Telltale Games is at it again, creating another multi-episode game based on a critically acclaimed comic book series. First it was ‘The Walking Dead’, a game that many believed to be 2012’s game of the year. This time, it is ‘The Wolf Among Us’, a story that acts as a prequel to the long running series ‘Fables’. ‘Fables’ is a critically acclaimed comic book from DC Comics’ imprint Vertigo. Bill Willingham, the writer of ‘Fables’, cleverly crafted a world where the heroes and villains from fairy tales and bedtime stories travel to our world and form a secret community within New York City.
There was a lot of material for Telltale Games to work with, but they decided to create their own story utilizing the comic’s main characters: Bigsby Wolf, who was the wolf in numerous fairy tales like ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and Snow White. Would they be able to recapture the magic that made ‘The Walking Dead’ a must play game?
What exceeded my expectations
Art Direction — This game looks beautiful. The heavy use of bright neon lighting and shadows, especially in the beginning of the game, was a spectacular contrast. As it has for numerous games based on comic books, the cel shaded designs really makes the game feel like a comic book in motion, but it’s particularly fantastic here because of the noir tone. The characters look much like their comic book counterparts as well.
Voice Acting — Specifically towards Chuck Kourouklis as Mr. Toad. While the rest of the voice acting was as good as I expected it to be, the down on his luck Mr. Toad was the highlight of this episode. Whether he was struggling to be a decent father, or trying to lie his way out of a conversation with Bigsby, the charismatic and multi-layered voice acting done for the character is consistently engaging.
What matched my expectations
Story — Like ‘The Walking Dead’, I expected the story for this game to be engrossing, exciting, and at times, shocking. And surely enough, it was. Readers of the comic book series will be able to notice quite a few references and Easter eggs, but the non-readers still have a great noir with a fantasy twist. Even though it is only the first episode, Telltales does not shy away from giving the users enough to make them yearn for the next . And even those who read the books won’t expect what happens in the end of this episode, though I’m sure those familiar with the phrase ‘fridging’ will have some harsh things to say about this episode.
Music — The music matched the tone of the game. It was suspenseful at times, but mostly atmospheric.
What was below my expectations
Continuity — ‘Fables’ fans will probably notice that there are a few important details from the comic book series that the game merely hints instead of outright explain, particularly why did the fairy tale characters move into the city in the first place and why are they so hard to kill. These questions and more may leave someone new to this universe confused. Also, in order to maintain the story Telltales wanted, they had to dramatically decrease the abilities of the main character, Bigsby. There are numerous events and details that the comic book version of the character would have been able to prevent or solve almost instantly. The balancing act between pleasing those new to the series and long time fans is a difficult one, so there was bound to be some gaps.
Performance Issues — In the 360 version, there were frame-rate issues. It’d occasionally get choppy during action scenes, and the game would momentarily freeze pretty often. It’s a polish issue that should have been fixed beforehand. It is far from gamebreaking, but it is an annoyance.
Controls — Even more so than ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘The Wolf Among Us’ suffers from some odd and confusing game design choices when it comes to the quick time events. In order to make these events a little more difficult than the simplistic “press a button and things happen” QTEs, Telltales adds some extra mechanics into these events, like making the player move a cross-hair to press a button only when they are aiming at the right spot. Unfortunately, they provide little to no instructions beforehand, which can lead to a confusing experience for the player, and a very painful experience for Bigsby. Another issue comes from the dialogue choices. The easiest and most notorious example is later in the first episode, when the player is given the choice “glass him.” If you choose it thinking Bigsby will hand the Woodsman a drink, prepare for an over-the-top surprise. Hopefully in later episodes Telltale will be clearer about these choices.
Like ‘The Walking Dead’ before it, ‘The Wolf Among Us’ is at times brilliant. Even while shouldering the burden of dealing with characters that have long histories and plenty of complexities, this game is a fantastic jump on point for anyone wanting to get into the comic book. As a game within itself, there are flaws that still need fixing, but Telltale Games continues to be the driving force of the resurrection of the adventure genre in video games.