It's difficult to review a game like The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 without discussing its most accomplished feature: the plot and storytelling. Nevertheless, it must be attempted, as to spoil the plot would no doubt diminish the experience of any who choose to immerse themselves in this beautifully crafted storytelling experience.
If plot remains sacred, then to setting we must go. Telltale Games have once again drawn their inspiration from the world of the graphic novel, this time using Bill Willingham’s Fables as their source material, of which this adventure forms a prequel.
The tale takes place in New York, in an isolated area home to the Fables - refugees from the land of make-believe and fairy tales - called Fabletown, where they hide in plain sight amongst the "mundies".
Life is hard for all but the privileged few and most Fables struggle to survive in a world of mundanity. Those who cannot pass themselves as human must mask their true appearance with rare and expensive sorceries, else be sent to "The Farm". In a world of hard truth, desperation and poverty, many Fables have turned to prostitution, crime or good old drink and drugs to get by.
At the heart of this chaos we find our protagonist: Fabletown sheriff, Bigby Wolf. Tasked with enforcing the laws of Fabletown and of protecting its residents, from both the outside world and from each other, Bigby's job is almost too much for one "man" to handle.
To make life more difficult, his reputation precedes him. While the slate was wiped clean for all Fables at the time of the great exodus to mundanity, memories are long and many people remember how 'Big' and 'Bad' Wolf used to be in the old days. Despite his attempts to turn over a new leaf and a certain, if begrudging, sense of duty towards his charges, Wolf is afforded very little respect from those he seeks to protect.
Wolf is an interesting and three-dimensional character; consisting of three parts film noir detective, two parts burned out bum, a sprinkling of conscience, a handful of regret and a whole lot of animal. He's also a very angry creature and, while guided by duty, is also in constant battle with his more fierce instincts. This being a Telltale game, how often Wolf succumbs to his anger and lets it guide him is very much in the hands of the player.
The rest of the characters in Fabletown are equally well rounded and three-dimensional, both being realistically portrayed in terms of their personalities and desires, but equally being represented as larger-than-life as a result of their fantastical origins. In the relatively short time spent with Episode 1, players will no doubt find themselves warming to some characters, feeling animosity to others, and perhaps a smidgen of grudging respect for even the most outwardly repugnant of individuals.
All of these characters, as well as the environments they live in, are brought to life in glorious comic-book style, with thick lines, pastel colours and glorious attention to detail. It really is a rich and lush world to find oneself immersed in; despite the dilapidation and depressing poverty that is abound in Fabletown.
The story itself (don't worry, no spoilers!) is engrossing and enjoyable. It presents an interesting take on a typical detective plotline, and is well structured enough to keep things moving at the kind of pace more typical to a movie than a videogame. Twists and turns present themselves and Bigby is presented with difficult choices to make along the way. It's rarely the case of having a 'good' choice or the 'evil' option to choose from, and even those proceeding with the best intentions may discover their consequences have dire, and permanent consequences.
Of course, how these choices affect future episodes remains to be seen, but the impact of Bigby.'s actions is certainly felt throughout this part of the tale.
Gameplay will be relatively familiar to those who played The Walking Dead, although the relatively simple formula has been refined to offer more choices when interacting with objects and the environment. To describe The Wolf Among Us as a 'point and click' would be doing the game a disservice; 'interactive cinematic experience' would be a better way to sum things up.
Proceeding through Episode 1 is very much like being part of a movie. A good movie at that. This is not to say that it's is all dialogue and no game; indeed, there are a number of action scenes that serve to excite and exhilarate. These moments are deceptively engrossing, and they never really feel like glorified quick-time event cinematics, despite the fact that in many ways, they are.
The only real criticism that can be aimed at The Wolf Among Us is not even a real criticism, more of an as-yet unproven concern. Telltale Games' episodic structure means we are not quite sure when the next instalment of the game will arrive, and there were some notable delays experienced with Season 1 of The Walking Dead. Given that the studio are working on three separate projects simultaneously, the nagging worry exists that some time may elapse between one episode and the next; and rarely is a firm release date provided significantly in advance.
This one worry aside, The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 has proven a shining example of interactive storytelling, and shown without a doubt that Telltale Games have more to offer us after the success of Season 1 of The Walking Dead. It is a highly recommended experience, and one that will not soon be forgotten.
The Wolf Among Us (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 has proven a shining example of interactive storytelling. It is a highly recommended experience, and one that will not soon be forgotten.