Note: This is a SPOILER FREE review.
If for some strange reason you have no idea what’s going on, let me get you up to speed. Once upon a time there was a comic called “The Wolf Among Us” written by Bill Willingham and published by Vertigo. The comic is a fun spin on some of the fairy tale stories you probably heard as a little kid, except adapted for an adult audience with stronger themes. After some fancy footwork by some over-paid lawyers, Telltale spent a great amount of time working on a game based on Willingham’s universe. Below, is the review of Episode One: Faith.
The game starts off as Bigby Wolf (of three little pigs and little red riding hood fame), the sheriff of the secret community of Fabletown, taking a taxi to the south Bronx where Mr. Toad (voice of Chuck Kourouklis) has reported a disturbance in the upstairs apartment of the building he oversees. Bigby (voice of Adam Harrington) looks the part of a seasoned detective that has seen it all, with the sarcasm, five o’clock shadow, crappy apartment and drinking problem to go along with it.
As I played through the first 15 minutes, the main thing I noticed was the language, adult content and tone of this story. Mr. Toad is a very disgruntled and harshly voiced slumlord with a strong English and almost cockney accent. Bigby, as I wrote earlier, is that exhausted “over-it” kind of anti-hero. The dialogue between the two is interesting because it lets you decide what kind of Bigby you want to be. As you progress through the story, you interact with characters like Beauty & The Beast, Snow White, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Ichabod Crane and others surprise characters that I found myself wondering how much money was spent on licensing, but I don’t want to spoil anything else for you so you can have the chance to enjoy it as much as I did.
The interactions with each character is as unique as it is fleshed out, with each one having a reason for acting the way they do because of their story book history. Most stories are littered with stock characters that serve as a point to move or add background interjection, and I only encountered a few of them during the story. For the most part, everyone in the story is essential to the plot. You can also expect fun twists with the source material, like hearing a fresh take on why the Woodsman ended up killing the Big Bad Wolf and saving Little Red Riding Hood all those years ago. There is also a cool moment with the couchsurfing guest in Bigby’s apartment. I couldn’t help but smile at how absurd, yet how perfect it was.
So far, the story is very engaging. There is a serial killer in Fabletown, and your job is to figure out who did it by way of interactions and investigations. There is a sequence where Bigby is searching Mr. Toad’s apartment, poking holes in all the lies he keeps telling you, until you finally break the truth out of him. The writing in this story is great and the interactions and twists in all the characters really make it a fun ride, and I finished both sessions looking forward to “Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors.”
The first play through had me letting Mr. Toad off the hook where he should have been in trouble, hoping to create an ally later on in the game. The second time I was much more of an a**hole to everyone, and the one thing I noticed is that there are a handful of interactions that change the outlook of the character, but doesn’t change the story all that much. The dialogue choices are true to Telltale’s form, pressing X, Triangle, Circle or Square to make dialogue choices that impact the tone of the conversation, as well as the opinion of the character view. For those of you familiar with Telltale’s franchises, it’ll be just like riding a bike. For those new to the system, you might find yourself a little rushed to make decisions, especially during the fight sequences. I was worried initially that the “Telltale formula” would get stale after playing so much of “The Walking Dead,” but rest assured that it works perfectly here and is just as fun.
Speaking of fighting sequences, let me just say that you’re in for a real treat here. The pacing of the fight as it’s paired with music and dialogue are all executed very well. The only issue you’ll run into is that you’ll need to really pay attention to which analogue stick you have to use, which trigger/bumper you have to hit and how little time you really have to make the right decision. That’s also what makes the chaos of each fight seem real. You don’t have time to think ahead in real life, and Telltale did a great job of forcing you into that same environment where the wrong decision or a second of hesitation gets you killed.
The only other issue I keep noticing is that there is a bit of lag (on the PS3 version anyway) during those action sequences or when you’re transitioning from walking to dialogue. It’s nowhere near enough to keep me from anxiously awaiting the next episodes, but it is distracting to have moments where the screen goes black briefly or the words not match up because the picture is still behind. Those moments only happened during some fighting sequences, or as I said with transitions, but I expect it will be a bug that’s fixed with the later episodes that approach.
Decisions, decisions. When you talk about a Telltale game, you’ll mostly hear about character development and decision making abilities. I can tell you that those show up in true form with “The Wolf Among Us,” and it’s something that I love so much about this new franchise and the games before it. They give you the elements to give a crap about the people you interact with, or to ignore them completely and treat them like dirt. The choices you make, like the two biggest ones in “Faith,” have a large impact on the direction your story goes. I rarely play games through several times, but with stories like these it’s hard not to take another trip just to see what would happen if you said this, did or didn’t do that, and it’s been a blast each time.
“The Wolf Among Us” is definitely a game you should invest the few bucks it costs to play it before your winter break is over and you find yourself swamped with school work yet again. You’ll need roughly 35 to 45 minutes to get through it depending on how much time you spend reading the extra content in your menu screen and how much time you want to click on every single thing you can click on. Double that if you’re like me and feel the drawing need to go back through the story a second time to make different decisions for different results. “Smoke & Mirrors” can’t get here soon enough. Just take the deal and buy the season pass for it, you’ll save money and are guaranteed some awesome unfolding narrative in the future.
*This review of "The Wolf Among Us Episode 1: Faith" is based on a copy played on a PlayStation 3 console.
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