The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – “Faith”
The Wolf Among Us is the latest episodic game series from Telltale Games. It takes place in the comic book world of Fables (created by Bill Willingham in 2002), where fairy tale creatures have been evicted from their Homelands by an Adversary, and now live in New York City, sometimes with the help of glamour spells to make them look more human. If you’ve never heard of Fables before, then you can think of it as being sort of like the “Once Upon a Time” television series but much more R-rated, with violence, profanity, and — if the coming attractions are accurate — nudity being common themes. This review is for the first episode of the series. The other four episodes look like they’re going to come out every two months, with the season concluding sometime this summer.
In Episode 1 – “Faith” you control Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf. You’re the sheriff of Fabletown, the part of New York City where the Fables live. Your job is mostly to make sure that the Fables don’t do anything to draw attention to themselves, but you also have to keep the peace and investigate crimes, which can be difficult sometimes because you didn’t have a good history with the other Fables in the pre-NYC days (you were the wolf from Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, and you apparently did a bunch of other nasty things, too). People usually aren’t thrilled when you make the rounds.
Early on in “Faith,” a Fable is murdered and her head is left on front steps of the Woodlands, the seat of government for Fabletown, and also the housing complex where the wealthiest Fables live. You decide that this seems more like a message than a crime of passion, and together with Snow White, you start looking into the matter. Could the murderer be the Woodsman, who got into a drunken fight with the Fable earlier in the day, or perhaps Bluebeard. who used to behead his wives? Or maybe it’s somebody else we haven’t seen yet. You don’t solve the crime during “Faith.” The first episode is just the set-up for the season.
Going by Episode 1, The Wolf Among Us isn’t going to be any sort of adventure game. You investigate crime scenes and you talk to people and you participate in some action sequences (such as chasing down a suspect or fighting someone who has it in for you), but you don’t solve any puzzles. The closest thing I saw to a puzzle was when I was in Mr. Toad’s apartment. He was telling lies, and by looking at the evidence around me, I was able to disprove his version of events. That means The Wolf Among Us is probably going to be more of an interactive movie, and fit in better with Telltale’s Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead games than with the Wallace & Gromit or Monkey Island games.
The interface for The Wolf Among Us makes the game easy to play. You use the WASD keys to move Bigby around, and when you get close enough to a hotspot, a symbol appears over it, letting you know it’s there. If you then move the mouse pointer over the hotspot, a context sensitive menu pops up allowing you to do one of four things with it: examine it, talk to it (if it’s a person), use it, or combine an inventory item with it. When you talk to someone, you’re usually given four responses, which you can select with the mouse, but unfortunately these sequences are timed, and so you have to read quickly to pick the dialogue option that suits your version of Bigby the best.
For the action sequences, you have to press one of the WASD keys quickly to dodge in that direction, or quickly click on a (sometimes moving) target to perform an action, or press the Q key repeatedly to force something into submission. These sequences are “friendly” in that you’re usually given plenty of warning for what you need to press, and you can also sometimes miss a key or two and still survive until the end. But if you play adventure-type games simply because you don’t have the dexterity to play action games, or you don’t like the frenetic pace of action games, then The Wolf Among Us might be frustrating for you.
The writing for The Wolf Among Us is pretty good so far. The world is explained in enough detail so that you understand what’s going on, and the characters are given enough depth so that you care about what happens to them. Just be aware that the game seems to exist at the same time period as the first issue of the comic book, in some sort of alternate version of the Fables universe, so anything you might know about the comic books (including who’s alive or dead) doesn’t necessarily apply here. That’s a good thing because it means the game can go anywhere, and no character (except perhaps Bigby) is safe.
But probably the most interesting thing about The Wolf Among Us is that the game remembers what actions you take (just like in The Walking Dead before it). So you can make Bigby “nice” and be polite to people, or you can make him a real stinker and literally rip someone’s arm off. Other characters in the game react to your actions, and later scenes change because of it. As an example, in the first episode you find Beauty hiding behind some bushes, and she asks you to ignore her presence and not tell Beast that you saw her. So do you agree or disagree, and then what do you do when you see Beast later? The payoff for this choice doesn’t come in Episode 1, but from the coming attractions we’ll be seeing a lot of Beast in Episode 2, and he probably won’t be happy if you lied to him.
So for The Wolf Among Us, my evaluation is this: so far so good. The writing is solid, the characters and universe are intriguing, and the murder mystery looks like it can hold up for a 10-hour game (or however long the entire season lasts). The one caveat for the game is that the content is decidedly adult in nature, and so you might not want your children playing it, but for everybody else, The Wolf Among Us gets an easy recommendation from me. I just wish it wasn’t going to take so long for future episodes to come out.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Telltale Games
This review is based on a digital copy of The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – “Faith” for the PC provided by Telltale Games.
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