The Walking Dead Anthologies Telltale games has carved themselves quite a niche in the video game industry with their line of interactive adventure games. Their…
Telltale has found their calling with enhanced point-and-click adventure games. After stumbling blocks like Back to the Future: The Game and Jurassic Park: The Game *shudders*, they finally mastered the formula with The Walking Dead. And with The Wolf Among Us, you can see the developers honing their craft and becoming a force in the genre.
For those who aren’t aware, The Wolf Among Us is based on the Fables comic series by Vertigo. Fairy tale characters are forced out of their realm and into ours. They’re all localized in a place called Fabletown, that’s completely governed within. The human-looking characters blend in seamlessly, while anthropomorphic animals require a “glamouring” to conceal their appearance, otherwise they’ll end up in a commune called the Farm. However, as ethnically diverse as New York City is, Fabletown could easily operate under the radar regardless their appearance. The lead character in both The Wolf Among Us and the comics is Bigby Wolf, A.K.A., the Big Bad Wolf. In our world, he acts as the sheriff of Fabletown. He’s trying to leave his violent past behind, and because of it, he’s virtually hated and feared throughout the Fable community.
In the beginning, he’s called to the apartment complex of Mr. Toad to investigate a late-night disturbance. When he arrives, he gets into an extremely brutal tussle with his arch nemesis The Woodsman, and that encounter then leads to an incident that has huge implications for the denizens of Fabletown: a murder. Arguably the best thing about The Wolf Among Us (and its source material) is its gritty portrayal of whitewashed public domain fairy tale characters. You meet foul-mouthed, violent characters that let you know right off the bat that you’re in for quite the reimagining. The dialogue is snappy and believable, while the overall story is dark with several noirsh qualities. The cliffhanger at the end comes out of left-field, and like only Telltale can do, you’ll feel like you made a huge mistake during your playthrough.
Like The Walking Dead, the gameplay in The Wolf Among Us centers around choice. However, it’s said the choices made in this game will have more of an impact to the overall story. And from the onset, it seems like that’s the case, as controlling Bigsby is a balancing act between handling situation’s with tact and giving in to his more animalistic nature. A delicate approach will result in characters positively “remembering” your actions, but a brash approach will have the opposite effect. The fight scenes in particular really allow you to let Bigby’s inner-wolf out. They’re excellently choreographed and make use of a variety of environmental cues. Sometimes you receive straightforward button prompts, and other times there’s this targeting button prompt in which you use a reticle to locate the area of attack. The basic interface uses icons, which are mapped to the control scheme, with a brief description of what they mean in the lower-left corner. And even though the controls feel very responsive, there’s some strange misfires, such as the game allowing you to use R2 when it’s asking for L2.
The game alternates between fast-paced action and deliberately paced investigation. The latter can drag the story a bit, particularly one part involving a conspicuously acting Mr. Toad, but the overall impact is negligible. You make some startling discoveries along the way and sometimes you have to make a split decision on which lead to pursue. During segments where you are given choices, you can finger different characters as suspects in the murder, though it remains to be seen how much of an impact that will have. Also, there are many items that can be examined or picked up, which would then unlock entries in the Book of Fables or could be given to a fable. If you’ve played The Walking Dead, you know exactly what to expect. However, while nothing introduced is completely original, the controls are more intuitive and the story carries along nicely between chapters.
The visual style is the Walking Dead if it was retrofitted with a new colorful skin. The game uses an aesthetically pleasing palette of 80s comic book-styled colors with an emphasis on dynamic shadows. Some of the environments like Ichabod Crane’s office really pop out. But probably the best thing about The Wolf Among Us is the fact that the characters are far more expressive. Walking animations and general physical movement are smoothly executed, but voice syncing still needs improvement, and there’s also some graphical stuttering and hesitation that lessen the overall feel. But in general, Telltale seems to be getting better at mastering their distinctive style.
The Wolf Among us is one of the better cinematic adventure games available; probably even more so than The Walking Dead. Episode 1 is a great start to the series, sporting a unique visual style, engaging action sequences, and a mature story that’s expertly voice-acted. Also worth mentioning is the music, which has a couple of 80s-inspired tracks like the one that plays during the late title card. The pacing may lull at times, and the graphical hiccups often interrupt the visual flow, but it plants the seeds for a fantastic adaptation.
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