With The Wolf Among Us, Telltale has, once again, raised the bar for storytelling.
Now... where to start? I have no frickin idea! I don't know what to say or how to say it, so please just bear with me. The Wolf Among Us is the latest game developed by Telltale Games, the devs that brought us, probably one of the best game ever, The Walking Dead: The Game. Telltale did an amazing job with The Walking Dead: The Game, it raised the bar for storytelling in games to fantastical levels, so one would expect the same (or better) for their next game.
Well, I am just going to say that The Wolf Among Us is as good as their last game, maybe a tad better! Based on Bill Willingham's long-running Fables saga, The Wolf Among Us stars a community of fairytale characters exiled from their natural habitats and forced to live undercover in a part of New York City called Fabletown. I have not read Fables, to say the truth I didn't know of its existence before I heard about The Wolf Among Us and frankly when I heard about it I thought "Wow that's stupid..." But was I wrong...
I expected it to be a game for children, full of happiness and love forever after. I mean having Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, The Beauty and The Beast etc. all crammed in one place, that's what you would expect or am I wrong. But after completing the episode, I can say that it was nothing like I imagined it and frankly it may be one of the most mature games I have played this year. These fables, these beloved fairytale characters we all enjoyed and grew up reading, in The Wolf Among Us or better say, in the Fables universe, are humanized. Don't ask me how or even why is that, cause I don't f*cking know. What I know is that it just works so perfectly and it is a very intriguing premise.
The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place... and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life... - Sylvester Stallone (Rocky VI)
The quote above pretty much sums up life, it ain't easy. Every one has problems, some small and some are big, it ain't always happy times like in fairytales. And to see how fairytales character are brought down to earth with all of the problems that come along is amazing. There's no happy ending in The Wolf Among Us for these characters, there is no "sugar coating", life comes and punches you in the throat. This reality is delivered in a spectacular way by Telltale Games and I cannot wait to see more of it.
The episode is super short, at around 2 hours, so I can't really dive into details without spoiling the whole thing. You play as Bigby Wolf, a man once more infamously known as The Big Bad Wolf. Now the sheriff of the hidden community in New York City where all the fables live, exiled from the land of fairy tales, Bigby is tasked by the bureaucrat Snow White to keep order within the society of these mythical creatures and characters trying to remain undetected and live normal human lives in the world of the mundane. Something happens, someone is murdered and you as the sheriff starts your investigation, asking questions around, collecting clues, chase and run down people etc.
The gameplay and mechanics are identical to that of The Walking Dead. And like in The Walking Dead, you choose your own path and that matters as the story changes with your choices. You'll see messages on the screen like "He/She will remember that" much like in TWD, but it is way to early to comment on how that dictates the future. The choices in The Wolf Among Us are not simple yes or no, good or evil, black or white. Bigby appears to be haunted by his past and he clearly wants to change, but the world around him is not helping. He can't be good and as the press release Telltale sent me says "...will you be playing as 'Bad Cop,' or the 'REALLY Bad Cop?" But in the end all feels justified, your actions, your tone and dialogue it all makes sense and seems right. This is as much as I can talk without spoiling anything cause that's the hook of this game, it's story and what a story this is!
As I said the gameplay is identical to the one of The Walking Dead, but this time around they tweaked and fixed some "minor" problems or annoyances. Now you can now use 'RT' or "R2" to walk a bit faster and during the action sequences where you have to line up the reticle with the hotspots is way more forgiving than in past games. Speaking of action sequences, when compared to The Walking Dead, this is action packed. Bigby will chase, run down and engage in fisticuffs with the "bad guys" throughout the episode and I must say that these sequences are very well executed and super satisfying to pull off.
Now being identical to TWD, it means that the visual style is pretty much the same, a graphic novel cell-shaded style and it fits The Wolf Among Us perfectly. The environments are not gloomy and poorly lit like the ones in TWD, instead Telltale opted for a more vibrant color palette that in contrast with one another, create beautiful environments that have a '80s neon kinda vibe. The characters models look really cool, but their body and facial animations are not that great. That's the same "problem", if we can call it so, The Walking Dead has, wooden animations. The camera jump cuts are as bad as they were in the past causing the frame rate to drop to insanely low levels and many times freezing the game. These freezes are not long by a long shot, only couple of seconds, but are still annoying as hell. I tested the game on the PS3 and when I finished a, let's call it, chapter, during the loading screen when the games saves, it also awards you the trophy for completing the "chapter". Apparently the PS3 cannot handle both these processes at the same time, so the game freezes, for what it feels like a loooooong time.
They need to fix these annoying problems and they need to re-work the (or build a new) engine. I understand that they have their hands full with 4 different games under development at the moment, but still, better eliminate these annoyances before they spawn new ones.
Bottom Line: So to sum it up, The Wolf Among Us is a fantastic adventure game. The whole premise, the story, the characters and how everything is connected and how it unfolds depending on your choice, is phenomenal. Presentation is fantastic, the art style combined with the wonderful OST and stellar voice acting immerse you into this wonderful and dark universe. The technological problems that plagued the previous Telltale games are still present, but after finishing the first episode of the second season of TWD, I can say that they fixed most of them. My advice, The Wolf Among Us is a must buy!
Thanks for reading!