GAME NAME: The Wolf Among Us
DEVELOPER(S): Telltale Games
PUBLISHER(S): Telltale Games
PLATFORM(S): XBLA, PSN, PC, Mac
RELEASE DATE(S): October 11, 2013
The time has come. And by the time, I mean a time many Fables fans like myself thought we’d only dream about. The time when Bill Willingham’s imaginative series becomes livable through the world of gaming. Not only that, it’s being presented by the competent developers responsible for the breakout hit The Walking Dead; the one and only Telltale Games. I may be five years removed from reading the Fables series, but its transition to the world of cinematic stylized gaming is so seamless, I instantly fell back into the story and its characters. Hello, old friends. Lead the way, friendly neighborhood Wolverine-esque hero. Oh, wait. That’s me now. Uhh. Okay, then. Here we go.
Having played Telltale’s The Walking Dead as strictly angelic as my brain and fingers would collectively allow, I went into The Wolf Among Us assuming I’d do more of the same. You know, “I wanna be honest with everyone and make sure we all survive without anyone’s feelings getting hurt. Okay? Now take your neighbor’s hand while Bufkin leads us in an inspiring rendition of Kumbaya.” However, in true Bigby (aka Big Bad) Wolf fashion, I quickly found myself kicking down doors and saying things that could only end with fists meeting faces. And I loved every second of it. Don’t get me wrong. I was still out for the greater good, but I found the role of anti-hero much more inviting in this, a tale of hard-nosed fable life, complete with princesses turned “working girls” and frogs turned foul-mouthed troublemakers.
Unlike The Walking Dead, the goal here is not survival (at least not the main one), but rather getting knee deep in a murder mystery that needs solving. So why not assert some brash dominance and wisecrack my way through the grit? If anything, I thought it might me earn some respect among the seedy underworld I planned to uproot. And this is the beauty of the game. Not the seedy underworld, mind you, (What kind of person do you think I am?) but the power to choose; to play the role how you see fit and remember it’s a game while you do. You can say things you wouldn’t actually say and do things you wouldn’t actually do. Then again, you can flat out play like you, if you so desire. Either way, the choices are yours and those choices will have consequences.
With crime-solving the name of the game and a noir setting to boot, the game echoes the mechanics and feel of L.A. Noire, but the gameplay holds true to the low coordination requirements set by The Wolf Among Us’ Telltale predecessor. One button at a time, occasionally with the stick thrown in for added intensity. And added intensity it delivers. It doesn’t take long to find yourself tumbling and fumbling around in a fight for your characters’ life whilst wondering how long you can manage to survive and why that bottle didn’t put an end to the madness. The answer to the latter reminds you this is the Fables universe. Here, the rules are different. And as a result, predictability is a rare commodity.
Whether or not you have prior knowledge of the Fables universe, chances are you’ve met many of its inhabitants before, making the game highly accessible and easy with which to immerse one self. Of course, their clothing was a bit more fabulous, their problems a bit more trivial, and their language a lot more restricted. But this other side of the characters is likely to be exciting and engaging for most, whilst only potentially earth-shattering for conservative loyalists of the fairy tales from which they derive. Thankfully, most should fall into the former and find “spot the hero/heroine” an appealing game within the game, then proceed to watch in awe at the ways the lovable and not-so-lovable characters have changed since their days of moralistic gum-droppy glee. Not sure what that is exactly, but somehow I think it fits. And so we continue…
The faults in the game are few. One of the only being occasional lag in the middle of fast paced scenes that require equally fast reactions. Trying to skillfully chase a suspect whilst dodging projectiles and parkouring like a ninja turtle can be considerably difficult when the scene is jumpy and your already short window for success becomes smaller than Mr. Toad’s Tiny Tim-esque son. Thankfully, said lag may not be a universal issue. Also thankfully and not at all related, the music sets a fantastic, ominous tone and the graphics align well with the story’s original conception. The story is full of tantalizing intrigue, dangerous encounters, timely chuckles, and unexpected shocks of the disturbingly grim variety. Though the game has consistent adult themes and language, episode one of The Wolf Among Us should have little trouble reeling in mundies the gaming world over. Good thing too because if the first episode is any indication, Fables fans new and old are in for a wild ride in which they control the wheel.