Smoke and Mirrors
I have finished it and I want more!
Developed by Telltale Games, the same studio that produced The Walking Dead and Sam and Max games, The Wolf Among Us is (what I would describe as) a point-and-click-multiple-choice-crime-noir-episodic-adventure game. Like The Walking Dead, upon starting The Wolf Among Us, you’re greeted with a message that says “this game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored to how you play.”Goodness, I thought to myself, how exciting! Whilst the overlying plot is always essentially the same, how it pans out and how you get there is down to the choices you make. But we will come to that in a bit once I explain the amazing premise of this game.
The Wolf Among Us is set in the same universe as the Fables comic series, published by Vertigo (DC). The comics were first released in 2002, but I will admit I had never heard of them until playing this game, and I’m a self acclaimed comic nerd! For shame… In the world of Fables, various characters from fairy tales, fables and folklore have been evicted out of their homelands, and are forced to live among normal human beings (“mundies”) – some of which resides in New York City, in a community known as Fabletown. To protect themselves, the Fables must keep their identities hidden from mundies and the outside world, and as such use magic to keep themselves safe. Many of the anthropomorphic animal Fables, or Fables such as trolls or giants that cannot pass as human, must use glamours to disguise themselves. But glamours aren’t cheap, and many Fables cannot afford them – these Fables are sent to The Farm, which is supposed to be a safe-haven but is apparently more like a prison. The idea of incorporating fairy tale characters into the real world has indeed been done before, but nothing on this scale, I think. The Fables must overcome real life obstacles and band together to survive, lest they all fall apart. Some characters such as Bluebeard (who was a personal favourite of mine) are doing quite well for themselves, whereas others like the Little Mermaid have a much sadder tale to tell.
The story of The Wolf Among Us follows a gritty murder investigation in Fabletown – this game is not for the faint of heart! You play as Bigby “The Big Bad” Wolf. Yeah, that’s right. You’re the Big Bad Wolf. Bigby (Big B, get it?) is the sheriff of Fabletown, and is trying to relinquish himself from his past of killing grandmothers and blowing down pig’s houses to help his fellow Fabletown citizens. When one of their own is murdered, Bigby must hunt and track down the killer, avoiding detection from the outside world, and gain the trust and respect of the sceptical Fabletown citizens. That’s the gist of it really, without spoiling anything else. But surely that’s enough to entice you into the game? I know it was for me. But if not, let’s talk about the gameplay.
If you have played The Walking Dead, then you know what to expect. The game is made up of five episodes that were released bi-monthly from October 2013 to July 2014. Playing The Wolf Among Us is like watching an interactive series. A large part of the game is cutscenes, but at every conversational fork in the road, you must make a decision. For example, a character may ask Bigby how he’s feeling. You have the choice to respond “Fine”, “Great, thanks”, “Fuck off”, or “…”. How you respond will influence how the story pans out and how characters act towards you. Ask the right questions, and you’ll get the right answers. It’s like LA Noire, but not painstakingly boring. Out of conversation, you control Bigby through means of point-and-click gameplay. Each explorable area has a number of objects that you can look at or pick up to try and uncover clues and information, and piece the investigation together. There are also a number of quick time events to keep you on your toes during a couple o’ little brawls, but these are infrequent enough for them not to get boring and stale. Throughout the game, you also uncover character and event dossiers in the form of The Book of Fables, which is a great little add-on to help keep track of who people are and learn some of the lore surrounding Fables.
The game’s visual design is again similar to that of The Walking Dead: it’s almost animated. It’s a very unique art style that plays out well with the story. My one gripe is that sometimes characters’ movements and facial expressions looked a little robotic, but I can let that slide – it’s still immersive as hell. Musically, the score is brilliant at creating the exact atmosphere that the developers desired, and really adds to perilous mood. It’s that kind of score that you don’t really notice at first, but when you notice it it makes the scene ten times more impactful…which I don’t think is a real word, but describes my point wholeheartedly.
The Wolf Among Us has not only opened up a new series that I want to explore (Fables), but has also introduced me to a new genre of game. Whilst some people may find the interactive story elements boring, I personally loved every moment of it. A couple of the episodes are weaker than others, but all in all this was a great experience, and I want more from the world of Fables. My hat goes off to Telltale Games, who are currently working on a new Borderlands and Game of Thrones game – both of which I am very excited about.
I managed to get The World Among Us on the Steam sale for about £6.99, but it looks like it’s gone back up to nearly twenty squids. The story takes about 7 – 9 hours to complete, depending on your choices and how thorough you are. Due to the amount of choices the game offers, there is a lot of replay value: my first playthrough saw me as a kind, sympathetic Bigby, but I want to try again and be an absolute dick and see how that affects things. You can also compare your choice stats to others who have played the game. So whilst £18.99 is a fair bob, I think that it’s well worth it. Just keep a vigilant eye open for it to come down in price. Now, I am going to go and write fanfiction. I wonder if Jack Frost is a character in the comics? That could be interesting….