There’s something missing in the 4th episode of Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us. The writing is consistently high quality, it runs as it always has, but it’s somewhat empty in comparison to every installment before it. In a vacuum, this episode a showcase of the many ways Bigby’s case can churn out moments of clarity and reward us for our persistence and patiences. Granted, all of these good vibes only come if you’ve been invested for the whole ride. This episode serves a hub point, answering many questions and settling some lingering leads before the final encounter(s). But as a stepping stone to the end, this episode is unfortunately the most disappointing.
The episode has a lot going for it, in the beginning. The results of Bloody Mary’s dismantling of the Big Bad Wolf has reached most corners of Fabletown, and many of it’s denizens are worried about their futures. If the Wolf really can’t protect them, who can? Bigby has moments where he asks himself the same question, and with Snow attempting to take the reigns of the entire proceedings in Crane’s absence, he may finally be stretched too thin.
There’s a few new character reveals, as well. The Jersey Devil, a pawn shop boss and general asshole, steals his scenes with a greasy and thoroughly villainous poise. A satisfying brawl ensues at his shop that rivals some of the better beatdowns the series has become known for.
You also encounter Johann the Butcher, another Fable trapped in the overall struggle against The Crooked Man’s influence. Spineless and somewhat dull, he is actually a welcome addition to the story, as he brings some blandness to the very colorful cast, keeping the runaway train grounded abit.
Many old characters like Toad, Bluebeard, and The Woodsman pop up to, each giving opportunities to cultivate more of your previously established relationships with them. But it’s incredibly difficult to determine whether your interactions with them will have any real effect on the story in any meaningful way. And therein lies In Sheep’s Clothing’s overall issue: none of my decisions felt that important.
I just felt like I was in the backseat of the cab, along for the ride as the driver stopped at his own destinations. Especially with the fight in the Pawn Shop, I felt like everything that happened was going to happen regardless of my choices. There was no discernible way to make sure that fight wasn’t going to happen, and that is a very noticeable thing in this series. Not that its the only time conflict is forced on you, but the outcomes of the fights are usually up to you (i.e. do you rip Gren’s arm off to send a message, or is beating him up a little enough). Here, I hit some buttons, and my options looked pretty much identical the entire way through.
All of my other choices were on a person by person basis. Do I give Toad money for a glamor so he’s not deported to the Farm? Even if I do, he refuses it anyway. Do I threaten Bluebird with violence when he runs his mouth? Doesn’t matter, he was never worried about throwing down with me, anyway. The story has to line itself up to make the conclusion stick, I get that, but the entire point of good adventure games is to feel like you are part of the adventure, a key tenant this particular episode failed to heed.
This doesn’t change the series’ overall quality, or the potential of a truly bombastic final act. The story is still well written and acted, but if its lack of meaningful interactivity is a disengaging factor that can’t be ignored.