By Michelle Curtis on July 8, 2014 at 10:26pm
Warning: This is a review of the overall game so it may contain spoilers!
Tale as old as time...
Well, almost. “The Wolf Among Us” turns the world of fairytales and folklore on its head. Presented as a prequel to the “Fables” comic book series by Bill Willingham, it is a graphic adventure game from Telltale Games. It follows the stories of exiled fairytale beings, particularly that of Bigby Wolf. Known to humankind (or mundies) as the Big Bad Wolf, Bigby is the sheriff of Fabletown where all the exiled Fables live. While some might think of fairytales as characters relegated to singing and dancing for children, trust me—there is nothing kid-friendly about these Fables.
Story and Characters
The Fables and their current home of Fabletown are dark, gritty shadows of their storybook selves. Bigby is a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed grouch of a sheriff. Ichabod Crane is the interim mayor whereas Snow White (yes, that Snow White) is the deputy mayor. As the game progresses, you encounter many familiar names and faces from old European fairytales to figures from American folklore and urban legends.
As a huge fan of myths and folklore, I loved seeing what characters were used and how their storybook histories factored into their personas in Fabletown. For instance, one of my favorite characters was Bloody Mary (introduced in episode 3 “A Crooked Mile”). Based on the urban legend, her character is just as twisted as you would think. Aspects of her legend (like her association with mirrors) are incorporated into the game's storyline. It was a lot of fun seeing familiar characters in unfamiliar territory.
The characters' histories lend a richness to the well-crafted storyline that shows great attention to detail. Take Nerissa for example. Known as “The Little Mermaid,” Nerissa's tale is tragic. Unlike the Disney version where Ariel ends up with her prince, Nerissa didn't have a happy ending with her prince which is more like the original Hans Christian Andersen version. Sadly, her life in Fabletown isn't any better as she now struggles to survive in exile by stripping at the Pudding & Pie (which is naturally run by Georgie Porgie).
While following the riveting storyline, it's hard not to notice that Fabletown is littered (almost quite literally) with nods to various fairytales. The Pudding & Pie is but one example of the vivid, detailed environments. A troll named Holly runs a bar called the Trip Trap. There was a butcher shop called A Cut Above ran by a butcher named Johann. This one took me a minute until I realized he was from the “Rub-a-dub-dub” nursery rhyme. It's almost like a treasure hunt, trying to find and recognize all the references.
While looking for all the references, I found myself really enjoying the bold, cell-shaded graphics of the game. While the style is very reminiscent of another Telltale game “The Walking Dead," there is something very unique to the feel of Fabletown in “The Wolf Among Us." The colors and the shadows gave this seedy, almost dirty look to the scenes. The game has a very gritty, hard-edged feel to it that really helps convey the feeling of despair and hardship that the characters are experiencing.
Speaking of hardship, the storyline is so well-crafted and so immersive that the wait between chapters has been very difficult. The episodic release of “The Wolf Among Us” is very familiar to those who played “The Walking Dead” but much like that title, the wait is justified by the quality of the episodes.
The only complaint I have about the game involves lag. I played “The Wolf Among Us” on PS3 so I'm not sure if this was an issue exclusive to the console versions. It's not really game-breaking but it does cause some slight difficulties during a few of the larger quick-time event sequences. Despite this, it was a very enjoyable experience.
It is very easy to role-play in “The Wolf Among Us”. Bigby Wolf, despite his gruff exterior, is a very relatable character so it was easy to put myself in his shoes while making dialogue choices for him. I found myself referring to him as "my Bigby" as in "My Bigby wouldn't do this action because of this reason." There are a number of various reactions that Bigby can have to certain scenarios which affect the way he is viewed by the characters with whom he is interacting. Not only do these affect the current episode, but they also affect events in the episodes that follow.
At the end of each chapter, you get to see some of your decisions and see what percentage of players made the same choices you did. For instance, you get to see what percentage of players killed a certain character or chose to take money from other characters.
One thing that fascinated me other than comparing my choices to those made by other players was the progression of the chapters in terms of dialogue versus quick-time events. Earlier chapters were very dialogue-heavy in order to develop the story; however, as the story progressed, later chapters balanced the story development with more quick-time events. The final episode “Cry Wolf” was very action-based, and honestly, it was pretty awesome. I'm not normally a fan of quick-time events but I was so invested in keeping Bigby alive and progressing the story, they were actually a lot of fun!
I would do this game a great disservice if I failed to mention the quality of the voice acting. Telltale Games has definitely set the bar high with the immaculate voice casting they do for their games. Fresh from “The Walking Dead”, Dave Fennoy does a phenomenal job as the bloodthirsty Bluebeard. Another great voice from “The Walking Dead”, Melissa Hutchison tugs at your heartstrings again as Toad Jr. (She also voices Beauty.) One of my long-time favorites, Laura Bailey, voiced Aunty Greenleaf. Philip Banks (who voiced the Crooked Man) made his character so charismatic and logical that there were a few instances where I hesitated making choices that would affect him.
However, my absolute favorite voice actor in “The Wolf Among Us” was Adam Harrington as Bigby Wolf. Talk about a perfect casting job! Harrington really brought out the grizzled, tough cop that Bigby is but the nuance in his tone when he spoke softer lines was definitely the highlight for me. He somehow retained that growl in his voice while speaking softly to characters like Toad Jr.
From episode to episode, I was completely hooked. Storylines are deal-breakers for me, and “The Wolf Among Us” does not disappoint. Gripping, edge-of-your seat dialogue mixed expertly with well-placed quick-time events. The character development throughout the series was spot-on. If you're not a fan of rich, complex storylines or fascinating characters then this game is not for you.
Speaking of storylines, there is a choice at the end that really made me feel like there might be a second season. This has not been confirmed, but I am definitely crossing my fingers! There are a few unanswered questions, and as “The Wolf Among Us” takes places several years prior to the events in the first issue of “Fables”, there is still time to explore the depth of these characters.
Want to see what I'm talking about? Now's a great time to try it out. It's on sale on Steam until July 11 for 50% off!