The Wolf Among Us is Telltale’s latest episodic series based on the comic book, Fables, written by Bill Willingham. With this latest franchise, the question that immediately came to mind was whether or not Telltale could translate the wild success of their popular Walking Dead franchise and apply it to a new series or were they, in a vague sense of the phrase, a one hit wonder?
What makes The Wolf Among Us stand out is its story and that is likely the reason Telltale was interested in this property. You play as Sheriff Bigby Wolf (aka the Big Bad Wolf), who’s in charge of keeping the people of Fablestown, in place. You see, over 100 years ago, the characters from your favorite fairy tales fled their homelands and formed their own community, the aforementioned Fablestown, in Manhattan. In order to hide their true forms from humans or “mundies,” they must purchase and consume an enchantment called Glamour. It’s up to Wolf to ensure they are complying with this, so that their existence is hidden from the larger world. What happens to those who can’t afford Glamour? They don’t have the luxury of living the city life and are taken, or live, at The Farm.
The story doesn’t take long to introduce you to a slew of characters from fairy tales such as The Frog and the Prince, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Wizard of Oz, Sleepy Hollow, Three Little Pigs and so many others. Those tales serve as backstory, as the plot points of those famous stories are always being referred to. The more familiar you are with the original stories, the more you are going to get from the experience. There are also Fables entries you get while playing through the episode that offer a convenient way to learn a little more about the cast of characters. I definitely recommend reading those once the episode is finished.
Seeing all these characters, trying to acclimate to city life is extremely entertaining. Beauty and the Beast are going through marital strife. Toad is complaining about not being able to afford Glamour for his family. Ichabod Crane is a lazy politician. It’s a world whose potential is finely realized.
The driving force of the narrative is your typical, whodunit, murder mystery. Someone is offing fables and it’s up to you, with the assistance of Snow White, to find out what’s going on in Fablestown.
Telltale utilizes the same visual art style of its Walking Dead franchise but the color palette makes Wolf pop. You’re immediately greeted with a gorgeous title screen and upon hitting play; you’re thrown into a world that glows with neon. The series is clearly borrowing heavily from the noir film genre, but it’s a setting that is rare in gaming. About halfway through this first episode of five, the setting changes from night to daytime and it’s jarring at first, because it looks and feels so different but they definitely compliment each other.
For those that have played The Walking Dead series, you’d know that Telltale’s games tend not to be the most technically accomplished games, so it was a relief that I didn’t run into any bugs during my play-through. The game definitely has frame rate issues, especially when the environments open up or whenever there’s a lot of action happening onscreen. And the load times, which are frequent, definitely do their part in taking you out of the experience. But those were minor issues that I generally find easy to overlook.
The gameplay mechanics are, for the most part, recycled from those used in the Walking Dead series. The game does a better job during its action sequences though, with simple but challenging quick-time events. But like the Walking Dead, the gameplay lies in the decisions and the dialogue options that help craft the story, the narrative and the personality of Sheriff Bigby Wolf. With that said, the game feels like it’s less about the relationships you are forming and more about unraveling the mystery. But that is something that can easily change, in future episodes.
Verdict: 7 out of 10
Telltale chose right with a unique brand that fits well with their style of games. It’s an incredibly unique world that draws on the stories that most of us were exposed to as kids. But ultimately, it comes down to how invested you are in the world and these characters and although it’s unique, I didn’t find myself overly enthusiastic about either. They do leave things off on a great cliffhanger, but at the moment, I’m more interested in revisiting those old fables than in playing Episode 2. But I’m hopeful things will pick up. You can even say I have faith.