Meet Telltale’s game “The Wolf Among Us”.
The company is by now well known. It published the game of “The Walking Dead” (2 seasons in, one more coming), “The Game of Thrones” (1 season in, the 2nd one coming) and “Tales from the Borderlands”. All of them episodic, graphical drama adventure games where player choices makes the game. Choose right, you may make friends, escape a cliffhanger. Choose wrong, you end up a lone wolf and die an unsurprising death halfway.
“The Wolf Among Us” is like all the games above, an episodic graphical adventure game where players are deposited into the shoes of non other than Mr. Bigby Wolf whose name sounds uncannily like ‘The Big Bad Wolf’. Yup, he’s the big bad wolf who tried ingesting Red Riding Hood and ended up being gutted by the Woodsman and as him, your first assignment is to beat the Woodsman in a shady NYC apartment and protect a strange girl. Mr. Bigby Wolf is the lone sheriff in Fabletown NYC, a secret town home to all Fairytale characters, called Fables, who were driven there from their Homelands by some past event. Ichabod Crane has left Sleepy Hollow and is now the miserly Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, Ms. Snow White has divorced Prince Charming and is the assistant to the Deputy Mayor.
Of course what with “Once Upon A Time” and “Enchanted” fairy tale characters in the real world aren’t so much of a novel idea but the Fables comic which this game is based on was released way back when in 2004 and also presents a grittier, dirtier, bloodier version of fairytales than anything else does.
I just managed to complete the first episode of the five episode saga that is “The Wolf Among Us” and I have to say I’m impressed.
The visuals stay true to its source material: a comic book series. The art, full of heavy lines and obvious color paletting, it’s easy to believe you’re watching a visual novel but you’re not. You playing a game that will screw you up if you don’t pay attention.
As the sheriff, the very first murder gets thrown in your face pretty quickly. The strange girl you saved before ends up dead outside your apartments and alongside the beautiful and snappy Ms. Snow White, you embark on your inevitable investigation as to who the girl is, why she was killed and who did it.
On your investigation, you meet a plethora of various characters from your favorite fairytales. And they’re not just the Disney ones. Grendel from “Beowulf” makes an appearance as well as a flying monkey from “The Wizard of Oz”. Not to mention aforementioned Ichabod Crane. And a member from our favorite Toad Hall. It’s interesting to see the kind of real world people each fairytale character has been reimagined as and for me, the mystery of the murder was only half the fascination with the set-up. The other was seeing the character’s I’d been used to seeing in a completely different element.
The direction of this episode was masterful. Playing it through, I was constantly struck with how good a movie it would make. Add in just a little touch of more expert direction, maybe some more experience voice actors and you could literally make it a movie.
With “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” Telltale were imitating the look and feel of the respective shows. With “The Wolf Among Us”, the company is doing the opposite: creating a look and feel for the franchise that honestly, works pretty well. Oh who are we kidding? It looks amazing.
Of course, the voice acting is not all upto standard. Comparing this with the Game of Thrones from Telltale, this is quite sub-par. Snow White’s dialogue sometimes sound very much read and rehearsed.
And the plot, while engaging and full of surprises which will want you to keep playing, doesn’t seem too strong either. Telltale’s Game of Thrones started out strong and powerful on plot and character development in the first couple of episodes but lost its way on the last three episodes, tying up a lot of loose ends with a lot of unnecessary and frankly, unwanted and unforeseen deaths. Just because everybody dies in the books and the TV shows, it doesn’t call for making gamers feel helpless as they watch their hero die.
I hope The Wolf Among Us doesn’t disappoint later one. The set-up definitely has potential but it also has a lot of potential pitfalls.
P.S: Mr. Bigby Wolf, while very much the stereotypical gritty, cigarette smoking, messy, street-wise detective, he still manages to grow on us. Why? Because the players get to decide whether he’s cruel and harsh or understanding and caring.
For this, my first playthrough, I’m trying to keep him somewhere in the middle. Kind to the fair ladies and cruel to the ne’er-do-wells. Go get ’em Mr. Wolf. Go get ’em.