The first episode of Wolf Among Us gave me hope that this series would be just as good as Telltale's other game The Walking Dead. However, Episode 2 of Wolf fell short of my expectations.
The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us share a lot of characteristics, namely the emphasis on player choice. Through actions or conversations, you change the course of the story.
However, the stakes for these decisions were much higher for The Walking Dead. Characters could die or friendships could be broken depending on your decisions. Some events happened no matter what you did but two play-throughs of the game can have very different results.
The choices throughout Wolf Among Us so far just boil down to one question: will you be a dick or not? You can make Bigby act like a calm officer of the law or a hot-headed Wild West sheriff. The good cop/bad cop scenarios in Episode Two are very similar to the ones in Episode One. A suspect/witness acts cagey so you can either convince them to talk or beat the information out of them. Someone attacks you and you choose whether to practice self-defense or go Big Bad Wolf on their ass. Either way, Bigby's investigation proceeds as planned.
Bigby's struggle with the violent, animal side of his personality is interesting. It's just executed in the most repetitive way possible. In Episode 2, you're asked over and over whether you want to smash up a suspect's nightclub or keep talking to him. An interrogation scene plays out much the same way, with Telltale constantly offering you the choice between playing good cop or bad wolf.
To the developer's credit, they try hard to make Bigby's dilemma feel like a dilemma to the player. The Fables you question are almost universally pricks. The ones that don't pick fights with you practically beg you to hit them.
I was never tempted to get violent like Bigby was, though. I decided last episode that I was going to play a nice guy, so I chose the "good" option from each list presented to me. It's usually easy to find. Walking Dead often asked you to choose between two unappealing options but with Wolf the choices are clearly broken down into good, evil or neutral. They're about as obvious as the Paragon/Renegade decisions from Mass Effect.
Furthermore, I'm not convinced that these choices will have much of an impact on the final story. Wolf is a prequel to an existing comic book series so there's a firm limit on what they can do. The central cast of the comic books will get through just fine. All Telltale can do is kill off ancillary characters or, as they did in one case, immediately roll back any major changes.
Telltale's story-first approach is the secret to their success. However, when the story isn't working, there's not much else to fall back on. Though this season is a murder mystery, players rarely use any detective skills. Investigating crime scenes consists of clicking all the interactive bits. Interrogating a witness just means exhausting all the dialogue options. Combat is once again a series of Quick Time Events.
Wolf Among Us has an interesting cast and plot but the season doesn't feel like it's going to add up to anything significant. Right now, it's shaping up to be a very optional prelude to the comic books. Telltale has three episodes left to prove me wrong.
This game was reviewed using a Steam code provided by Telltale.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games