The Wolf Among Us “Faith” Review
There are few games that have entranced me as quickly as The Wolf Among Us. In mere minutes I became fully immersed in the world of Fabletown. There’s a dramatic weight to this episode that few games have come close to achieving. To call this game a breath of fresh air would be an understatement, The Wolf Among Us is a gust of wind in a desert wasteland of sequels, reboots and remakes.
With the second episode of The Wolf Among Us set to release next week, I feel it’s appropriate to do a proper review of the first episode. I previously mentioned that this game is my most anticipated of the year, I don’t wish to repeat the same points so I won’t be as specific as I was in that post. This first episode deserves a proper review nonetheless.
The Wolf Among Us is the latest episodic adventure game series by Telltale Games, the creators of Sam & Max and The Walking Dead. The first episode is titled “Faith” and is available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3; the remaining four episodes are scheduled to release sometime this year. The game is based on the Fables comic book series and like The Walking Dead, acts as a prequel to the source material.
The Wolf Among Us is set in Fabletown, an urban community in New York City during the 1980s. Fabletown homes several characters and magical creatures from famous stories such as: Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. These creatures and characters were literally ripped from their own stories and the one’s that are unable to pass for human disguise themselves with magic to hide among humans. Though it’s a prequel, you’re not required to have read the Fables comics, as you progress through the episode, you will unlock background information on some of the characters and events prior to the game.
The player controls Bigby Wolf, the Fabletown sheriff who has a dark past. The plot follows Wolf investigating the murder of a citizen of Fabletown. He is joined by Snow White, who’s an assistant to the mayor of Fabletown. The pair follows a chain of clues leading several suspects all while forming the beginning of a partnership.
Watching this story unfold before your eyes is an absolute treat and it gets even better when the story seemingly shapes itself from your actions. For instance, there’s a side character who will either live or die as an indirect consequence to one of your choices.The beauty of this is you won’t realize this consequence until the game points out your decisions after the end of the episode. Your choices in this episode have a more subtle effect than you might be used to. This kind of subtlety is an under-appreciated risk in storytelling, especially in the medium of video games.
Bigby Wolf is one of the most captivating protagonists I’ve seen in a video game. He has that magnetic quality of Rorschach from Watchmen and V from V for Vendetta. Depending on your dialogue choices, Bigby’s personality will seem significantly different yet every iteration is equally convincing. It helps that Wolf is joined by a strong supporting cast of characters. It seems as though everyone who worked on this episode, from the artists to the writers to the voice actors, pulled their weight.
Without spoiling too much, “Faith” captures the feel of hard-boiled murder mystery with a heavy influence of film noir. There’s a practically tangible feel of tension and a kind of magic that very few games have evoked from me. Much like Heavy Rain, this game will have you on the edge of your seat and just like The Walking Dead you’ll be hanging off every word. There’s no telling where the plot will go next and the ending is a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers.
The gameplay in The Wolf Among Us is identical to The Walking Dead. This naturally invites comparisons between the two and if you didn’t like one, you probably won’t like the other. During cutscenes, the player is offered dialogue choices on a timer. Each dialogue option has it’s own flavour and the writing in these instances is superb. Every line of dialogue has it’s own implication that plays into the subtext of the scene. There are also some scripted action scenes that are filled with quick-time events. These are fun but like all quick-time events, they can catch you off guard if you aren’t prepared for them.
Outside of cutscenes, the player can roam around a small area and examine objects or talk to people to advance the plot. In that sense, The Wolf Among Us isn’t much of an adventure game. The point and click elements are stripped down and there aren’t any puzzles to speak of. It’s closer to the interactions in L.A. Noire although it’s much more satisfying.
There’s a dramatic weight to the story in The Wolf Among Us that’s much more common in movies than in video games. It has a cinematic pedigree that’s often attempted by big-budget games such as Metal Gear Solid, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted. The first episode has many twists and split-second decisions that lend themselves to watercooler conversations with other players.
With the second episode approaching, I highly recommend you buy this episode and experience The Wolf Among Us. Outside of working a bit too closely off the foundations of The Walking Dead and it’s very short length (at just under three hours) I can hardly find a flaw in this game. Lightning has clearly struck twice for Telltale Games; the second episode can’t come out soon enough.