The Wolf Among
Us - Episode 1: Faith
So what to do while you wait for
the next instalment of The Walking Dead, the pinnacle of episodic
adventures, especially as the latest TV series has gone into hiatus
(zombies it seems still remember Christmas). Simple really; take the
game engine and apply it to another graphic novel with an appropriate
mix of fantasy, violence and pathos, and start all over again.
The story and the Wolf
The novel in question is Fables,
which sees characters from folklore congregate in New York City having
been driven from their homeland by the Adversary. Some can pass for
human, others use glamour magic to appear human, and these folk live in
Fabletown. Those who can’t or won’t live at The Farm, in upstate New
The wolf among us in Telltale’s
interpretation is Bigby, the wolf previously known as Big Bad and of
little pig and Red Riding Hood fame. It’s the 1980’s, and Bigby is
trying to put all that huffing and puffing and gobbling behind him, in
his current role as the sheriff of Fabletown.
Your introduction to the world
starts with a call from Toad about a fracas upstairs, which Bigby
interrupts just as his old nemesis The Woodsman starts beating a
prostitute who you come to know as Faith. Ever the gentleman, he/you
feel compelled to intervene, leading to a two story fall from a window
and the realisation that Fables can take a whole lot more punishment and
damage than Mundies (short for Mundanes, which is how they refer to the
rest of us). Which is helpful, because there is rather a lot of
potential damage around.
Just as things look decidedly
not good, Faith returns the favour, and having literally stuck the boot
in, she promises to stop by later and make a statement. Before though
she needs to check in with her pimp, short on the cash she was promised
despite rifling the pockets of the seriously incapacitated Woodsman.
Bigby offers her some money to help, or perhaps he doesn’t.
Gameplay – Compared to
Telltale's Previous Game
Those who have played The
Walking Dead will be familiar with these choices. It’s up to you whether
to offer money or not, and the game promises that the choices you make
will determine how the game plays out as it goes along. It worked in The
Walking Dead and there is no reason to think it won’t work here.
It might have been me but many
of the choices here seemed starker. Walk away or punch a character in
the face; be satisfied that a protagonist has had enough or tear off his
arm. Perhaps it was a reflection of the hard boiled noir feel present
throughout the game, or indicative of the rage which no matter how hard
Bigby might want to be different, is always simmering just below the
surface, waiting for a reason (or an excuse) to be let out.
Or maybe it was because Bigby
has a past that is big and bad, which is something we know and which
can’t help but shape our perceptions. Lee Everett had a violent past but
one with another side, and with Clementine at his side you wanted him to
be good. Bigby is far more a loner, his internal demons being his
prevailing companion, and while I did offer money to Faith, the arm
ripping and the face punching seemed far more likely to get me the
result I wanted, and I didn’t have to be nice for no one.
Again as in The Walking Dead,
you can see how many other players made the same choice as you through
the menu. Not all of them though; I would really have liked the
statistic that told me how many other players succumbed to the ripping
It is violent, it is profane and
Bigby chain smokes, like all good noir anti-heroes. There is murder,
which is what Bigby spends most of the episode investigating, and
another that provides the cliff before Episode 2.
There is very limited puzzling,
but excellent character dialogue to engage in, and a fight or two (maybe
more depending on your choices) to negotiate. Despite the extra capacity
to absorb punishment, Bigby can die, but you can automatically retry
should that happen. The fights aren’t difficult, engaged in by
responding to the keys appearing on the screen and by targeting the
areas highlight by the mouse, but it did take me the first one and a few
deaths to get into the swing of things.
I do think that visually it was
more polished than The Walking Dead. The cel shaded graphic novel style
is perfect for the grimy settings and moody atmosphere, set off by a
juxtaposition between dark shadows and searing colours. The characters
too are high class productions, from the lip seeking, through the facial
expressions, to the wonderful voice acting. It’s the characters that
drive these stories, and the gripping nature of both adventures is
testament to how well these characters have been made.
