Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, OSX
(PS Vita and iOS coming at a later date)
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Rating: M for Mature
This game was reviewed using a PC code (via Steam) provided by the publisher
It's safe to say at this point that Telltale does amazing things with story-driven games. They've been in the point-and-click adventure game for a little while now, but with last year's adaptation of The Walking Dead, they've exploded into superstars. Their latest project, The Wolf Among Us, which is a title adapted from a Vertigo comic series known as Fables, doesn't have quite the same amount of fame and recognition as The Walking Dead; all the same, if people didn't know about Fables before, they certainly will now.
The Wolf Among Us serves as a prequel of sorts to the events that transpire in Fables. It centers on a group of fairytale characters, creatures, and legends known as "Fables" that have been exiled from their own world (for reasons that are explained and expanded upon later in the comics), forced to live in our own reality among "Mundies" (short for mundane; normal people, basically). Some Fables are able to fit in naturally thanks to having a human appearance, while others have to mask their appearance with magic; something that becomes evident and is explored in this first episode.
You play as Bigby Wolf, the titular "wolf" among us, and general fairytale villain - or at least used to be. As the Big, Bad Wolf, Bigby's dark past has caught up with his current predicament, where he runs Fabletown as its sheriff, or tries to. It becomes apparent right away that Bigby is trying to use his time in exile with the others to start anew and change from his old ways, but most others aren't buying it. Making things even more difficult for him in this regard is that he's generally the best person to help solve bad situations, and as Marvel Comic's Wolverine would put it - "what he does isn't very nice."
The game opens with Bigby arriving to a scene to respond to a call. If the Fable's unorthodox world and setting hasn't hit you on the head with how fictitious it can be, it absolutely will when you stumble through the entrance to an apartment building, only to find a large toad wearing pants and a jacket looking back at you and swearing up a storm with a Cockney accent. Soon enough, you're engaged in fisticuffs with a rowdy hooligan upstairs, only to stumble upon a murder plot. This is only the tip of the iceberg as well; The Wolf Among Us does a brilliant job of introducing not only the backstory, but also the characters and the locations of Fabletown to newcomers, even more so on many levels than the actual comic does at its start.
As far as the gameplay goes, it follows The Walking Dead's more action-heavy approach but combined with a more Phoenix Wright investigation-esque aspect to it. You'll move Bigby around different areas and interact with different characters and investigate objects for clues and whatnot. Interactions with characters proceed similarly to what was started in The Walking Dead, with different conversations and reactions leading to different results. What you say or do to one character may come back to haunt you later, and the game will take note and let you know.
There are also action segments where you may get involved in a confrontation with another character, or one where you're involved in a chase. In both types, the action plays out with key moments where you'll either have the option to select a hotspot on the screen and influence the outcome in a certain way, or you'll be prompted to hit a certain button quickly in order to avoid something like a right hook punch, for example. They're quick time events for sure, but they're well done and don't feel repetitive or bland at all. The action is just jarring enough to where it makes you feel as if you're really in Bigby's shoes feeling every physical blow he takes. Telltale also did a great job with how cinematic these moments are, blending a sort of movie quality with quick, dynamic shots shifting around and combined seemlessly with the interactivity of a game.
In addition to a great story set-up, there a few character building scenes that play out brilliantly and really set the tone for the themes the series is set to tackle; one conversation lasts for just the duration of a car ride, but some key elements and themes are discussed that really make you feel for the situation the characters are in, and perhaps even include some hints of criticism on things going on in the real world today. In fact, few other games have made me care about the characters and their predicament more than The Wolf Among Us has in just the short two and half hour timespan that Episode 1 lasts.
There's something to be noted for the game's visuals as well. Although it's a similar aesthetic to the one previously seen in The Walking Dead, it actually fits The Wolf Among Us even more due to its close approximation of Mark Buckingham's fantastic visual style used in the Fables comics. Each characters' facial expressions and lip synching are extremely well done and make the experience a lot more believable than many recent games I've played. Additionally, the soundtrack is consistently good and goes along with each situation well, even if the main theme's deep synth vibe is a bit unexpected. And last but not least, the voice cast for this group of characters is splendid; there's not a bad or half-baked performance at all.
When I first heard that Telltale would be creating a game based off of Fables a few years back, it quickly became one of my most anticipated titles. But there was a thought in the back of my head that Telltale could possibly get it wrong; that the game wouldn't be all that great. I'm happy to say that this first episode has exceeded my expectations tenfold; I couldn't ask for a better adaptation of the world author Bill Willingham has been creating for years now. Simply put, if you love great stories and want to experience Telltale's next great classic, you should absolutely play The Wolf Among Us. This series is off to a great start with Episode 1, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.
+ Fantastic adaptation of an already great series
+ Story setup, plot, and pacing are extremely well done
+ Visuals are attractive and fit well
+ Action sequences are fast and engaging
- This episode is a bit short, rounding out at 2.5 hours or so
Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
The Wolf Among Us is set to be Telltale's next great masterpiece if Episode 1 is anything to go by. Here's hoping they can keep up the pace with the remainder of the season.