The Wolf Among Us Review - Episodic Elegance

Greg Tito | 15 Oct 2013 16:15
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New York City in the 1980s was a miserable place, and from the first few moments of The Wolf Among Us you can feel it. Even worse than the sticky heat of the city is the plight of the Fables, famous characters that appear in stories like Snow White or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, exiled from their Homeland and forced to live among human "mundies". Placing storybook characters in a modern city is a neat enough premise, but it's the simple and elegant investigative storytelling that makes the first episode of this five-part series a joy to explore.

It's up to you playing as Bigby Wolf to keep the Fables from being discovered, and to keep them from hurting themselves too much. The former Big Bad Wolf, Sherriff Bigby embodies the noir detective with a dark past and a heart of gold, but his character fortunately never strays too far into hard-boiled cliché. Well, he does drink quite a bit, and smokes cigarettes constantly, true to type but he's got one of the Three Pigs sleeping at his apartment, which isn't. And when the pig calls Bigby out on his lone wolf demeanor, it's extremely apt.

Similar to the last time Telltale brought a comic book to life, each facet of the production excels. The art style is similar to the Fables comics on which the game is based and the cell-shaded look contrasted with bright purples and yellows makes for a visually appealing universe. The sound design and music are expertly rendered to fade into the background, yet are as instrumental in conveying the flavor and feel of Fabletown as the excellent voice-acting. Adam Harrington in particular succeeds in bringing Bigby to life, but there's not an actor out of place in the cast.

You play Wolf Among Us in a third person view, controlling Bigby as he moves around a very controlled set of scenes and locations. True to other point-and-click adventures, there's stuff to investigate, and you can click on an object to pick it up or get a canned response from Bigby as he looks at some detail. The game shines when Bigby talks with the denizens of Fabletown, and choosing your responses feels like a normal conversational flow instead of the artificial looping of questions and answers in a dialogue tree. Silence is also an option; sometimes it's better for Bigby to keep his big mouth shut.

Even better, the UI by default lets you know when something you've said or done will have an impact later in the story. You could turn this off for immersion's sake, but reinforcing how the player's actions are important is very engaging on its own. In a conversation with a character, the UI pops up a message when you catch them in a lie for example and you can use that to leverage a response later on. Much of what happens in this first episode feels like it could come up as the story progresses in later installments, and so this introduction is successful in making you anticipate episode two.

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