Monday, October 14

Game Review: The Wolf Among Us (Episode 1: Faith)

Genre: Point and Click
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Mac
Release date: 12/10/2013 

The Wolf Among Us is Telltale's newest game, based of the comic book series Fables. The Wolf Among Us takes place in Fabletown, New York. Fabletown is the primary abode of famous figures from folklore such as Beast, Snow White, Grendel and our protagonist Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf). If you’re wondering what such fairy tale characters are doing in New York, you’ll find out through scraps of back story throughout the game. As mentioned the player takes the role of Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown. Bigby is trying to put his notorious past to rest whiling doing the town some good by serving as lawman. After a less than mundane encounter with the Woodsman (of Little Red Riding Hood fame) Bigby bears witness to something horrifying and so events of the narrative are set in motion.

One of the great appeals of The Wolf Among Us is the incredibly interesting world, which can't help but pique my curiosity. What would happen if fairy tales were real and these characters happened to live in a city in New York? How would they keep their existence a secret, how would they govern themselves etc? One of the commonalities between video games I love is when I'm introduced to new and intriguing worlds. The Wolf Among Us is one such world and I'm really looking forward to diving into more of the lore in future episodes. 

The content of the game is primarily composed of action sequences, investigative scenes and cut scenes. The action scenes feature quick time events (QTE) in short scripted scenes. The QTE are integrated pretty seamlessly and they are rarely frustrating, while providing the player with reasonable quality of interaction. In one example you'll chase a suspect and use button mashing, precision mouse clicks and timed button presses in order to avoid chaos and catch the perpetrator. The bulk of the game is spend walking around, looking for clues and investigating an area. As Bigby the sheriff, the game takes plenty of opportunities to allow you to play detective; canvassing scenes for evidence or trying to disassemble somebodies lies. These sections of the game are not especially mentally taxing but still grant you the opportunity to piece together the crime and shed light onto the calamity affecting Fabletown. The final portion of the game is spent in cut scenes, a large part of which is talking to people. Telltale manages to create an engaging dialogue system where there is never a right answer. This is where the game truly shines with the grey morality and sense of conflict you’ll feel. In one scene you enter a bar looking for a suspect. You ask the bar owner, she's a total asshole. So do you raise to her bait, threaten her or take it on the chin? Its hard to know what to do in these situations and you aren't left much time to think, with your responses limited by time. This is in fact a good thing since you're forced to act on impulse, rather than trying to second guess what the 'best' answer is.

The art style is simply exquisite.
Despite the fairy tell setting the game has an extremely dark tone. There is murder, prostitution and gratuitous swearing by some characters. You’ll find your patience tested with some of the cast, some you will immediately dislike, some you’ll feel sympathy, some you will want to protect. The world and characters compliment each other perfectly providing a grimy, believable world. Telltale's craft is so good that I was left completely speechless at the end of the episode. 

On the more technical side The Wolf Among Us looks fantastic on PC. I noticed no low textures, bugs or framerate drops. The art style fantastic, with a vibrant tone which brings the world of Fables to life perfectly. The voice acting is also top notch and couldn't find fault anywhere (other developers take note).

The Wolf Among Us manages to create a vivid and surprisingly dark world, delivering an unforgettable experience. Here’s hoping the subsequent episodes are just as good. The only shortfall is the short, 2 hour, play time.