Telltalle games recently scored a knock out hit with their “Walking Dead” game series. Hot on the heels of the ending of Walking Dead’s first season and DLC comes “The Wolf Among Us”. This new game is a prequel to the famous comic story Fables written by Bill Willingham. With only one episode released so far, the series has come out of the gate swinging and is already one of the most excited adventure games released this year.
The series will run five episodes total and will be released on a weekly basis. The first episode, titled Faith, is the story of Biby Wolf (aka The Big Bad Wolf) who is now the sheriff of Fabletown, a magical refuge for fairy tale creatures that were forced from their homeland and into our world. Biby’s job is maintaining peace between the Fables and ensuring that they remain anonymous and hidden from Mundies, which are us regular humans. Revolving around the same choice and consequence story style and format as The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us shapes its story from player decisions and dialogue choices. Clocking in at around two hours, this first episode had me hooked from the start and is set to be another hit in the Telltale game’s impressive catalogue.
The story revolves around solving a grisly murder that occurs in Fabletown. As sheriff, it’s Bigby’s job to not only figure out what happened, but also to keep the peace among the Fables. Tension has risen between the various fairy tale and mythological characters before said events, and Bigby is one man trying his best to keep them in line and following the rules for living in our world. Of course, he is also dealing with his own internal struggles.
He was the Big Bad Wolf after all. Keeping the beast caged and maintaining a cool and rational head while a mad beast sleeps inside him is also no easy task. The Fables’ community is a very close group; with most having known each other from their previous lives in their other realm. They are extremely long lived and quite different from normal humans. The ones that do not look human in their natural form are required to use a Glamour, or spell that makes them appear like a regular human as not to arouse suspicion in the Mundy community (i.e. the rest of us). The ones that can’t afford a Glamour, or simply can’t use one due to a lack of anthropomorphism, (such as the three pigs) are required to live on the Farm. The Farm is basically nothing more than an internment camp for Fables where they can stay hidden away from the rest of our world and attempt to live. The writing is absolutely brilliant throughout this episode.
During my time with Wolf Among Us I came across a Toad who has an issue with remaining in human form, Beauty and the Beast (replete with marital issues) and a smoking pig with a taste for Bourbon who not only wants to escape The Farm, but also to get through to Bigby and his very rough attitude as Sheriff toward the other Fables.
The gameplay is much as you would expect if you’re familiar with The Walking Dead game. The world is cell-shaded and you control Bigby in much the same way Lee Everett from Walking Dead controlled. However, even though some of the wonkiness of Lee’s movement in Walking Dead has now been smoothed for Bigby, it is still there. Some movement appears unnatural at times and can be somewhat frustrating on a mouse and keyboard when you are trying to walk at a slight angle up or down. I am most happy to report that there’s a “walk faster” button now too.
This was something I desperately wanted when playing Walking Dead. I constantly found myself looking all over for things to look at and interact with only to have to slowly and awkwardly walk back to where I knew the next forward moving scene would occur. A lot of this tedium is removed thanks to having this new feature that cuts down on travel time. Also, the Wolf Among Us is a more physical game than its predecessor. The fights are still based on Quick Time style events; however there is a lot more variety to what you can do with your environment. This reminded me of the interrogation sequences in Splinter Cell Conviction or Sleeping Dogs where you could move your opponent around a little and use different parts of the environment against them.
Again, for someone like me who really didn’t like the so-called “combat” of Walking Dead, this is a welcome feature, even if it doesn’t change much of what Walking Dead did too. Also, the tension is palpable at times and failing something at the very last second when I felt like I had responded correctly was a tad frustrating.
Sound and graphics
The game is presented in the same cell-shaded graphics as Telltale’s previous works. I played this game on the Steam PC release, so I can’t comment on the console counterparts. However, there were never any immersion-breaking frame-rate issues or lag that pulled me out of the experience. The art style is very noir and as a fan of that genre, I felt right at home in it. It’s a gorgeous game to look at if you enjoy the cell-shaded style. The sound design and music are both top notch. There is a synthesized score that I hope remains consistent through the rest of the episodes. It fits the noir art style, mood, and tone of the game so well I can’t imagine another sound or music design being used.
The Bottom line:
If you enjoyed Walking Dead you should definitely check out The Wolf Among Us. Even though it is based on a comic book about fairy tale creatures and presented in a comic art style, the tone is very mature and is not a game for kids. The city is grimy and brutal and the language very adult. Bigby’s story is paced extremely well and the decision making beats are never far off. What’s amazing about Telltale games is how you feel the weight of these decisions far down the road. It’s not something you can quickly correct by loading a save and replaying as in most games. I’m already planning a 2nd playthrough of this first episode before episode two releases, just so I can make different decisions and choose different dialogue and then see how differently it would have played out.
+ Amazing story, writing, and characters
+ Brilliantly colored graphics and sound design that fit the tone of the story
– Wonky controls and QTE style fights