In 2012 Telltale games released The Walking Dead: The Game to high praise from both gamers and critics alike, who praised its dark, emotionally charged narrative. Now Telltale are back with The Wolf Among Us, another game inspired by a comic book franchise, Bill Willingham’s Fables.
I headed into The Wolf Among Us with a strange sense of apprehension, I was a massive fan of The Walking Dead, and thought that Lee and Clementine’s story was incredibly powerful, and inherently beautiful, and I wondered whether Telltale could recreate that sort of narrative genius all over again. I wondered whether the same emotions could be recreated and instilled in me once again, and then I realized, they didn’t need to be, I realized that I didn’t just love The Walking Dead’s story for the camaraderie between the two protagonists. I loved it because it was dark, disturbing, chilling, gritty and dire. I loved it because it was unforgiving and mature, and I loved it because it was incredibly written. After realizing this, I went into The Wolf Among Us with a different approach, I didn’t go in expecting The Walking Dead in a different universe, I went in expecting an incredibly written, uncomfortably tense, and morality shattering experience, and The Wolf Among Us is all of these things in spades.
The Wolf Among Us is set in a clandestine community, that has been set up in New York City by a group of Fables that have been forced out of their homeland by “The Adversary.” You play as the sheriff of Fabletown, Bigby Wolf, whose task is to ensure that the fables remain undetected. The fables are concealed by a substance called, Glamour, and it gives the illusion that you are talking to just another human, and not say, a straight talking, chain smoking pig named Colin, yes he is actually a character that you encounter in one of the opening moments in the game. Without revealing too much the story of The Wolf Among Us’s first episode, which will form the basis of the whole season, is grim, and gritty, and certainly not one for the faint of heart. Bigby’s trying to reform after the events of the well known fable, Little Red Riding Hood, however this is proving to be more difficult than he would have imagined, as it has become increasingly difficult for him to hide his wolf-like tendencies.
Once again Telltale have delivered on their promise of a intelligently written yarn, as The Wolf Among Us is masterfully brought to life through the use of an incredible script. Bigby can come across as a serious not-to-be-messed-with kind of guy or a sarcastic, brooding detective, depending on how you play. A great script would mean nothing however if the lines weren’t delivered with any conviction, thankfully Telltale has once again delivered, as all of the characters that appear in episode one were engaging and interesting. My personal favorite has to be Mr Toad, the owner of an apartment building in which the opening scenes of the episode takes place. He comes across as endearing and likable, whilst still upholding a sense of mystery, and creating that same subtle nuance that every character in The Wolf Among Us seems to possess. The possibility of character development in The Wolf Among Us is an exciting premise, I really am interested in hearing more of Bigby’s back story, I want to know what life is like on “the farm,” the place where fables are sent to if they can’t keep up their human appearance. Colin the pig briefly eluded to “the farm” however no details were revealed, all we know is that it is not a desirable place to be.
A complaint that some gamers had in regards to The Walking Dead: The Game
was that the action scenes were weak, and lacked a real punch, many just boiling down to rigorously spamming the X button. The Wolf Among Us addresses these complaints head on however, as the combat sections this time around are brutal, and unforgiving. Fight sequences keep you on your toes, making you constantly look around the environment for the next item that you could possibly use to bludgeon, garrote, cut or strangle your adversary with. These sequences pack a punch never before seen in a Telltale game, and although they are few and far between, when they do occur, they truly are marvelous. Marvelous and brutal.
You control Bigby in the same way you did Lee in The Walking Dead, movement is mapped to the left analog stick and the reticle which you use to investigate items and talk to people is mapped to the right stick. The control scheme is as accessible as ever meaning that gamers only interested in the story aren’t forced to attempt anything too taxing. Whilst it is still easy to guide Bigby into walls accidentally, these issues don’t get in the way of an otherwise ever evolving narrative so really result in a diminutive complaint.
Whilst the great story telling and intelligent writing is back, so to are the technical issues that hindered The Walking Dead. The frame rate still chugs whenever you are transitioning from scene to scene, and some screen tearing is visible during long fight sequences. On the whole The Wolf Among Us runs much smoother than The Walking Dead
ever did, and that’s a good thing, as it doesn’t ever intervene with the story. There were times when an important event was occurring in The Walking Dead however I wasn’t able to see it as the frame rate was too busy lagging way behind. I didn’t encounter any experiences where this happened during my first playthrough which took roughly two hours to complete.
The Wolf Among Us, whilst still cell-shaded is beautiful. Aesthetically perfect, and masterfully realized, The Wolf Among Us is truly brought to life by its visuals. Colours pop, and character models are crisp, making you feel, more than ever before, that you are indeed in the middle of a comic book. The gorgeous visuals are accompanied by a dark, brooding, melancholic score that really helps punctuate both the brutal action sequences and the tender, more heartfelt moments. The Wolf Among Us is much more varied than The Walking Dead ever was in the visual department, multiple environments really highlighting the stylish noir vibe that Telltale were going for.