Warning: Full spoilers for Episodes 1 & 2 ahead
Check out my spoiler-free technical review of Episode 1 here
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Episode 2 of Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us was just as intriguing and entertaining as the premiere, even after the contrived fake-out that more or less ruined the cliffhanger ending of Episode 1. The gameplay and presentation are just as well-executed this time through, with only one quick-time event (QTE) near the end in an entertaining battle with Beast. While almost none of my decisions from Episode 1 seemed to have made any significant impact on the outcomes of Episode 2, there are enough twists and reveals to keep me engaged with the Fables’ mystery.
Episode 1 was a good setup for the game, opening up players to Fabletown’s atmosphere and its serial killer mystery, but it’s a little lacking in characters. It felt like half of the episode was dedicated solely to Toad, while only getting glimpses at characters like Beauty and the Beast, the Woodsman, and Dee and Dum. Episode 2, on the other hand, had me spending a lot more time with other characters.
Episode 1 starts with you investigating a thrashing at Toad’s hotel. You find the Woodsman getting into it with what you can only assume is a prostitute. I came to her aid in an attempt to calm the situation down, but it only spiraled out of control, forcing me to lay some hurt on the Woodsman. It all concluded when the girl buries the Woodsman’s ax into the back of his skull, but apparently that doesn’t kill a Fable because they’re legend, or something.
But you know what does kill them? Chopping their head off.
Episode 1 really takes off when the girl’s head showed up on my building’s doorstep. Snow White was the one who found her, prompting the two of us to team up in an effort to control the situation and find out who did it. After chasing down some leads with Snow, I wound up looking for the Woodsman at the Trip Trap, a bar for low-life Fables. Bigby got into it with Grendel, who threw off his Glamour (the magic spell that makes Fables look human) and attacked. After the QTE is over, I was prompted with the option to remove Grendel’s arm or not. In true Beowulf fashion, that fool lost an arm.
After finally grabbing the Woodsman, Dee (or maybe Dum..?) just mosies on into the bar, prompting the decision to capture one or the other. I stuck with the Woodsman; I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of Dee and Dum. The episode culminated in finding yet another severed head on my building’s doorstep: Snow’s. And I had just started to like her, too.
With the onset of Episode 2, Snow’s bloodied head takes center stage as Bigby is interrogated by police about her murder. The conversation is a quick one; Bigby barely finishes his cigarette before Crane decides to use a memory wipe spell on the whole station and get him out of there. A slick move, but one that removed me from what could have been a really interesting scenario.
The scene transitions well enough, however, as I immediately saw to the Woodsman’s interrogation. This is where The Wolf Among Us shines, as you’re given plenty of opportunity to decide what kind of cop you want to be. Will Bigby play it cool, using evidence and persuasion to ascertain information? Or will he play the Big Bad Wolf, and beat his subjects to a bloody pulp in order to extract what he needs to know? Why not a little bit of both? I found Telltale did a good job at driving the story forward while letting the player have control over how the conversation progresses. Their ability to give players freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) while still managing to have the scenes develop organically is mostly impressive this time around.
That great scene, unfortunately, ends with a fake-out reveal that totally ruins the cliffhanger to Episode 1. Right as I’m done with my interrogation, seemingly-alive Snow White just barges right in as if nothing’s happened. Turns out, “Snow’s” decapitated corpse is actually that of the troll Lilly, the prostitute sister of the Trip Trap’s bartender, who was shoddily Glamoured to look like Snow. It’s a cheap trick, and one that spoiled a really interesting dynamic shift with Snow’s presumed early death.
Telltale at least dedicates to that cheap trick, however, as Lilly’s body still remains an integral piece of the puzzle. Episode 2 continues the investigation with a friendly check-in at a seedy strip club run by a scumbag named Georgie. After getting so much backlash for gently pushing around the Woodsman, I decided to hold it back a little more with this questioning to see how thing would play out. Turns out, I only needed to smash one sign and topple one keg to get what I needed! Effective, but… less fun.
Episode 2 wraps up at brothel where it turns out Beauty has been sneaking off to; apparently she’s been working the front desk behind Beast’s back in order to help make rent. We recognize each other, have a quick discussion, and she shows me to room 207, the last place Lilly had an “appointment.” Oddly enough, Beauty’s skeleton key can’t open it. That’s when Beast randomly shows up and makes trouble, thinking Bigby and Beauty are having an affair. There’s a QTE fight that ends with us going through 207’s door, revealing the bloody leftovers of Lilly’s murder.
After things calm down with Beast, I was left to do my sleuthing thing as Bigby worked the crime scene. Most of the evidence pointed towards a stalker who’s obsessed with Snow, but it mostly just ate up time before the big reveal. Snow’s “admirer” is none other than… Ichabod Crane!
Not that surprising of a twist, in my opinion. The guy is creepy like that. Still, it thickens the plot for Episode 3, and there’s still the possibility that he could be a red herring. Hopefully my decisions will start having more consequences, as so far the biggest recurring theme is me being out of cash. Even seeing one-armed Grendel at the Trip Trap when delivering news of Lilly’s death didn’t create any sort of added drama or issue, and I tore that dude’s arm off the night before. Perks of being the Big Bad Sheriff, huh?
The Wolf Among Us is playing out well, so far. It’s been falling victim to Telltale’s usual shortcomings, but its flair and charm is enough to keep me hooked. Being able to play a cop in a world with little rules is genuinely fun. And as I start to meet more Fables, the world of Fabletown continually grows in character (just not in morality). I’m looking forward to seeing how far down the rabbit hole goes.