The Wolf Among us is an episodic game series released by Telltale based on the comic book series Fables. This is some surprisingly familiar ground for Telltale, their last episodic game series the smash hit The Walking Dead (also based on a comic series) was awarded over 70 game of the year awards because of its great writing, characters and its mastery of the use of player choice and agency through its storytelling.
The Fables comic series is based upon the concept that classic fairy tale characters such as Snow White or Mr Toad are now living in a dark and gritty version of New York City, which ensures that its heavy classic noire theming mix well with its magical and fairy tale elements.
In The Wolf Among Us you play as Bigby Wolf, who is a classic noire-style detective who is harbouring a rather famous past. He is currently protecting fables who have now moved to New York after their own world is destroyed in an ambiguous catastrophe. One of the game’s most interesting narrative hooks is that all of the characters are based on classic fables, and Bigby is in fact the Big Bad Wolf from three little pigs and Red Riding hood. This allows the narrative to have a great noire mystery feel while also bringing in elements of the classic stories. For example, Bigby and Woody (The Woodsman) are arch enemies and during their criminal meetings you hear references such as “Last time I got you wolf”. This also gives you something to look forward to as you want to see who the next fable will be. My personal favourites are Colin who is one of the three little pigs and Mr Toad who is a rather foul mouthed man with a cockney accent.
As this game is based upon a graphic novel, the video games aesthetic reflects this with its cel-shaded art style which they use to both honour the source material effectively, as well as give the game an extremely stylized and quirky look which makes it stand out. This game also shows a lot of its noire inspirations through its use of dark purples and blacks which is also used a lot in the graphic novel which means this game just oozes personality.
Now for the writing, which is incredibly believable and realistic despite featuring The Big Bad Wolf shouting fantastical remarks to Mr Toad about throwing him down the witching well because he’s not using his glamour. This is mainly due to the amazing voice talent on display featuring people such as Adam Harrington and Melissa Hutchinson who are both Telltale game veterans.
There is one gripe in which the cuts between cameras can sometime be choppy which causes the scenes to lose their flow and just ends up being distracting, This should not be happening as all of these scenes are predefined and should be optimised.
The Wolf Among Us at its core, like all other Telltale Games, is a point and click adventure game. There are puzzle elements and a lot of object interaction which is used a lot during its crime scene investigation segments, where you have to connect evidence together in order to come up with coherent cases while also having to deal with the daily crimes which occurring in the area.
The majority of the gameplay is spent with the dialogue options in which you can dictate how you want your version of Bigby Wolf to act and how people will perceive him. However, unlike most games you only have a few seconds to decide depending on how urgent the response needs to be. (It is iterated multiple times by the game “Silence is a valid option”.) All of this will dictate whether your version of Bigby is a gruff outsider or a more personable character. At main plot points during the game you can make enormous game-changing decisions which can result in characters dying or, even worse, hating you. TellTale at numerous points in the game made me really care what these imaginary characters think of you while also making the conversations seem natural and flowing.
The last part of the gameplay is what occurs during the game’s few action segments, in which you have to participate in QTEs which do add a little bit of interaction, which is helpful, however direct control is never really allowed. At certain points you can decide to do certain things in a fight such as only be as rough as necessary. E.g Not kicking people while they’re down which can result in people viewing you as a nicer guy rather than a ruthless cop. The QTEs, however, do tend to make the combat feel a little disjointed and a little clunky even though it does help the game provide some very cinematic action which would not be available any other way.
In The Wolf Among Us there is a fair amount of replayability through just changing the decisions which you have made to see how the story plays out. However I would not recommend this as it can tend to make your original story feel less like your story as you know what happens after all of the choices. After finishing all the episodes it could be fun to just go back and see what happens. In my second run through of the game I played the rather hilarious silent Bigby whom never said anything unless necessary and it was hilarious seeing all the characters either being bemused by my silent Bigby or being respected as an actions speak louder than words kinda guy. Besides that there is not much replayability, as this game is really linear gameplay-wise and is more story based so you would not be as surprised by the twists and turns of the mystery a second time around, which does make this category a lot weaker than the others.
In conclusion, The Wolf Among Us is an excellent first chapter with a really great pseudo noire mystery plot with wonderful characters and world building, however there are some graphical problems which can affect flow and the combat feels stilted and disjointed. However, as the episodes progress I believe that this plot can soar to the unbelievable heights of TellTale’s previous works.