Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, iOS
Episode 5 of Telltale Games’ epic fantasy neo-noir crime drama extravaganza “The Wolf Among Us” was released on Tuesday, July 8th and brought to an end one of the most tense, wonderfully acted, character driven adventure/mystery videogames that has ever been published. Though not without some faults, any shortcomings are easily overshadowed by just about everything else this game brings to the table – it’s not such a stretch to put it at least on the same level as the now-legendary Walking Dead episodic games.
The Wolf Among Us, based on DC Comics’ graphic novel series “Fables,” follows a colorful cast of mythical creatures that we all know and love re-imagined in a neo-noir, crime ridden, New York City setting; think Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” with a cast from a Brothers Grimm tale. The player character is Bigby Wolf (Big B. Wolf. Get it?) who is charged as sheriff in Fabletown, a town hidden within downtown New York City where all the fairytale creatures from ages ago migrated to once their homelands were attacked. Because the story draws from classic folk and fairy tales from all sorts of backgrounds, the player can expect to run into familiar characters such as Snow White, Beauty & The Beast, and even a few personified urban legends. Many of the voice actors from The Walking Dead return for some looser, more freeform roles here, including Erin Yvette (Bonnie in TWD) as Snow White, Melissa Hutchison (Clementine) as Beauty, and Dave Fennoy (Lee) as Bluebeard. Maybe it’s because these characters aren’t rooted in reality, but the voice acting seems much richer and fuller than in The Walking Dead. Since the game takes place in an urban environment and mostly indoors, the scenery seems much more tailored to the cel-shaded graphic style Telltale is known for. It brings out the more unique player models for sure – one specific baddie in episodes 4 or 5 might be the most impressive character design Telltale has ever done.
Since the casual gamer probably only knows TellTale because of their Walking Dead series, and because they’re both similar in gameplay, it shouldn’t be a surprise to compare the two – however the differences between the two games are readily apparent. The main difference between the two series is that The Wolf Among Us is much more reliant on specific gameplay scenes and action sequences than its’ zombie-infested brother. Choices in The Wolf Among Us directly affect the outcome of the central mystery and the main conflict, whereas in The Walking Dead, the player’s choices seem to effect how other people respond to you and affect personal relationships. Conversations again play a pivotal role in discovering information and advancing the story, but unlike The Walking Dead, sometimes staying silent is a valid option – the game reminds you of this at the beginning of Episode 1 and only once or twice does the game really penalize you for staying silent instead of always saying something; a bit of a twist that was surprisingly effective. More so than any other game did I actually take time to consider my actions and my words and I really tried to read into what kind of character I wanted Bigby to be and tailored my actions and speech options towards that.
There is a good dose of healthy action in The Wolf Among Us. Multiple times during each episode, Bigby is forced to fight a character, resulting in many QTE’s involving the mouse and the keyboard that can and will punish the player for not reacting quick enough. Again, there are times in the game where inaction can actually work for the player – there is a part during the climax of Episode 5 where Bigby has the choice of killing a character: the QTE display comes up to attack the enemy, but it does not force Bigby to attack, effectively making two very different outcomes. It’s very surprising and very refreshing that Telltale thought through all those possibilities when creating the game. Speaking of in-depth attention to details, the plethora of discoverable goodies in The Wolf Among Us is staggering – everything from storybooks to certain conversations result in unlocks in the Book of Fables: a lexicon of characters, backgrounds, items and much more that covers the history of specific fables. More than one time I came across a character that I didn’t recognize their origin story, but once I read the Book of Fables it became clear.
A few times, the fixed camera angle coupled with using a mouse and keyboard for movement resulted in an awkward and, at times, frustrating experience when trying to explore certain environments. It wasn’t unusual to have to leave a certain area and re-enter it in a different way so when the camera switched, it was easier to maneuver around. It seems this is nary a problem when playing with a connected controller, which the game supports. Other than that, the game runs smoothly. There wasn’t any noticeable slowdown or lag, and the controls seemed very responsive. That, paired with the great soundtrack and voice acting, makes for a beautiful game to hear and see.
In the end, The Wolf Among Us may be Telltale’s crowning achievement thus far. An adventure game with more elements of action and mystery than character development makes for a welcome respite from typical adventure game tropes. An excellent first venture into adventure games and an amazing playthrough for veterans of the genre as well.
Digital Review Code Provided By Telltale Games
Review By Jackson May