Bigby Wolf is tired of everyone just treating him like the beast he once was. Sure, he followed Little Red Riding Hood to her grandmother’s cottage and he blew down a couple of pigs’ houses, but he has put his past behind him. In Bill Willingham’s “Fables” universe, the fable characters we know have been taken to our mundane world, and use spells to blend into Fabletown of lower Manhattan.
The Wolf Among Us puts you in the shoes of Bigby Wolf, formerly big and bad, currently sheriff of Fabletown. There’s been a murder of a fable character, and before this get’s out of hand, you need to put a stopper on it. Episode One: Faith, set’s the tone for a noir mystery with you as the conflicted detective in the center of it all. It’s dark, it’s violent, it’s gritty, and most of all, it definitely doesn’t pull its punches.
Within the two and a half hours in Episode One, I probably came close to killing three people, got in several fights, and made several very tough decisions along the way. Much like The Walking Dead, there are times where you are faced with serious binary choices that clearly dictate where you’ll be within the future episodes. Even the decision of which character to investigate and question next can have serious consequences, which works here, and when placed into the detective/mystery genre, feels right at home.
Past that, Telltale entering into another story straight out of a comic book once again brings out almost immediate success. The artstyle carried over from The Walking Dead engine now illustrates a noir story with contrasting colours and harsh shadows, making this adventure game look more gorgeous than a Telltale game has before. On top of that, the dialogue was seriously on point, with each character having precisely delivered voice acting, and what seemed like significantly less, “stock responses,” from the more basic questions. If I could say anything, it’d be that the language is extremely harsh, but regardless, feels appropriate in what comes off as a very rough New York neighborhood on the wrong side of town.
The most interesting aspect, I’d say, to this new Telltale adventure is its main character Bigby. He is desperately trying to escape his past, but also keep the people of Fabletown safe, which he does by juggling their fear and his regret. Playing him is wildly different than Lee: he is more than a little unhinged, and more often than naught, let’s his anger get the better of him. The way Telltale designs your choices for Bigby are clever in that respect, because the more characters push you, the less “calm” dialogue options you get, and the easier it becomes to slip and lose your temper on someone. It really puts you in the position of a character who has a dark side, one that you’ll even get a little peak at in this first episode.
The danger with adapting a series that already exists is establishing that world for those unfamiliar with it, including me. I think Telltale walks the line relatively well, though I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of players are more than a little confused by the wall of information just thrown at them when the story begins, or even as it progresses, and terms are just brushed under the rug quickly. Luckily there is a “Book of Fables” in the menu, so you can brush up on the specific stories being pulled from for the world.
Plus, there is still a little bit of adventure-game jank to be found here, with odd still-frames before cutting to other scenes and an awkward introduction to how the quick-time-events will work in combat, which are now much different than previously Telltale games. It feels like the tutorial could have taken things slower, since the game pretty much throws you into combat within the prologue scene. The only help you get along the way are very quick button-prompts when fighting the first combatant you meet, which are less than helpful seeing as the action takes up the whole screen.
The Wolf Among Us already has me hooked and salivating at the mouth for more. I love a good noir mystery, and with the pedigree of Telltale’s writing team, an already fascinating world, and more than a few captivating characters, I think there is a lot of good to come from this episodic series. It may even outdo The Walking Dead.
This review is written using a PC code provided to us by Telltale Games.