Telltale has risen to prominence recently thanks to the massive success of their video game series based on The Walking Dead. Selling a ridiculous amount of units, migrating from a digital download to full retail release, and snatching the Game of the Year award at the Spike VGAs in 2012, Telltale has managed to become a developer that everyone has their eyes on. Of course, they are busy working away at the second season of The Walking Dead, but they have also been making another game series inspired by a comic book. This time it’s one based on the popular series Fables, serving as a prequel to that comic book series, and it is called The Wolf Among Us.
The Wolf Among Us stars Bigby Wolf, also known as the infamous Big Bad Wolf, as the sheriff of Fabletown. Fabletown is a section of New York that is currently inhabited by various figures and creatures from our folktales and legends. It turns out that these creatures have actually existed in various other worlds and dimensions, but thanks to a cataclysmic event known as “The Exodus”, they were forced to migrate to the the human world, which they find rather “mundane”.
The creatures that can pass as human or that can afford a glamour — which is a spell that allows them to look like humans — are allowed to live in Fabletown, which is protected from the mundies (non-Fable folk, think “muggle) by various charms designed to keep their minds too busy to focus on the oddities in Fabletown.
This first episode does a fantastic job of introducing these strange concepts to newcomers thanks to the natural way characters and situations are introduced, and by utilizing the Book of Fables. The Book of Fables is a directory of information and back-story on characters and locations that help flesh out the story and world even more. Something like this should be included in the next season of The Walking Dead, as it honestly makes every character deeper without even having to waste screen time developing the less important ones.
Faith, the title of the first episode, revolves around a couple of things. For one, there is a murder mystery that is up to Bigby to solve, and for two, it deals with Bigby’s past, especially in regards to the Woodsman, who is a major character here. The Woodsman is the man that, according to the legend of Little Red Riding Hood, cut the Big Bad Wolf (Bigby) open, stuffed his stomach full of rocks, and threw him in the river to save Red and her grandmother from certain death at the hands of the wolf. Nowadays he is an alcoholic, thirsty for when he was famous for his heroism, and a violent man at that.
Since Fables are not humans, they can suffer a lot more damage than a person could. This opens the door for pretty fantastic fight scenes that would’ve been silly in The Walking Dead episodes. The Wolf Among Us definitely has more action than The Walking Dead did, with sinks being busted by heads, people being tackled out of windows, and arms being ripped off, among other things.
These action sequences are conducted through a series of QTEs that use the unique visual style of The Wolf Among Us to great effect. The QTEs here are more involving, requiring players to hold the analog stick in a direction instead of just flicking it, and failing or succeeding at QTEs have major consequences on how the scenes play out.
While The Wolf Among Us still uses a basic plot outline and doesn’t really let player choice have a hugely dramatic effect on the overall arc of the plot, it does manage to provide multiple choices that do leave a meaningful impact on the player. These choices are tough to make, which has become a hallmark of how Telltale designs gameplay. I was unable to skip through dialogue and scenes during replays of the game, though, so actually going back through to see how different events unfold based on different choices is more of a chore than it needs to be.
The Wolf Among Us borrows the basic cel-shaded visual style of The Walking Dead, but this makes sense because they are both born from the same medium. The Wolf Among Us manages to separate itself visually from The Walking Dead by using a lot of darker colors, with harsh purples and low lighting creating an effective noir-style atmosphere. The jazz music that accompanies these visuals manages to help cultivate this atmosphere into something truly special and engrossing.
Unfortunately, The Wolf Among Us also borrows the technical hiccups from The Walking Dead. Numerous times throughout this first episode, it’s not outlandish to count on freezes, lag, and other issues. That being said, these problems are significantly less prominent than they were in The Walking Dead, so Telltale seems to be steadily improving the “under the hood” quality of their point-and-click (and sometimes walk) adventure games.
It drags a bit in the middle, but overall The Wolf Among Us greatly impresses in its debut. The first episode is surprisingly lengthy, but nothing here is filler. The characters are greatly interesting, the plot is mysterious and exciting, and the world of Fables is a lot of fun to explore in a video game. My gaming DVR is definitely set to catch the next episodes of this adventure, and by that I mean I purchased the season pass…so the first episode did its job. I’m hooked.
Tested on Xbox 360. Final Score: 8.5/10