Ask a comic book connoisseur if he/she has heard of the Fables series, and he/she will undoubtedly answer in the affirmative. Ask him/her what it is about, and he/she will let you know that it is a reimagination of the fairy tales you have heard or seen growing up, like a grittier, edgier Once Upon A Time (yeah, that popular television series). The same connoisseur will probably also tell you that a video game series named The Wolf Among Us will give you a great overview of the series without reading the comics.
The Wolf Among Us is created by Telltale Games—the same developer who created the video game version of the famous comic book and television series, The Walking Dead. Just to clarify, Telltale Games created the popular episodic version of The Walking Dead video game, not the disappointing first-person shooter that stars badass crossbow shooter, Daryl, from the AMC television series. Telltales Games is also the creative force behind Back to the Future: The Game and Sam & Max. The Wolf Among Us was also released in episodes with the first one in October of last year. The fifth and final episode was released in July of this year, and the complete series version of the game (i.e., all episodes in one package) came out earlier this month to most major game consoles.
Although Vertigo Comics announced in the 2014 New York Comic Con that Telltale Games’s take will be adapted in the comics, The Wolf Among Us is a standalone addition to the Fables universe. As such, it features some new characters and stories. But thankfully, it also features the prominent characters from the comics: Bigby Wolf, Snow White, and Burfkin, to name a few. The characters created by Bill Willingham and those created by Telltale Games blend together seamlessly, forming a strong foundation for a new storyline. The Wolf Among Us acts as almost a prequel to the comic series. The game follows Sheriff Bigby as he unravels a dark secret in Fabletown following a gruesome murder of Faith, a seemingly sweet call girl.
Players familiar with Telltale Games episodic games will appreciate the storytelling elements of The Wolf Among Us. Following Bigby around Fabletown feels more like a movie rather than a video game; the majority of the time, players do not actively control Bigby, but rather pick out responses to other characters’ dialogues or move around to a point of interest to examine or interact with it further. The choices Bigby makes impacts the story, which gives each episode a bit of replay value; however, the ultimate outcome of the game is quite unaffected. While it does not seem like the game would be interesting for its simple gameplay mechanics, Telltale Games is a beast when it comes to storytelling. Each episode’s story is gripping and interesting, ending in a cliffhanger that opens up a lot of questions and intrigue. Case in point: the final scene of the game has made a lot of players have enraging debates about what really happened.
That’s not to say there’s no action, as the game does pick up in certain areas of the story. When it does, the player is placed on a quick time event (QTE) mode where a button must be pressed, held, or mashed in order to proceed. The failure of these QTEs may result in a game over, but most of the time it results in an outcome that may or may not affect the story of the game. The QTEs actually add a degree of interactivity to what would otherwise be long cutscenes, keeping the player engaged. There is a fair amount of button bashing, with several events forcing you to pound on X repeatedly to keep from being strangled or stabbed. But there are also prompts that give you sense of choice – do you dodge a punch, do you block it, or do you lunge for a frying pan to wield as a makeshift weapon? Though the final outcome of the scene might be the same, the game cleverly provides branching choices of how you get from Point A to Point B keep it from feeling stale.
An interesting concept of the game is collecting the Books of Fables, an extra feature that gives a background on characters and events of the Fables world. The books are a great crash course on a player unfamiliar to the Fables series, and may even encourage him or her to start reading the comics. The books are collected by picking a certain decision, interacting with a certain object, or advancing through the storyline. Collecting the books are also a requirement for certain achievements (i.e., trophies for PlayStation gamers) in the game.
The Wolf Among Us is a game for those who have a penchant for great stories and interactive dramas, especially in the film noir genre. It may not be for everyone though; those who really just want an action-packed game or those who care less about reading dialogue may want to stay away from this game. Telltale Games fans will definitely need to pick this gem if they have not done so.
Gameplay - 8/10
Plot - 10/10
Design - 9/10
+Prequel to a famous comic book series
+Gripping film noir story
+Choices affect story progression
+Extra feature provides backstories to comic series
-Very simple game mechanics
-Relies heavily on dialogue to advance story