Coming off of The Walking Dead’s bleak, and emotional finale; it was very refreshing to load into Telltale’s latest series, The Wolf Among Us, and be met with a Sam & Max Season 2 era opening credits, set to a wonderfully synth-y soundtrack. While certainly still a work of drama; the stakes begin a little lighter than that of The Walking Dead. The game (based upon the Fables comic series) follows Bigby Wolf, (formerly of Big Bad Wolf fame) as he serves as sherriff over the rest of the Fables. The characters from the stories we were all told as children (Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, Snow White, etc.) are all immortal, and are allowed to live in society, as long as they can keep a low profile. For some, this requires the use of a ‘glamour’; an enchantment that allows even frogs to appear to the rest of the world as human. Those that don’t do this are sent off to a rural community known only as “The Farm”.
In the past, the whole ‘modern fairy tale’ type story has always put me off, because these tend to do very surface level things. Toward the beginning of the episode, I feared it as going down that direction, as it set things up. Instances where the game would be almost over-explaining things to hammer in things like “this is the huntsman from Little Red Riding hood guys! Remember that?”. This didn’t really extend beyond the opening act though, and I found myself really compelled by the story. It’s a world where you feel that there’s a lot more going on than what you’re seeing. The conceit of immortality, and a peek behind the curtain in regards to how they’re governed, all pushed the story in directions I could get into. If nothing else, Episode One sets up a world that I’m interested in returning to.
The gameplay uses the choice based system used in The Walking Dead. As a proof of concept, it seems to work pretty well in this title as well. This episode sets some choices up that likely won’t be resolved on for a few more episodes, which should be interesting. Just seeing how the system can work in situations that are less dire, and bleak than choosing who gets fed, in a starving camp, shows the systems flexibility. There aren’t many puzzles in the game, and it definitely presents the cinematic choices as the main draw. As a long time fan of Telltale for their work in the adventure genre, I hope they’ll one day return to the more puzzle oriented style of play. I definitely enjoy this style as it’s own thing, but seeing the future releases of Tales from the Borderlands, and Game of Thrones, blended in with the insane success of The Walking dead, I assume this is here to stay for the forseeable future.
The look of the game is one of the best implementations I’ve seen them do, with their 2D in 3D style that they’ve been working with since Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People. The thin lines, and stylized shading really pull the look together, and it’s consistently impressive. Additionally the music in the game is excellent, and really complements things. The Walking Dead’s music was required to fit the tone of survival at the end of the world. The Wolf Among Us is a synthy jaunt, through an autumn evening, with a glass of whiskey in hand. The soundtrack is just wonderful.
The series is off to a great start. It’s not afraid to pull narrative punches, similar to Walking Dead’s, but presents it all with a very distinctive tone. It proves that the choice system can work in different games, and continues to share the outstanding storytelling that Telltale has been refining for all these years. Naturally concluding on a cliffhanger, I’m very much looking forward to the second episode, and the rest of what looks to be a wonderful series.