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Earlier this month, Telltale Games released the first episode of their adventure game The Wolf Among Us. I get the feeling most of you haven't played it. That's a shame because, judging from the first episode, Wolf is just as good as Telltale's The Walking Dead game.
The Wolf Among Us is based on Bill Willingham's comic book series Fables. In this series, fairy tale characters like Snow White and Mr. Toad were forced to flee their homelands because of a mysterious enemy. These Fables resettled in a section of New York City and now try to eke out a quiet living. The Fables with more exotic appearances wear magical disguises called glamours to appear human. Bigby Wolf, formerly known as the Big Bad Wolf, is charged with maintaining order in Fabletown and ensuring that the Fables maintain their masquerade.
When the premise was first described to me, I expected a more slapstick story. You know, with scenes of the Three Little Pigs walking around Manhattan underneath a single trenchcoat so they can buy falafel or some shit. However, the premise is treated with complete seriousness by the game. The Fables, as magical and fantastic as they are, still exhibit very human emotions. They haven't adjusted well to their exile and lose themselves in alcohol, sex and other vices to pass the time.
Though he's the sheriff of the bunch, Bigby's no boy scout. He seems like the cliche, poor-as-shit private eye who hates shaving but that's just his glamour. Beneath his magical disguise, he's still a monstrous wolf. He's supposed to keep the Fables in line but they keenly remember all the years he spent terrorizing him back in the old country. Part of him would love to just stop playing nice guy and start blowing down pigs' houses again. The game follows him as he tries to do his job in spite of others' expectations and his animal instincts.
Like Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us is sort of a point-and-click adventure but not really. You explore the environment and find objects but there are no real puzzles to speak of. Most of your choices will come through the branching dialogue. While chatting with other Fables, you can be a calm officer of the law or act like the fierce wolf everyone knows you are. You're also confronted with moral dilemmas, small and large. How you behave in each of these interactions will affect the storyline later in the episode and potentially later in the season.
If I had a complaint about the decision-driven gameplay of Wolf, it's that Telltale goes a bit overboard in trying to convey how important your choices are. If you tell the flying monkey that you had a bad day, you're told in subtitles that "he's going to remember that." During the two crucial decisions in Episode One, the action stops so you understand the utter gravity of the situation. We get it, guys. Choices matter.
Wolf has virtually the same QTE-driven combat as The Walking Dead, which is...fine. This isn't an action game; you're playing it for a good story rather than a good fight. Still, to Wolf's credit, it required slightly faster reflexes and precision than TWD. The action's more exciting, too, because you're not just fighting shambling zombies anymore. Bigby has to face down all types of magical beings in his investigation so there's no such thing as a normal brawl.
Some fans of Walking Dead probably won't pick up The Wolf Among Us because it doesn't have Walking Dead in its name. If you enjoyed Lee Everett's tale, though, you really should check out Wolf. Bigby's adventure, so far, seems just as exciting.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games