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Review: The Wolf Among Us - Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors


Jason Clement

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, OSX

(PS Vita and iOS coming at a later date)

Release Date: February 4, 2014

Rating: M for Mature

 

 

For many stories the beginning can often be the slowest or roughest part, only improving in quality from there. This is partly what made Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us pretty phenomenal; not only did it manage to set up an interesting plot, but it also managed to balance it with the right amount of drama, character development, and world building. Unfortunately, a great beginning also makes it that much harder for the second act to live up to, and that's exactly the predicament The Wolf Among Us - Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors finds itself in.

 

Left reeling after the events in Episode 1, Bigby's trail leads him to the vice-ridden side of Fabletown in order to investigate black market glamours and discover who might be behind the whole scheme. However, instead of building on the suspense and momentum the cliffhanger in Episode 1 created, the story in this episode feels like it takes a step back early on. The overall pacing is slower, and that's partly because it's a bit shorter than the first as well. Clocking in at a mere hour and a half, my biggest gripe is that the arc presented in Episode 2 doesn't seem like it truly added much to the overall story save for another big cliffhanger in the last moments.

 

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There's also a bit less depth and character development, and it comes at the expense of trying to advance the overall plot. You'll learn more about certain characters as it ties in with the story, but you're never given quite the same look into their lives or their motivations the way the first episode portrayed many of them. Bluebeard actually makes his first appearance in this episode after a mention or two in Episode 1, and yet beyond a scene at the start, he's never really given a true reason to be a part of this story just yet. His inclusion hints that he's only there so you can see what sort of man he is, likely for foreshadowing reasons. Beauty also gets some time to shine here, picking up on the storyline from Episode 1 where she asked you not to reveal her whereabouts to Beast, but her demeanor and personality aren't all that different from Snow's, which is a little disappointing as far as differentiation between characters go.

 

Another issue is that the game design isn't as compelling as some of Episode 1's was. You're given a few scenarios where you have to examine the room and put evidence and clues together, but it's less about cross-examining the person and more just clicking on whatever is clickable until there's nothing left. If there's one thing that was a bit frustrating, though, it's that the game has certain instances where it clearly intends for Bigby to fight or resort to violence, though it may seem to present options where you might be able to sway the situation to a more peaceful solution. Sometimes you may be able to do that, but it's mostly with minor conversations. With major plot points, it's all but certain that Telltale wants to force a situation where Bigby will resort to his more beastly ways, which is fine if that's their intent, but I don't understand the reason for having seemingly peaceful options if they're nothing more than a facade in those specific instances.

 

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However, despite some gripes (and I'm really getting nitpicky over a lot of things, admittedly) Episode 2 still manages to keep the overall story compelling. Some questions are answered and even more are raised. And though there are only a few new characters introduced, at least one of them is a nice reveal for those familiar with popular fairy tales. Also, though it ends a bit suddenly, the cliffhanger at the end of this one is possibly even more intriguing than the first episode's and will leave you hoping that Episode 3 doesn't take nearly as long to release as this one did. In the meantime, hopefully Telltale ups the ante on the pacing and focuses a bit more on the characters themselves in the next episode, in turn hopefully recapturing some of the magic that made Episode 1 so good in the first place.

 


Pros

 

+ Plot thickens and continues to gain some traction

+ Some characters' stories are explored a bit more

 

Cons

 

- Slightly shorter at 1.5 hours or less

- Less action scenes than the first

- Gameplay is a bit simplified in this one

 


Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)

Good

 

Episode 2 stumbles a bit in regards to character development and gameplay, but still manages to provide some interesting new revelations to the story while keeping its integrity intact with the atmosphere and world that's been established.

 

This game was reviewed on PC using downloadable code provided by the publisher.

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