Sound, Music, Humor
Everything else is similarly top
notch – the sound, the music, the detail in the scenes, the occasional
reference to 1980’s culture. The Wolf Among Us is a class act.
I don’t care yet though, at
least not in the way I did for Lee. I might, and for a while I think I
did, but at the moment the frustration at having my investigation
stymied by uncooperative fables, none of whom (apart from Snow) seem to
like me, is the dominating emotion. Maybe I need to get the chip off my
shoulder. No doubt other emotions will build as we go, as they did last
There are some humorous moments,
all of them black, my favourite involving a couch surfing pig.
Not Necessary to be Familiar
with the Source Material
You don’t need to be familiar
with the Fables world. I wasn’t, and the game did a good job of
introducing me to that world as it went along. It never felt like it was
bludgeoning me with backstory, or that I was missing something that I
needed to know. The character pages you unlock as you go, and which can
be accessed via the menu, provide further details, but are completely
unnecessary in order to have a grasp of the Fabletown milieu.
You interact with the game world
with the mouse, and walk around using the WASD keys. The fights also
utilise those keys, and the Q key for some sustained “keyboard pecking”.
The game autosaves periodically, and will start again form the most
recent autosave, so if you want to quit and not replay a segment, quit
just after you see a spinning save icon in the top right corner. They
are fairly prevalent though, so any replay is unlikely to be lengthy.
I have to confess I am hooked.
Episode 2 can’t get here quickly enough.
The Wolf Among
Us - Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors
If Episode 1 laid the table,
Episode 2 sat down to eat. Whether it’s the sort of meal where everyone
at the table is just managing to keep their first instincts in check and
stay just the right side of the civilised dinner companion line, or one
where 5 minutes into the first course and a butter knife ends up in the
back of someone’s hand and all hell breaks loose is up to Bigby aka you.
More than any other Telltale
episode, Smoke and Mirrors felt like I was in control.
Bigby is front and centre. His
reputation precedes him and we have had a glimpse of what that can lead
to in Episode 1. He is feared and loathed, a product of his past which
his present has not dispelled. Whether it can may be up to you.
I have no idea how Bigby will
turn out, but there are numerous instances in this episode where you get
to contribute to and shape that outcome. Early on you question a
prisoner strapped to a chair. You rummage through his paltry belongings
and find a cigar stub – do you ignore it, offer him a puff or burn him ?
You could similarly give him a drink from the glass bottle, or you could
smash it over his head. What you do may or may not bring answers, but it
will certainly have an impact on what follows.
Later, an obnoxious, sleazy weed
of a man called Georgie (of Pudding and Pie fame) probably deserves to
be belted with the cricket bat, and it would certainly make Bigby/you
feel better, but do you do it? Or do you smash up the bar instead?? Or
just ask, albeit with menace and simmering intent.
In between, there is a
frightened small boy who may have seen something. Can a big bad wolf be
tender enough to convince him to open up, or do you frighten him some
more so he can’t help but talk.
It’s all up to you.
A number of these interactions,
and many in between (are you understanding, dismissive or silent in
various conversations) will undoubtedly determine where we go and how we
get there, and more than one has an immediate and obvious consequence.
Softer or harder, that reputation will always get there first.
These confrontations by and
large replace the set piece fight scenes of the previous episode. There
are some of these, but not on the same scale. The violence here is very
much a product of your choices.
Except for the blood soaked
mattress where the beheading occurred. That is simply a given.
Plot wise, there are further
deaths and a surprise or two. We start not long after where we left off
in episode 1, and about an hour and a half later we have more loose ends
than we started with, we know a bit more, but haven’t made a whole lot
of progress towards a resolution.
Which doesn’t matter because it
isn’t what Smoke and Mirrors is all about. A character tells Bigby at
one point to try not to be … and he finishes … so much like me. He knows
what he is, and whether he can or wants to be anything different is the
rich tapestry we are weaving.
