The Bay Area's own Telltale Games' confirmed the viability of adult-themed adventure games with The Walking Dead and with it, proved that arresting stories can be told with fairly modest means. In similar fashion, Telltale's latest episodic thriller, The Wolf Among Us, tells a tension-filled tale full of murder, betrayal and closely-guarded secrets.
The Wolf Among Us is based on a pre-existing property: the popular Fables graphic novel series by DC/Vertigo Comics writer Bill Willingham. The premise of both comic and game is that the fairy tale characters we're all familiar with have been driven from their Homelands and forced to relocate to a legend-filled ghetto in New York City they call Fabletown. There, they hide their supernatural identities behind expensive magical masks called “glamours” and do their best to fit into human society.
The Wolf Among Us stars one of the most prominent of these fairy tale shape-shifters, the Big Bad Wolf (or as he's called here, Bigby Wolf). Having left his brutal, grandma-eating life behind, Wolf has adopted the persona of a ruggedly handsome sheriff charged with keeping order in Fabletown. As you might think, being the peace-keeper among such a motley assortment of unpredictable refugees isn't easy and mostly entails keeping the lid on a big pot of resentment that's always on the verge of boiling over.
At the start of Faith, episode one, Wolf is called to a Fabletown tenement building run by Mr. Toad (of Wind in the Willows fame), the resident slum lord. Figuring it to be a simple call, Wolf's unpleasantly surprised as a simple domestic dispute turns into a particularly nasty murder investigation. For a Fabletown cop, murder's a big problem. Not only because Fable-cide is against the law—but because a case that attracts the “mundys” (what the Fables call garden variety humans) could easily expose the Fables' true identities.
Faith plays much like The Walking Dead, with WASD keyboard movement and mouse-click interactivity. Important items are highlighted on screen and a radial menu lets you examine and use these items as well as speak to other characters. During action sequences—like a bar brawl—icons appear on screen, prompting you to target-click certain areas or press certain keys to punch, kick, dodge or throw things. It can be tough to react fast enough, especially when a huge man-beast is coming right at you but if you fail, conveniently placed checkpoints prevent the redos from becoming too tedious.
Though action is handled well, it's used to punctuate the narrative, not carry it. The Wolf Among Us features an extremely well-written story that makes the contrast between New York City's grit and our fairy tale expectations fascinating to observe. Who knew one of the three little pigs was a smoker or that Bufkin the flying monkey was a lush? The dialog is punchy, with just the right amount of profanity and sass to make it believable as a modern day Noir. Better still, characters are drawn (dramatically speaking) as compelling hybrids of real people and storybook personae.
Characters are also drawn well graphically-speaking. The graphic novel-like art direction is a total knockout, rendering noir-style settings in unexpectedly vivid hues. Characters both human and otherwise are attractive and well-proportioned, and everything's outlined in black in keeping with the graphic novel aesthetic. Solid sound design supports this graphic finesse with a cast of great voice actors and a moody, melancholy musical score that could totally stand on its own.
Faith is incredible from main menu to end credits, and its only flaw (if you want to call it that) is that it ends after two hours, leaving you dying to know what happens next.