Published on October 18th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
The Wolf Among Us: Episode I Review
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Telltale once again brings it’s consequence driven, action-outcome storytelling to a digital platform. How does The Wolf Among Us deviate from The Walking Dead?
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PC via Steam (Reviewed), Telltale Online store, PlayStation Network, Xbox LIVE Arcade
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2013
Price: $4.99 (Season Pass $14.99 on XBLA, $19.99 on PSN)
Review Note: A code was received for review purposes
For those not familiar with Telltale Games’ previous works, the company’s expertise lies in its point-and-click adventures. The most notable of journey’s being the acclaimed The Walking Dead series. The zombie adventure played off the graphic novel experience, akin to the same momentum the TV series picked up. Now, we see the introduction of the “Fables,” characters that come from a slightly twisted set of fairy tales.
The game itself takes place 20-years prior to the events of the graphic novel it’s based upon. The first episode is titled ‘Faith,’ and brings players into its dark fiction. Without spilling the spoiler juice, the game features characters from folklore popularized in many books. Such characters as Snow White, Beauty, and her Beast, are all present in the story.
The main character goes by the name ‘Bigby Wolf,’ aka The Big Bad Wolf himself. However, this is where, as humans, the Glamour spell disguises their true fable-form, offering an attempt for each character to live a normal life. This might even be possible for Bigby, who holds the position of Sheriff and acts as somewhat of a peacekeeper. Even though he is a member of law enforcement, many still acknowledge his tumultuously violent past.
The game takes place in a real world location, The Bronx, NY. The grittiness of the city is reflected in the ruffian lifestyles each character is observed living, not to mention in the graffiti and sub-par conditions of their surroundings. There are things revealed about their adjustment to the real world, and why they were pressured out of their previous Homelands, forcibly living in the city for a new start.
The game features unlockable Fables, delivering background information on characters and verbiage used in the game. For example, it took me a while to figure out what “mundies” were. Um, are they edible undies? No, it’s a reference to regular “mundane” humans that are not Fables, both of which live amongst each other. These descriptors can be accessed as soon as they are discovered, not steering too far away from the happenings on screen.
In terms of graphics, Telltale delivers once again on the bringing the pages of a comic to life. Stepping outside the bland color palette of The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us sews together deep, vibrant environments. From the vivid saturation of yellow taxi cabs, to the nightly city hues of purples and blues, the game is both dark and colorful. For some reason I can’t help but to compare the depiction of New York City to that of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series of the 80’s.
The art director of the game, David Bogan, was present on other Telltale tales (Sam & Max, Tales of Monkey Island), and achieves impressive quality throughout the first endeavor into Fableland.
Much like we’ve seen in past titles, the game features the ability to play with a controller or keyboard/mouse combination. The interaction in scenes comes in the form on-screen prompts. Actions, such as “view” or “use,” are indicated on screen with corresponding buttons. In terms of the Xbox 360 gamepad, ‘Y’ is used for investigating and the ‘A’ button used for action items. However, in comparison to Telltale’s prior project, it seems like there is slightly more focus on the action events. They occur pretty fast and furious to kick off the story and are filled in-between. If anything, they are more balanced to keep the story moving while still factoring the important outcome of interactions between people. After replaying some scenes, the mouse and keyboard function faired far better in terms of precision.
The first episode will run players approximately two hours. There are currently five slated for release at the moment, those being: Faith, Smoke and Mirrors, A Crooked Mile, In Sheep’s Clothing, and Cry Wolf. The completion time will depend how you react to certain situations, decisions or even the detective work done. There is no run feature in the game, and there are many areas for point-and-click enthusiasts to explore. This doesn’t touch on the conversation tree options, which range from being the aggressor, to showing more of your diplomatic side. Silence is also an option, which leaves characters to interpret your silence agreeance or passiveness.
The folklore implemented allows for a lot of breathing room in terms of story trajectory. The overall premise rides the same rails as the ABC television show “Once Upon a Time.” In the show, many characters from nursery rhymes and fables cross paths, some of which simply being popularized due to their Disney circulation. The main difference in the two being that in “Once Upon a Time” they are not aware of their story roots.
Characters like Bigby change that dynamic/paradigm of the original tales themselves, which he can be seen living side-by-side with Colin, one of the infamous three little pigs. Also, having Bigby portrayed as the above-the-law gumshoe with a heart plays into the ‘Lone Wolf’ archetype that is seen in many dramas. This can either be played to, or steered away from. The consequences of your actions are always taken into consideration.
The only gripe I have about the game is the conversation tree timing options. This time around there is a pressure to make a choice. If there were just a fraction of the time more to do this, it would appease the gods in whom I worship. After all, who doesn’t love to be bad?
But, in many cases the time ran out before making a decision. Thus, the silent option was taken into account. In some cases character conversations were still being completed while the dialogue response was running down in time. I understand the need for making a response and dealing with it, but at the least, allow them to be impulsive based on want instead of haphazard based on clicking anything.
It’s hard to really tell where The Wolf Among Us will position itself. It already has me wanting another playthrough, obviously making a new save file to explore other decisions.
The game is rich in detail, and once again, Telltale brings its A-Team when it comes to the voice acting. Get ready, there’s another adventure for you to click and enjoy. It’s time to crack open an adventure into Fabletown and gear up for another season of choices to make.
In the words of the late Nate Dogg, “Hope you ready for the next episode.”
Summary: It's hard to really tell where The Wolf Among Us will position itself. It already has me wanting another playthrough, obviously making a new save file to explore other decisions. The game is rich in detail, and once again, TellTale brings its A-Team when it comes to the voice acting. Get ready, there's another adventure for you. It's time to crack open an adventure into Fabletown and gear up for another season with TellTale.