame that Telltale still finds the need to follow the strict “five moral choice” system. While seeing the results poll after the credits of each episode is a pretty cool novelty, I feel like it is restricting Telltale’s ability to truly branch out and let the plot spread in numerous different directions.
There are numerous character cards to collect in The Wolf Among Us. You don’t get them from searching around, like typical video game collectibles, but instead by simply progressing through the story or making specific choices. Not only do they give you background information on fables but they are also an incentive to replay the game (not that you’ll need one beyond the fact that there are multiple choices to make).
Not all is good with The Wolf Among Us however. Telltale really needs to update their engine or make a new one, as the game still has the janky camera transitions that Telltale is known for. Animations typically look good but sometimes falter or do not match up with the games dialogue. There are a few framerate drops, and some people have reported crashes and save game issues. Telltale really needs to get on top of all these technical issues, as they were present in The Walking Dead as well.
The graphics do look a little dated, but the art style captures the “comic-y” and noire theme very well so this doesn’t really matter. The soundtrack is also very fitting. All around, The Wolf Among Us is a very polished product. I would say that you should go buy it right now, but I’d recommend holding off until at least the third episode is out (or preferably, the whole season), simply because it took Telltale four months to release Episode 2 which is just ridiculous. Still, if you can’t hold off on this wonderful adventure game, then know you are in for a very memorable experience.