The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – Faith PC
After the huge success of The Walking Dead, a title that was showered in a number of Game of the Year awards, Telltale Games has ultimately planted a bullseye on itself. Whatever the studio was planning next was always going to be instantly matched with the bar set by Lee and Clementine’s survival story. Well that day is here, and while it might not be the title you are waiting for the most (Season 2 of The Walking Dead) you should definitely give The Wolf Among Us a go. Even if you haven’t read the Fables comic by Bill Willingham that the game is based on, you should still join in, because from what is presented in the first episode of the game, we are once again in for a fantastic setting and story that is delivered through mechanics that were constructed in The Walking Dead.
Anyone can get into The Wolf Among Us without prior Fables knowledge, as this game is a prequel to the comics. For people who have, then you’ll be happy to know that this is acknowledged as canon, so prepare for some surprises. The setting for Fables takes place in New York City, in a community known as Fabletown. In here, famous fairy tale characters from popular stories, such as Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and The Wind in the Willows, are trying to restart their lives after an evil mastermind known as The Adversary conquered over the land of fairy tales and forced the characters to seek refuge in the human world.
This poses a problem for some characters, such as the protagonist of the game, Sheriff Bigby Wolf, also known as the Big Bad Wolf, because walking around a human world as a talking wolf is sure to spark horror in our culture, so to keep themselves hidden, a magical device, called a glamour, allows non-human characters to appear human. For fables who can’t afford a glamour, they are sent to The Farm, a place that is vaguely brushed upon in the first episode, but sounds like a prison-esque environment where fables are forced to live away from human discovery.
Even though The Wolf Among Us’ cast is using well-known characters from our folklore, their roles and characteristics have changed dramatically. This is demonstrated right from the get go when Bigby arrives at an apartment block and runs into Mr. Toad. He’s certainly a toad, but he’s no longer the polite, friendly and rich amphibian that we know him as. He’s grown into a much more foul-mouthed animal than anything you have read in The Wind in the Willows. It’s the same when you run into the Woodsman. The tough man, who once saved Little Red Riding Hood, is long gone. He’s a shadow of his former self, an alcoholic, who is caught in the middle of a fight with an unknown woman who is key to episode one’s plot. Fables has transitioned these once delightful characters successfully into a dark, mature-themed realm, but then Telltale has stunningly brought them to life through a video game to tell a captivating murder mystery.
Anyone who has played The Walking Dead will be able to step straight into this game’s mechanics. The game even starts with displaying “This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.” It’s describing Telltale’s multi-choice dialogue options, which often come with a time limit. This gives a sense of importance and anxiety to the selection. If you haven’t selected by the timer has finished, then the game treats this as a silence response and the game continues on. It’s a clever feature that blends a sort of realism into the game’s important choices, and with characters memorising your responses, it’s something that can affect a character’s personality towards you.
There are two major choices that affect the outcome of the first episode. One is demonstrated with a result that I won’t spoil, since it’s critical to the story, but let’s just say it’s rather impactful when you find out what the outcome can be, and the other is near the end game, which I assume will show its results in episode two. It stays close to the same mechanics displayed in The Walking Dead, and that’s a good thing.
One area of the game felt inspired by Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, as I was questioning Mr. Toad about recent events and he was making up stories, trying to cover up something in his tracks. This is mixed with investigating the room, looking for clues to solve what might have happened, before returning to Mr. Toad with more questions, trying to capture him during a moment of lies. This is something I hope grows in the later episodes to give a better sense of interrogation, because as relationships go, it doesn’t seem as important as gaining trust from your group in The Walking Dead. This is, of course, hard to tell from just one episode, and there is plenty of time for The Wolf Among Us to adjust and make this have a more impactful meaning on the story.
When not participating in conversation, Bigby will be looking around for evidence in the given scenario. This is in the typical adventure game fashion, but unlike the games of old, this is a very linear driven experience. Backtracking to previously locations is never an option; all requirements to progress the game forward are kept in the same scene. Episode one doesn’t include any real puzzles to solve; instead, they are blended in with the story, such as looking in a book to match a symbol or to figure out someone’s name by matching their face with a portrait in The Book of Fables. The inventory is hardly used, as the game will stock items automatically and use them when required, so there is no room for player error when it comes to item management.
Quick time events make a return and are used for the action scenes, since Bigby finds himself getting into fisticuffs with misbehaving fables. These are straight-forward icons that pop up on the screen, such as holding left on the stick to dodge a falling cabinet or tapping A to push an object out of the way. It gets a bit more interesting when participating in fights, as the game asks you to target areas of the body and then press the assigned trigger button to hit there. It’s not exactly a fluid representation of fighting in a video game, but in the context of The Wolf Among Us, it offers that sense of urgency and desperation during the cinematic fight scenes.
Character models and environments are covered in thick lines, using an art style that is similar to Telltale’s previous game to give a sense that this is an animated comic book world. The Wolf Among Us takes this style further by using oversaturated colours that fill the setting with neon lighting. It works wonders in bringing out the game’s dark fantasy theme. I’ve been hearing about issues plaguing the Xbox 360 version, but load times are swift on the PC – flawless, no hiccups in presentation, and the voice cast is once again stellar. There’s nothing here to criticise that would pull you out of the game’s atmosphere.
The biggest praise for The Wolf Among Us is that it does everything right for a first episode. The game doesn’t spend needless time with exposition to bring people into the world of Fables. From the get go, the game throws you into an exciting situation that cleverly builds your perception of the world as it plays out in front of your eyes. From then on the momentum is kept going, conveying fascinating characters and narration to the forefront of the game, eventually finishing around the two hour mark on a cliff-hanger that makes participants cry out for more.
The Wolf Among Us launches with a promising opening, thanks to its stylish world, eccentric characters, curious plot, and tried and tested gameplay. Telltale could be on for another success if the quality of the work continues throughout the remaining four episodes. As a first episode, it succeeds at pulling players into a different thematic experience than The Walking Dead, and should make people excited for what is to come from the rest of the season.