Liars, Tempers and Beasts- Oh My!
I’m no stranger to Telltale Games’ work. Having played through Season one of both The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, I’m well aware of the kind of experience Telltale delivers. Personally, I really enjoy spending time with these games. They definitely have their issues, but I admire Telltale’s attempt to further blur the line between videogame and film. Having just finished episode one of The Wolf Among Us, not only am I already enjoying it more than their other offerings, but I now also have an even stronger faith in Telltale’s upcoming take on the Batman.
The Wolf Among Us is adapted from a DC Vertigo comic series called Fables. I’ve never heard of Fables before, so I’m being exposed to its unique twist on classic fairytales for the first time. The concept is very intriguing; basically, a bunch of classic fairytale characters (Snow White, Ichabod Crane, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, etc.) exist as a shadow community, magically disguising themselves as ordinary humans living in New York City. The game dives into the murder-mystery narrative pretty quickly and without much backstory, a move that I love as it draws your attention to the here and now rather than spending time building the world it takes place in.
Besides, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that their world is a brutal one. Don’t let the fairytale fare fool you- barfights and beheadings are commonplace. You play as Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame, who’s become the sheriff of Fabletown. He’s personified by your stereotypical, wearied “seen-it-all” detective, living in a shitty little apartment while trying (and failing) to change the other Fabled characters’ opinions about him. Apparently, even after all the hundreds of years, even Fabled characters hold grudges when you eat up a bunch of their friends.
As with any Telltale game, the strength of the story is conveyed through the dialogue options. So far, I can see three general archetypes: good cop, bad cop, and J.J. Gittes. Personally, going after the chiding and sarcastic jerk with a penchant for righteous justice just feels right. I always thought the conversation writing was at least halfway decent in Telltale games, but it has a special attitude and charm to it with The Wolf Among Us. But, then again, maybe I just like watching a three-foot-tall toad drop the F bomb like it was going out of style.
Outside the conversation gameplay is Telltale’s typical “walk around and look at stuff” offering, but it feels a little more entertaining here due to the investigative nature of the protagonist and story. Looking at a bunch of random postcards or trinkets in The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones never felt like a worthwhile expenditure of my time, but in The Wolf Among Us, I actually felt compelled to turn over every stone in my search for more clues. The quick-time events were few, as well, and they felt slightly more forgiving than my previous experiences.
The game’s presentation is also a noteworthy aspect. The Walking Dead looked okay, and while the graphical fidelity remains the same, the comic book art style works much better in The Wolf Among Us. That’s in no small part due to the Miami Vice-like flair it has going for it; the color palate is dominated with vibrant pinks and purples, and they somehow manage to effectively combine 80s noir pulp with fairytale fables. No small feat, if you ask me.
The Wolf Among Us is a great example of what happens when a narrative-based videogame is done right. Time will tell if my decisions will truly affect the story, and while my past experience is telling me they won’t, I’m still excited to see how it all unfolds. The exploration moments aren’t as dull as they usually are, the dialogue is engaging, and the characters and story are interesting (if not a little cliché, but hey- it’s a fairytale).
Here’s to hoping The Wolf Among Us maintains this level of intrigue throughout episodes 2-5, and hopefully Telltale themselves can raise their bar even higher with their forthcoming Batman adaptation.