Following up after the critically acclaimed runaway hit, The Walking Dead
, is no easy task. Developer Telltale Games took a peculiar approach by choosing the Fables
comic book series for the basis of their next game. They look to take the series and spin it into another classic with The Wolf Among Us
The storyline in The Wolf Among Us
is a prequel to all of the story arcs and is canon to the comic book series. Veteran readers get a dose of backstory while newcomers can jump in to what is now the beginning of the tale.
Storytelling is what Telltale does best, that being said, the rich and imaginative narratives of Fables
seems like prime pickings for them. Despite the comic's own critical success, it's difficult to live up to Telltale's other licensed adventures, such as; The Walking Dead
, Jurassic Park
, and Back to the Future
; not only in popularity, but in the familiarity of these properties as well. Since the Fables
series is a take on fairy tales themselves, there's a common thread that everyone can relate to. You play as Bigby (The Big Bad) Wolf and very early on you get introduced to a number of other famous fairy tale characters. Boy, how the year's have changed them though.
Bigby is now the good guy, taking the reigns as sheriff to the Fabletown community of New York City. Through the magic of 'Glamour', he's personified as a human, as are many of the other characters. Some retain their fairy tale properties though, whether through choice (Glamour comes at a financial burden to some), or simply by nature. The 'Fables' as they are called live among the Mundys (humans), given that they can maintain that Glamour. In the first episode, at least, the conflict focuses internally between the Fables.
The story follows along the style of a good old-fashioned murder mystery, leaving Bigby in charge of piecing the puzzle together. Except you (the gamer) won't really be doing much puzzle solving at all, but you will be more or less exploring the environments for items and picking actions through a dialogue tree to progress through the game. Like a good drama show, you'll probably be talking out loud to your TV saying, "he did it," or "he's hiding something," but ultimately it just feels like you're along for the ride. This revelation isn't all that bad though, because there is still some good storytelling unfolding in front of you.
Bigby is surrounded by a cast of largely familiar fairy tale characters: there's Snow White, Ichabod Crane, Beauty, and The Beast to name a few. Although, time has passed and many happy endings have turned into something different, changing into something depressing or shallow in most cases. Much of the game glorifies just how "regular" some of the Fables have become, but "regular" to this world is traditional storybook characters wearing dirty undershirts, swearing, drinking, smoking, and fighting. The first few times you may derive some shock value out of one of the three little pigs taking a careful drag and begging for a drink, but the novelty of it can wear off rather quickly.
Gameplay is largely unchanged from The Walking Dead
series, and the same goes for the graphical presentation. Actions performed by Bigby are split into dialogue trees, exploration, and quick time events (QTE). All of the actions will lead to slightly different results, but you can't help but think you're just buckled in for the ride and everyone will get off at the same stop. These facets of gameplay provide a bit of immersion, but much of this is lost when technical problems arise. Much like The Walking Dead
, the game will stutter or even freeze during a camera angle change or character animations. These moments really remind you that you're playing a video game and are not a part of the story. Telltale promises some bug fixes in a Title Update arriving when the game is launched to the public but given that The Walking Dead
still suffers from similar issues, it's difficult to believe that this will be completely alleviated. Throw in loading screens and the action can get even slower in some parts.
The game looks and feels so much like The Walking Dead
, it's impossible to not to compare the two, and when you do you find that The Wolf Among Us
doesn't quite live up to it. The Wolf Among Us
features rich storytelling in a unique universe where Fables and humans live as one, but The Walking Dead
was certainly much more relatable. The choices you made in The Walking Dead
felt like you were shaping your
story, where as in The Wolf Among Us
it feels like you're just watching a story unfold. Sure, some of your actions affect the outcome of the story, but so far The Wolf Among Us
doesn't grab hold quite like The Walking Dead
The achievements are all story-based with the exception of one collectible achievement for acquiring all the Book of Fables entries. These entries are a useful tool for those looking to understand the The Wolf Among Us
lore a bit more. In fact, some are required reading if you haven't read the comics. Given the deep history of the Fables
' story arcs, it felt like many angles of the story told by the Book of Fables helped fill some of those gaps. It was a bit disappointing to find out that most
of the entries were earned automatically; true collectibles might have actually been welcome in The Wolf Among Us
. A skill-based achievement wouldn't have hurt either, such as "survive a QTE without getting hurt".The Wolf Among Us
has its faults, both fundamentally and technically. However, the story told within is just captivating enough that you'll want to see it to its conclusion. If you were a fan of The Walking Dead
, there's enough here for you to appreciate in The Wolf Among Us
, but don't expect that same kind of magic as before. For those who didn't like their previous project, there's no reason to believe that The Wolf Among Us
will be much different for you.
The reviewer spent somewhere under three hours completing the episode, picking up all seven achievements. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review