The Wolf Among Us
The Wolf Among Us is a new episodic adventure from Telltale Games. It takes place in the comic book world of Fables, which was created by Bill Willingham in 2002. Previously we reviewed the first episode “Faith.” This review is for the complete first season, which concluded in July.
If you’ve never heard of Fables, it’s sort of like the “Once Upon a Time” television series, where fairytale characters (called fables) have been evicted from their Homelands and now live in a small corner of New York City called Fabletown. As the game opens up, you take control of Bigby Wolf (aka the Big Bad Wolf), who is the sheriff of Fabletown. Your job is mostly to make sure that your fellow fables follow the rules — including that non-human characters like Mr. Toad wear glamours so they fit in better — but soon enough somebody starts beheading fables (which appears to be one of the few ways that you can kill them), and along with Snow White, you have to figure out what’s going on.
The engine for The Wolf Among Us is pretty standard fare for adventure games. The world is presented from fixed positions, and you use the WASD keys to move Bigby around the different scenes. Then in each scene, you use the mouse to locate hotspots (including other characters and objects) and interact with them. If you can do multiple things with a hotspot (such as knocking on a door or kicking it open), then clicking on the hotspot will bring up a wheel of possible actions. The interface makes the game pretty easy to control, and if you’ve played other Telltale games like The Walking Dead or Jurassic Park, then you should be able to jump right into The Wolf Among Us without any problem.
Unfortunately, The Wolf Among Us is much more of an interactive movie than it is an adventure game. There is exactly one puzzle to solve (where you have to open up a glamour tube in Episode 2). The rest of the time it’s just a matter of talking to people and uncovering clues. There are also a few actions sequences where Bigby has to fight someone or chase down a suspect. During these sequences you have to press the WASD keys at the right time (to dodge out of the way of a punch, for example), or press the Q key repeatedly (during a struggle of some sort), or click on something (to choose an option, such as where to push somebody). These sequences are much friendlier than in Telltale’s other games (especially Jurassic Park), and you can often miss a key or make a mistake and still continue on with the sequence. Still, if you’re not good at quickly pressing keys or targeting the mouse, then you’re probably going to have trouble completing the game.
On a more positive note, while the game is “just” an interactive movie, it’s a good one. The story takes place before the events in the comic books (it looks like the ’80s to me), and it includes some famous fables (like Beauty and the Beast) plus some new ones (like Georgie Porgie and the Tweedles). These characters are seamlessly woven together into an intriguing mystery that is on par with the storylines from the comic books, and the mystery has enough twists and turns in it (including a doozy at the end) to keep the game interesting. But just be aware: with the gruesome killings plus lots of profanity and even some nudity, The Wolf Among Us isn’t a family-friendly game. It more than earns its Mature ESRB rating.
To help the story along, you’re given lots of control over how you play Bigby. You can make him friendly and understanding, or you can put him into “big bad” mode where he’s more dangerous than the killer you’re tracking down. You’re also given some choices about how to investigate the case, where for example you can pick between a pair of suspects to interview or a trio of locations to search. Your choices don’t really affect the trajectory of the case, but they dramatically change how people view you and how you come up with evidence. Thus, while The Wolf Among Us only takes about 8 hours to complete, it has a lot of replay value. I played through the game twice, and the second time was almost as much fun as the first.
Also helping with the game’s storytelling are the graphics and sound. The Wolf Among Us uses a cartoony style that fits in well with its comic book origins, and all of the characters and locations look just like they’re supposed to (right down to Flycatcher with his frog hat). Meanwhile, the voice actors do a terrific job with their lines, which is always the case for Telltale’s games. As a result, The Wolf Among Us is a pleasant enough game just to sit and watch — which is a good thing, since that’s what you do most of the time.
Overall, I was a little disappointed that Telltale Games couldn’t come up with more puzzles for The Wolf Among Us, but otherwise everything about the game is first-rate. The art direction, the voice acting, and the writing all work together to create an enjoyable murder-mystery, and it’s probably even better if you’re familiar with the Fables comic books. So The Wolf Among Us is an easy game to recommend, and I hope that Telltale Games is able to return to the Fables universe at some point for a sequel (perhaps focusing on the criminally underused Cinderella character).
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Telltale Games
This review is based on a digital copy of The Wolf Among Us for the PC provided by Telltale Games.