The Wolf Among Us: Season One / 21st of August 2014
Telltale Games pride themselves on telling great stories through the medium of videogames, “(we are) talented innovators and above all, gamers -- charged with a passion for making the best story-driven games possible”. They created the pleasantly pleasing Sam and Max and the more recent, critically acclaimed, Walking Dead series. So when presented with their newest series The Wolf Among Us, I of course expected a certain amount of quality. What sets Telltale’s games aside from others is its classic, almost point and click type of gameplay meaning the narrative has to be of great quality to sustain your interest. So what is the narrative, what will compel us to complete all five episodes of this adventure crime fantasy?
The Wolf Among Us is set in 1986 and is the prequel to a series of graphic novels known as Fables. You take on the role of Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf), Sheriff of Fabletown. Fabletown is located on Bullfinch Street in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It appears like an ordinary neighbourhood to “mundies” (humans) but plays home to a host of Fables from many worlds. Due to Bigby’s notrious past not many citizens of Fabletown trust him or believe that he is a changed man/wolf, meaning that he finds himself constantly at war with both his inner self and those around him. It all takes a turn for the worse when the Big Bad Wolf meets a girl, Faith aka Donkeyskin Girl, who is being threatened and assaulted by none other than fantasy legend and arch nemesis, The Woodsman, who now cuts the shape of a fallen hero, a drunk and elicitor of illegal activities. Faith has been turning tricks for Georgie Porgie, a degenerate and her pimp, and she soon ends up dead on Bigby’s door step, leaving the player to solve her murder and assume the roles of judge, jury and executioner along the way. This murder takes Bigby into the seedy underbelly of Fabletown, where the story begins to twist and turn through the sewers of corruption and organised crime. You quickly begin to distrust all those around you, even your helpful partner and love interest; Snow White, Deputy to Ichabod Crane, Deputy Mayor of Fabletown.
In order to remain in Fabletown, all Fables have to look human, for those that are non-human, the giants, trolls, goblins animals etc., they can use a potion called ‘Glamour’ to disguise themselves as a Mundie (human). However ‘Glamour’ is expensive and many turn to crime to acquire it, or seek cheaper versions in the seedier parts of the town. The penalty for being caught without ‘Glamour’ is being shipped up state to The Farm, an extension of Fabletown. The Farm is like a prison; once you go up you don’t come back down, leading many to live in appalling conditions, hiding out in slums and back alleys to avoid this punishment.
Gone are the soaring towers of illustrious castles and stretching magical forests. There are no more Prince Charming’s or Kingdoms to rule. There are no more bright, Disney like, colour palettes, just dark, dank and dusty colours delivered through a veneer of graphic, comic book style art and masonry. Gone is the happily ever after, the eternal fairy-tale, leaving us instead with an assortment of well-known characters forced into crime and poverty, many finding it hard to scrape by, seeing them turn towards prostitution, drugs and even murder to make ends meet.
Assuming the role of detective and Sheriff of this murky, secret filled town, players must track down a variety of legends from fairy tales and fantasy stories using the Magic Mirror, or interviewing witnesses from the usual suspects such as Mr Toad, the slum lord, to the disgruntled couple, Beauty and the Beast. This story will see many locations brought into play as players forage in search of the truth, place such as The Trip Trap Bar, and The Pudding N’ Pie strip club, where dancer Nerissa (The Little Mermaid) becomes an unlikely informant, leading Bigby into a land of conspiracy and backroom politics.
With all this crime kicking about, you’re probably asking yourself who are the bad guys? Who is Bigby actually after? Well, as it happens, he’s chasing the crime lord known as The Crooked Man, who runs the entire underworld, employing the destructive dastardly duo Tweedlee Dee and Tweedle Dum as enforcers, and Bloody Mary as his personal bodyguard and hit-man. The Crooked Man is a superb villain, a great character that you can actually grow to like and possibly share his view on the world, seeing the “service” he provides to the fables as “a necessity” as opposed to a crime. Something you will have to judge and prove to the rest of the Fables.
If this quick overview of the story has grabbed your attention then you won’t be disappointed with the full game and where it takes you. The Wolf Among Us features a superb cast of characters, all with rich storylines and personalities, voiced by some great actors, which all adds to the overall narrative. The music and audio really complement the story and help create an atmosphere furthering the comic book, cell shaded, visual style.
You play The Wolf Among Us for the story and the love of the characters not because of any challenging gameplay. The game is very straightforward, and as interaction goes it’s normally limited to no more than a few button presses, some quick time events, directional choices and selecting the right dialogue line in conversation trees to progress forwards. There doesn’t seem to be any major plot altering decisions that you can make either, therefore when presented with choices it’s really an illusion, like so many other games. That said The Wolf Among Us is a very engrossing and engaging experience. You feel compelled to play on to see what’s happened to your favourite character or where the story will go next, the whole time I played it I thought this should be a TV series as the concepts and characters are fantastic. Don’t view the game in sections or by episodes, it’s all one big story and if you’re a fan of good stories or previous Telltale Game projects, then this one is most assuredly for you.