Ever since Telltale announced it, I was looking forward to their new series. Having played The Walking Dead (and waiting eagerly for the next season to keep playing), I had, of course, high expectations and it turned out I was not to be disappointed. All of a sudden, the release date was there, and in the spirit of procrastination, I could not let this go unplayed. So here we go. Let’s have a quick look at
Episode 1: Faith
Wait, why are your eyes glowing? Oh, that’s right, you’re a Fable about to turn back to your normal shape. Shit happens, right? The Wolf Among Us operates on a simple premise: common fairytale characters are now living amongst the humans, forming their own little community, but largely working and living in human society. That might be no problem for your everyday Princess, but what about your everyday Frog? Fables (as the fairytale characters call themselves) that do not have a human (enough) appearance live on a Farm for their own protection, although it it obvious that they do not really like it there. For most Fables, life on the Farm feels like an imprisonment and is rather dull in general. To be eligible for life amongst humans, they have to purchase Glamours, spells that transform their appearance into a human one. However, those are expensive and more often than not, the Fables cannot afford them easily. In the meantime, the Fables in town go about their usual business, protected from human detection by magic.
The game is based on the DC/Vertigo comic book series Fables. Personally I haven’t read them, so I’m not much of a judge, but you don’t appear to have to know them, as the events in the game are set a few years before the beginning of the graphic novels. I, at least, did not feel disadvantaged at all.
You play Bigby Wolf, who – surprise, surprise – is the Big Bad Wolf who has a history with several of the characters. Trying to redeem himself from his bad behaviour in the past
(you know, eating people and stuff) he has become Fabletown’s sheriff, although the other Fables are still struggling to trust him. He seems a nice enough guy, except for when you make him angry: he may or may not lose control over himself, and the more control he loses, the more of a wolf he will be – literally. But some instincts are hard to keep in check…
During one of the emergencies he is called to attend to, he meets a Fable unknown to pretty much anyone. But who is this mysterious woman? Several incidents demand the matter to be investigated further, unraveling a web of lies, mystery, sex, violence, poverty and death, and Bigby is left to pick up the pieces.
Just like in Telltale’s predecessor The Walking Dead, the game is kept in comic graphics and mainly operates through interaction with objects, quick-time events and a variety of dialogue options. Again, you only have a limited time to choose your answers and reactions, thus putting more pressure on the game, making the events more real and urgent. Important decisions or their impacts (as in “Toad will remember what you said here”) are shown in the corner, marking the events that might influence the game. To this point, though, the dialogue choices do not seem to significantly alter the game; like in Walking Dead there are mainly minor changes in character reactions. However, Telltale departs from this concept in a few places in which your decision actually does change the course of the game: do you go to help Character A or Character B, for instance? In one of those instances, this is a matter of life and death even, as time actually is a determining factor in the game; so choose wisely.
In terms of gameplay, the pacing is a bit faster than in the predecessor; combat scenes, especially, are determined by more (and faster) QTEs and the triggers are used quite a bit, another change that confused me opposed to Walking Dead. For me, it took some time to get used to, but after a while you’re back in the good old ‘QTE mindset’.
One very refreshing aspect about The Wolf Among Us is the world and the characters depicted. Indeed, many classic fairytale characters are there, but the game also includes characters from sources one would not immediately think of: The Wizard of Oz, Sleepy Hollow, epics, etc. It is especially interesting to see how the characters are represented, which attributes are an advantage or a disadvantage to their life in the ‘real’ world. These are not flat fairytale characters, but real characters with real problems, and they go surprisingly deep. A nice addition is a glossary of the Fables you have encountered so far, which gives more details about their life and the world they used to live in, as well as the one that is their home now. The characters can be quite captivating and, yes, you may be able to emphasize with them a lot. This is an interesting dynamic in Telltale games: I almost feel sorry for the characters whenever I happened to have been mean to them. In most other games, I have no problems showing attitude, even deliberately going for the cold asshole move. Mass Effect? Renegade to the max – you get the drift. This changed with Walking Dead, though The Wolf Among Us does not make me feel as bad (it doesn’t have Clementine, after all), to the point where I might consider replaying it just to see what happens if I’m the Bad Guy again.
In general, The Wolf Among Us was a captivating and intriguing experience for me, and a great introduction for the game series. After the shocking cliffhanger and the preview of the next episode, I am very much looking forward to the next episode, which, so far, does not have an official release date yet. Definitely a recommendation – it might not entirely blow you off your chair, but it is a refreshing, entertaining two-hour experience that will, most probably, not disappoint you.