Note: I know, I know, CTVG was a little quiet in July, mostly because of travelling for work and my holiday last week. I’d fully intended to write something during my holiday, but well… it was a holiday, so that may have been a bit ambitious. I’m off to Gamescom next week, so I’m not entirely sure if there will be anything up next week, but if not, things should return to normal when I return. I know you guys can’t miss out on your cheesey fix for too long…! 😛
I’m not going to lie, I was pretty sceptical when friends kept telling me that Telltale’s The Wolf Among was ‘better’ than their other hugely popular adventure game series The Walking Dead. Better I said? Pshaw! Lies, all of it! Of course I didn’t actually say this as I don’t usually use ‘pshaw’ in every day conversation. Anyways, the truth is that having played all 5 episodes, I have to agree wholeheartedly. Considering how much I love The Walking Dead that really is saying something. And yes, I am reviewing all 5 episodes at the same time, because I basically became completely addicted to the game and blitzed through it all. Also, I can’t be bothered to review each episode individually, because seriously, ain’t nobody got time for that as a wise woman once said.
The Wolf Among Us is based on Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series and the premise is that famous characters from well known fables, fairy tales and folklore have been exiled to the human world where they are now trying to survive and build up a community in a world they don’t belong in. Enter Bigby Wolf aka The Big Bad Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown (one of the places where fables like himself live) whose job is to enforce general law and order and the rules that keep the community safe from human detection.
More than anything it’s the world of Fabletown that really made me fall in love with the game. It appears Telltale have a love for adapting comics for gamers and to that I say, keep it up because it’s working! Fabletown is an incredibly imaginative world that’s brought to life with Telltale’s distinctive art style, cast of compelling characters and well written story and dialogue. The dark and gritty art style, similar to The Walking Dead, works perfectly for the detective noire genre and makes Fabletown truly immersive.
It’s certainly no walk in the park to create a believable setting when it’s inhabited by talking animals and fairy tale characters, but though they’re decidedly and unashamedly wacky, the writing is so good and the characters so distinct and their motives so real that within half an hour of playing, I barely batted an eyelash at conversing with a flying monkey. Fabletown feels like a living, breathing place and all the people or animals or whoever else are relatable and nuanced, with no one character embodying pure evil or nobility.
Again, like The Walking Dead, this game is all about difficult choices, although it’s focus is less about individual or group survival anymore. It’s not so much about choosing who lives and dies to save oneself as how one person’s actions can affect a whole community. This difference doesn’t make the subject matter any less brutal. In fact I think the violence and portrayal of the underbelly or forgotten members of society is even more disturbing and graphic than in The Walking Dead, if you can imagine that.
That’s not to say The Wolf Among Us takes itself completely seriously however, as numerous tongue-in-cheek references to the fables themselves (like Bigby Wolf’s ‘Huff’n’ Puff’ cigarettes) addS a note of humour and gives you that satisfying feeling of getting an inside joke.
It really should be no surprise that is another example of the excellence of the writers at Telltale. There’s good pacing over 5 episodes with increasing tension and huge revelations. Each episode leaves you wanting to more as soon as the credits roll.
It also really feels like Telltale come into their own in terms of gameplay. I was pleased to discover that while it features many of the same mechanics as The Walking Dead and so is familiar in many ways, it also feels fresh. Like The Walking Dead, most of the gameplay consists of exploration and dialogue options and how these choices affect the overall story. Action sequences consist of moving your reticule to the right place and QTEs. Failure during these sequences occasionally affects the story in a minor way, but mostly you just booted back to the beginning of the beginning of the fight where you can try again. Admittedly, this is not the most challenging or exciting way of approaching combat, but then again, what do you expect? Telltale has never been shy about their stance on interactive fiction and their focus on storytelling, so honestly I can’t see most Telltale fans having an issue with this. In fact, there actually seem to be many more action sequences in this game than The Walking Dead and they’re both much longer andmore challenging, which makes sense as we’re playing as a Sherriff solving grisly crimes.
I also love playing the detective in this game. You frequently have to decide who to help, where to go first, how this evidence connect to that crime and of course, WHO DID IT? The consequences of getting it wrong could affect the story in unforeseen ways and no matter how much you try to do the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing, you never quite know how it’s going to turn out. In fact many of the major you decisions you make fall firmly in the very very grey area. What are you supposed to do when everyone looks pretty damn guilty, but you only have time to go after one?
I only had a couple of minor quibbles. The meaning of Bigby’s dialogue options were sometimes ambiguously phrased with the result being that sometimes what he actually said didn’t seem to really match up to the option. It also felt a lot more linear than The Walking Dead in that many of your choices didn’t actually seem to affect what happens in any real way or the ending and sometimes even vastly different dialogue option seem to sway the direction of the conversation in only a very minor way. I also ran to a few animation glitches and occasional stuttering during cutscenes, but nothing game-breaking.
Seriously though, this is just nitpicking, because I absolutely adore The Wolf Among Us. It feels like the adventure game I’ve been waiting for without even knowing I wanted it. Similar to The Walking Dead I feel like this could appeal to a wide range of people and not just what are often called ‘the core gamers’, like people who just enjoy a good story, especially people like me are suckers for a good detective noire story.