Platforms: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Point & Click, Adventure Platform Played: PC
Telltale Games not only provided one of the most memorable experiences available in the gaming industry when they released The Walking Dead last year, but they propelled the point and click adventure genre back into relevancy. Where many titles went the bigger and more explosive route to create a memorable experiences, The Walking Dead provided heartfelt moments that left a mark on us emotionally.
Telltale Games has now released their follow-up series based on Bill Willingham’s award winning Fables comic series – The Wolf Among Us.
Taking place in New York City before the events of the comic series, players are quickly introduced to the main narrative premise: seeing the fairy tale creatures we have experienced throughout books, film, and TV living alongside normal humans (The Mundane), who are unaware of the former’s presence. We are given control of the Sherriff of Fabletown – Bigby Wolf, better known as the Big Bad Wolf. His task is to make sure The Mundane don’t know of the Fables’ existence, while also keeping the peace between some unworldly individuals.
Within the first 15 minutes of The Wolf Among Us, it is clear there is tonal shift that the series is trying to provide in comparison to previous titles. Though mechanically there are similarities, the series feel drastically different without stepping away from the golden formula that Telltale has previously provided. The Wolf Among Us has a greater focus on action-based events, which sees Bigby get into a lot of physical encounters. These encounters are excellently delivered, mixing quick time events with frantic movements to target certain locations on your enemy. It mixes a sense of intensity with the ability to choose how these moments play out.
These fights are presented in a style that mimics a “choose your own adventure” experience and it works splendidly. Depending on how you choose to tackle each encounter, you can decide how these fights take place; from smashing a character through a bathroom basin, cupboard and in some cases, more permanent effects. These moments increase the replay value, as I found myself excited to see how choosing different actions would the outcome. It is here that Telltale has struck an excellent balance between providing narrative and action based segments, providing incentive to replay the title.
Throughout the 2 hour first episode of The Wolf Among Us, entitled “Faith”; we are introduced to the universe and gradually shown seedlings to a memorable narrative that will be grown over the course of 5 episodes. After Bigby and Snow White discover a terrible event, one of which hasn’t taken place in the Fables community for an extended period of time, it becomes clear there is more to this crime than first thought. I found myself completely wrapped up in narrative as it unfolded. Telltale Games has once again provided an interesting story that provides shocking events and memorable twists; one that made me want to explore the other options of choice that are scattered throughout the experience.
Choices and consequences once again provide a great deal of emphasis throughout the adventure, some players may find certain characters alive or on the run depending on how they decide to approach each situation. These choices can lead to something simple, such as varied dialogue between characters that lead to the same conclusion or larger outcomes where events play out drastically different depending how you tackle major plot decisions. These overarching main choices are clearly showcased when the game slows to a halt and gives you and option of A or B. Though the major indication that a key choice was occurring took me out of the experience every so often, it did emphasise my eagerness to replay the episode to experience the second choice and how the consequences may differ.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Wolf Among Us is meeting fairy tale characters we know and love, but seeing them in a completely new light. These gritty, realistic versions of characters we thought we knew constantly surprised; from the Woodsman who has a bad drinking problem as he wallows in depression, to Colin a member of the Three Little Pigs who loves a smoke. Seeing these characters deal with real-world issues such as lack of money, alcoholism and even prostitution brings these outlandish characters and gives them a realistic state of mind.
These characters are brought to life through well-written dialogue and incredible voice-acting. It isn’t strange to see conversations brilliantly shift from funny one-liners, serious moments and crude language. These conversations are delivered from a range of brilliant voice actors who convey their lines with such skill that I was fully immersed in the experience. Some characters do suffer from some poor lip syncing, but it was never noticeable enough to deter from the excellent performances on display.
During the story, players will unlock character profiles of the individuals you meet, which can be explored through the main menu. These small snippets are a great source of extra detail on each of the characters involved within the game, explaining character backgrounds and motivations. It is an extra touch that is greatly appreciated it and helps establish extra information that couldn’t find a place within the narrative.
Making these characters come to life has been made easier due to the brilliant character designs and the absolutely gorgeous neon-noire style artwork. The entire game is riddled with vibrant neon art providing the illusion that you’re seeing a graphic novel in motion. The New York City streets are painted with such an array of vibrant colours, that it completely differentiates itself with its unique approach to visual style. It is a stylistic success. The artistic direction is truly realised due to the synthetic tunes that are heard throughout the game, these compliment the art style well and make the entire experience cohesive. But, the tracks themselves can definitely stand on their own.
As previously mentioned, The Wolf Among Us is mechanically similar to Telltale’s previous titles such as The Walking Dead, with players still using W, A, S and D to move around environments. Luckily there are only a few sections where players will actually need to explore their location, since the walking seems a lot more clumsy compared to its former releases. I found Bigby frequently heading in an unwanted direction due to an unclear positioning on the screen. How I viewed the character on the screen was not always in synch with how the game considered him to be positioned, leading to Bigby walking in various directions, generally not the one I was hoping for. It made walking sections more of a chore than it needed to be, which is one of the few blemishes on an excellent canvas.
Fans of Telltale Games will be happy to know the first episode of The Wolf Among Us has delivered on the high quality standards set by The Walking Dead. It clears up almost most of the technical flaws that I experienced in last year’s release, while providing a memorable plot that has me considerably excited for future instalments.
The drastic differences in tone, style and gameplay keep the experience from feeling like previous titles in Telltale’s vast catalog, and instead provides familiar groundwork that has the potential to provide one of the best narratives this year.
The Wolf Among Us should not be overlooked and is among some of the best experiences I have encountered in 2013.
+ Superb voice acting with well-written dialog
+ Action scenes deliver
+ Beautiful neon visual style
+ Intriguing narrative that begs for multiple playthroughs
– Few problems with character lip syncing
– Walking shouldn’t be this difficult