With The Walking Dead, Telltale Games set a high mark for all future games to be judged against. The Wolf Among Us is the first to be tested and shows that the developer has further refined its point-and-click adventure acumen with a darker but more magical PS3, Xbox 360 and PC experience.
The Wolf Among Us plays out like a late 80s hard-boiled detective noire series with players treading the shoes of Bigby Wolf. Yes, this is the same Big Bad Wolf that blew down the tenement shacks of some pigs and tried to make a meal out of Little Red Riding Hood. Something happened though that made all the fairytale creatures leave the Homeland though and Bigby’s not only gone legit but he’s the sheriff over the community of Fables housed in New York City.
That doesn’t mean things are going swimmingly for Bigby or the rest of the Fables though. The community seems to barely be functioning under the non-leadership of deputy mayor Ichabod Crane and his assistant, Snow White. Meanwhile, Bigby is trying to do right but his reputation as the Big Bad drags on him like an anchor as he’s more feared than loved.
Despite the gameplay similarities, that’s where the big difference comes in between The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The decision that players made as Lee Everett was always colored by knowing that he was trying to do right by protecting and shielding Clementine from the zombie apocalypse. In Wolf, the lead character finds himself struggling while living on the line between right and wrong, peace and excessive violence. As a result, Telltale’s latest entry feels more liberating and enjoyable.
There is no better example of this than the first scene where Bigby answers a call for help from Toad. After entering the tenement building and hearing a ruckus upstairs with what sounds like a man slapping a woman around, the player is given a choice to open the door to the apartment or kick it in. This simple decision signals that the player can be a badass or the law and order type.
This opening scene also sets the table when it comes to the fight scenes in The Wolf Among Us. Unlike The Walking Dead, the decisions made during fights are more varied. Choose to throw an opponent into a sink or on a couch. It turns out that Fables are a durable and hard to kill lot so the choice action is heavier and more brutal as a result. It’s still the same series of quick time events (QTEs) but Telltale had done a much better job at communicating what buttons need to be pressed this time around.
While the dialog still consists of four options (including saying nothing), puzzle events have been dropped altogether. Since this is a murder mystery (no spoilers), there is some clue hunting but it does not feel fleshed out during this episode. There’s an interesting clue hunt scene while interrogating what happened in a separate apartment but the player also goes around picking up various objects throughout with seemingly nothing to do with them. It’s assumed that these will be needed in Episode 2, hopefully.
Still, it’s those pesky decisions that make The Wolf Among Us an enjoyable experience and one in particular will make players want to run through the two hour episode once more just to see how it plays out while a later one clearly sets up different story paths in the next episode.
Finally, enough cannot be said about the work that Telltale’s artists did in bringing an 80s New York City to life based on the work from Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series. Long shadows, dark alleys and a gritty feel permeate the artwork to make everything in the city feel dangerous…even to a Fable.
Those that enjoyed the choice and consequence gameplay from The Walking Dead will find even more to enjoy with The Wolf Among Us. A more ambiguous leading man and sinister murder mystery full of shocking twists make Wolf its own game though and one that shouldn’t be missed for players looking for a mature story-based adventure.
Title: The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 - Faith
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Price: $4.99 on consoles (single episode) / $24.99 PC (all five episodes)
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2013 (Xbox 360, PC), Oct. 15 (PS3)
A review copy for the PC (Steam) was provided by Telltale Games for the purposes of this review.
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