When I was a kid I used to wonder if fairy tales were real; sometimes wondering that if they were real, where were they hiding? Many years later as an adult, Telltale games has given me an interesting answer. In The Wolf Among Us, the fairy tale characters of old are still around and living in a New York City block known as Fabletown. Based in a prequel setting to Bill Willingham’s Fables Comics, The Wolf Among Us is a film noir-esque take on everyone’s favorite childhood characters.
In The Wolf Among Us, I’ve run into quite a few familiar (yet different) faces from the stories I was told as a child. The main protagonist is the Fabletown Sheriff, known as Bigby Wolf (Big Bad Wolf). Having turned over a new leaf from being the troublemaker in his past, Bigby now does his best to keep the peace in Fabletown.
His job isn’t as simple as it may seem at first though. The many characters in Fabletown, in order to blend in with the rest of the New York populace, must by law wear special spells known as Glamors to make them appear to be a Mundie (Human). However good Glamors can be expensive, meaning that many characters must go without and have to be sent to an area known as the Farm. One of Bigby’s many jobs as the Town Sheriff is to make sure that this law is obeyed. It is this kind of work that Bigby is up to when we first meet him. He receives a call from Mister Toad (The Wind in the Willows) asking for him to come investigate a disturbance on the second floor of a slum apartment building that he is the superintendent of. Upon arrival Bigby can investigate the disturbance, or before he does that he can berate Mister Toad for being out in the open without wearing his Glamor. It serves as a great introduction to Bigby and shows us the grungy world that these characters live in, which is a far step from the fairy tales we are used to.
The story is very well written and I found myself playing from start to finish without breaks and without noticing the passage of time. Apparently, I was so engrossed in the details of this amazing fantasy-in-reality world that I didn’t even notice my pizza delivery had arrived until my wife handed me a slice. The dialogue was really great too, going from funny, to dark, to sincere and back again. All the characters are very well acted, making each of the characters feel alive and like they all had something to lose if the plot didn’t work out in their favor. Now without travelling too far into spoiler territory, the plot leads to a series of events involving multiple murders that are some of the first Fabletown had seen in a long time. Wolf teams up with the Mayors Assistant, Snow White to try to track down the killer.
Similar in style and narrative as Telltale’s The Walking Dead game series, the story in The Wolf Among Us is told based on the choices you make, and the consequences of those decisions. There are many points in the game where you’ll have to chose one thing or another. In my playthrough, one of these choices that I had to make, led to the death of a very important lead, leaving Bigby to figure out the puzzle based on evidence alone instead of by talking to the recently deceased. This will also port over to the following episodes. At the end of my playthrough, I was treated to a preview trailer of the next episode, tailored to my choices I’d made, and already I could see the consequences taking effect, such as characters being hostile to Bigby because I chose to lie to them or someone being terrified because I let a suspected killer roam free in favor of arresting a different suspect.
The gameplay is similar to Telltale’s The Walking Dead Game as well. The character of Bixby is determined by how you act in the game. As in the Walking Dead, you can walk around your environment and interact with items and people of interest. When in conversation with other characters, you must select dialogue based on a four menu options, usually with a 10 second timer. Once you’ve made your decision, the game will often tell you what effect your choice has or how the person you are talking to perceives you, which will likely impact how they treat you down the road.
A gameplay feature I wasn’t prepared for was some pretty swift quicktime action moments. Now I know that the Walking Dead had some quicktime action sequences but they are not nearly as fast or as intense as these are. In one instance, I was attacked by a character in the game and suddenly had to respond very quickly to quicktime events using the WADS and Q keys and well as some precision mouse clicking. Once I got the hang on it, I found myself looking forward to these moments in game as they really helped me feel immersed in the action. As you play through the game and encounter characters from Fables, you will unlock entries that give a back story about who they were and how they came to be in Fabletown. It’s a really neat feature that feels like the icing on the cake of an already detailed story.
As with any game however, The Wolf Among Us does have its flaws. The character animations are greatly improved since The Walking Dead, but they still seem very stiff in comparison to other games on the market. The frame rate also slows down in some areas where it should be smooth. At one point, Bigby was walking towards his apartment building and the FPS just inexplicably and randomly dropped making his movements look like a really fast slideshow. I’m running a pretty decent gaming computer too so I was a little confused as to why this was happening. It wasn’t enough to jar me out of the game but it was a little distracting.
Don’t let these minor hiccups deter you though. The Wolf Among Us is a great game that takes me back to my childhood and then violently rips me back into reality, dragging some beloved characters out with me. It is an interesting take on old childhood stories while giving a fresh take on the modern crime thriller. Telltale has outdone themselves once again with this game and with more episodes promised in the future, this is one game I will be keeping my eyes on.
Review copy supplied by TellTale Games. Thank you!
(Reviewed on PC)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 10/10
Gameplay/Design – 9/10
Visuals – 8/10
Sound – 9/10
Lasting Appeal – 8.5/10
Overall – 9/10
(Not an average)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
Developer: TellTale Games
Publisher: TellTale Games