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.
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB