When it comes to fairy tales, more often than not the story is dark and deep in plot and is shrouded in heroism and happy endings. Fables, a comic book series written by Bill Willingham, knows all too well that fairy tales tend to be based on adult themes, be they death, consequences or evil villains. The writer of Fables brought that side of childhood fairy tales to the forefront of his stories. The Wolf Among Us, developed by Telltale Games is an adaptation of the Fables universe brought for the first time to video game format.
The Wolf Among Us places you in the shoes of Bigby (Big Bad) Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown who is trying to keep the peace in a city ravaged by corruption and past grudges. These fairy tale characters of yore, such as The Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, and the Woodsman all live in New York City. Having been forced from their homes, these characters must blend in with the humans (Mundees) by purchasing Glammors. These spells allow them to appear as average people so that they do not arouse any suspicion. Those who are unable to afford or choose not to do so are sent to “The Farm” to live separate from those in Fabletown. No time is spared jumping right into the life of a Sheriff. Soon enough a girl that you had just rescued earlier in the day shows up dead and the murder mystery is afoot.
I was new to the universe of Fables and did not know what to expect. I asked a friend who was familiar with the comics if I needed to read them first and he assured me that it was not necessary. Sure enough, reading the comics was not needed. The characters and history of the characters was easy enough to adopt to since they are based on pre-existing fairy tale characters. This grounding enables the game to be picked up and absorbed without prior knowledge of the comics. If you are familiar with other Telltale games that you know what to expect gameplay wise. If not, The Wolf Among Us is a point and click adventure game that is more of an interactive story that you craft as you go along. Dialogue is very important in this game and your ability to select choices in what you say guides the story forward and it can change based on what you say. The same goes for gameplay.
When you are searching a room for clues, finding certain items can open up more conversation choices for you later, or allow new options to be chosen. During the fighting sections of the game, combat is all real time and is played out by your ability to quickly move the right stick around and pull the trigger on available contextual areas. For example, if an enemy is charging you, you may be prompted to move the stick up which will cause your character to jump up to avoid the assault. You can then kick the enemy in the face while they are down or grab a nearby coat hanger and try bashing them with that instead. The choices allow the combat to feel varied, and missing a button prompt can increase the length of a fight or cause you to fail all together. One of the games greatest strengths is that it embraces the dark and gritty side of these tales and allows you to experience some more adult subject matter and apply them to the universe in a way that is very believable.
The Wolf Among Us on current gen systems is a release of the last gen version, which was previously released episodically. We now have them complete all on one disc so thankfully you do not have to wait for each release like those of us did last time. The Telltale Tool which is the engine that has “run” their games in the past has surprisingly been improved, or at the very least, is able to take advantage of the more powerful hardware. The game on PS3 froze for a second or two rather frequently and there were hitches or brief loops in the audio whenever the game loaded or saved. I am glad to say that the game now actually runs smoothly and the prior issues are virtually nonexistent. This is a very good thing considering that this is an interactive movie so to speak, and having interruptions can take you from the experience and of course, be annoying. I have not compared the current gen version to last gen side by side, but I feel that not only are the graphics cell shaded looks appear more crisp and vibrant, but I also feel that the audio has more of a “pop” to it. My TV and speaker set up has not changed since I played it on PS3, and it could be just an impression of playing the game with a much smoother frame rate, but the differences are enough that I can’t help but feel that it really is a difference and not just in my mind.
All in all, The Wolf Among Us is a grim tale that engages players with its superb voice acting and intriguing story. Another big congrats to Telltale and its talented cast. Several of the voice actors from the Walking Dead voiced new characters in this game and with such varying inflection, they are hardly noticeable, unless you’ve played TWD a million times like I have. This game is a noble effort into the foray of the Fables universe and is welcoming to new and veteran followers of the comics alike. Thankfully this is also the best running iteration of the game and can be enjoyed without any hitches.
A review copy of The Wolf Among Us for PlayStation 4 was provided by the Telltale Games PR team, and the game is available now on virtually all platforms.