It remains a class act in all
those other aspects that matter. Read the earlier review for more
I tried to behave as I thought I
would. I confess to breaking a bottle or two. I was surprised that only
12% of other players chose one option, but not that 81% chose another. I
can’t wait to get to the very end, then go back and make deliberately
different choices to see the difference.
There is regular use of bad
language, lots of cigarette smoking and one scene with some nudity. They
are all integral parts of one of the more compelling games around. As an
episode, Smoke and Mirrors is outstanding, and the character investment
in Bigby promises much for what lies ahead.
Bring on episode 3.
The Wolf Among Us - Episode 3: A Crooked
Short and (not so) sweet, and
ends with a bang (a few actually). Not much more to say really.
More like Episode 2 than Episode
1, the choices are the thing. I did what most people did (according to
the stats) except for the last big choice. My Bigby is trying hard to be
more reasonable, but a broken nose or two can’t be helped, especially
when they deserved it.
The plot moves on and we are
definitely getting closer to what is really going on. Some new
characters come on board, and I can’t wait to see the newest one again.
This mirror image is far more interesting than the alternatives.
Everything remains top notch and
suitable “gritty”. If you don’t like bad language or adult themes, stay
It is short, 90 minutes
perhaps, but it wasn’t a letdown. As the set up to the finale, it would
be just about right; with two episodes to go, you could argue it needed
more, not in terms of the where it takes the story, but just more so it
couldn’t be said it was eking out what should be a shorter story.
Nit-picky perhaps, but nothing can be perfect.
No more ratings until the whole
thing is finished, but I think I am looking forward to the next part
more than the next Walking Dead instalment. High praise indeed.
The Wolf Among Us - Episode 4: In Sheep’s
Having walked the crooked mile,
Bigby is where he was inevitably going to be.
How crooked has been up to you.
What he does now may owe far more to that path than to Snow’s
Damage is big in episode 4. We
start at the aftermath of Bloody Mary’s assault, with Bigby just one
more silver bullet and an inside full of shredded pieces away from the
morgue. The damage from that point on is all Fabletown’s. A murder at
the start was just the tip, the iceberg below owing as much to the
failures of the Business Office as to the actions of the underbelly.
The choices you make in this
episode seem far more limited to the people involved. What they think of
you, rather than where it will drive the story. That is not to say what
they think of you won’t influence how you think of yourself, and in turn
impact on what you do next, but it’s what is at stake that is brought
out from under the sheep’s clothing.
I left Bigby in the lion’s den,
sitting and smoking and waiting. The fate of Fabletown waits with him.
The Wolf Among
Us - Episode 5: Cry Wolf
And so we come to the end.
Which should probably be after
Telltale, given it’s what they do best. This really is a tale, and one
well told, and whatever else it is, probably doesn’t matter.
Adventure gamers may well find
the middle of the episode too actiony, but if you have come this far
then perhaps not. You will know by now there is really no puzzling, no
solving, not really exploration, rather its choices that drive the tale
forward and some action sequences to be managed.
I played from the start, but
can’t wait to play this episode again. I may be disappointed, but how it
played out had that “what I do will matter” aspect writ large. Even
within the episode, it twisted in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
The whole game clocked in at
about 6 or 7 hours, which for me is about the bare minimum of something
you should call a game. However nothing felt like filler, and it packed
an overall wallop that meant how long it lasted didn’t really matter.
Longer though shouldn’t really
happen. There are some things that should, as the song goes, know when
to fold. That doesn’t mean if it went on it wouldn’t be worthy, rather
that the impact of this outing would be diminished. Which would be a
Highlights of this episode
include the Bloody Mary confrontation, and the failure to back away from
the consequences of violence, viscerally and otherwise.
It remained “adult” to the end,
looks fantastic, and has voice acting par excellence. If you could turn
off the notifications about what your decisions mean, this would be as
close to A plus as you could get.
Do yourself a favour; overcome
your feelings about action and keyboard pecking, holster your puzzle
inclinations, and have one hell of a grown up roller coaster story ride.
Overall Grade: A
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB
GameBoomers Review Guidelines
December 2013 - July 2014