*Note: This is a spoiler free review, so don’t be afraid to read on.*
The Wolf Among Us is a five episode series based on Fables (DC Comics/Vertiso), an award-winning comic book series by Bill Willingham. It is a violent, hard-boiled thriller where the characters and creatures of myth, lore, and legend are real and exist in our world. Your choices matter and will change and define the story you experience.
Brief History on The Wolf Among Us Comic Book (Fables)
Fables is an award-winning comic book series that was first published in 2002 by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics. Written by Bill Willingham, the series tells the tale of the characters and creatures of myth, lore, and legend who have been driven from their homelands to seek refuse in our ‘mundane’ world.
Important Starting Notes
This game is divided into five different acts or chapters. Each part will be released at a set period of time as the developer sees fit. That being said these reviews will cover only one act or chapter of the game at a time until all five have been released where-as a final review as a whole will be made.
If you have not read the comic books you don’t need to worry about a thing. This game takes place before the events in the first comic book so the world and characters were made as if you had just met them for the first time. With that in mind if you have read the comic books you will enjoy seeing characters and locations that you are familiar with from the comic books, but are now brought to you in a video game.
Basic Game Information
The Wolf Among Us is an real-time adventure/role-playing game that will test your morals and emotions. It is an action drama, suspense, and thriller. You will be allowed to behave as the type of character you want to be. It’s a game of making decisions and having to live with the consequences.
Main Character – You will be playing the entire game as Bigby Wolf, previously known as ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ of fairytales. Bigby came to the human world a long time ago with many other Fables as they had to escape from their homelands. Bigby is the Sheriff of Fabletown; an impressive detective with powerful senses and the ability to revert into the giant wolf he once was. Even though there is a pact between all Fables his dark past proves to be very troublesome at times because everyone either fears, or does not trust him. Throughout the game you will meet characters that you thought you knew from childhood fairytales. Some could be connected to The Big Bad Wolf’s stories, others could be from the Wizard of Oz, and many will come from other stories that I will not spoil for you.
Decisions, Decisions – The most important aspect of this game is the freedom of choice. Almost, if not every time dialog is interchanged between Bigby and another character you have a choice on how something is said, if anything at all. Player’s choice is what makes this game unlike almost every other game out there. As the story unfolds in front of you decisions must be made. Do I step in and take the blame for something that wasn’t my fault knowing that this individual will dislike me more? Or do I say nothing and let someone take more heat than I believe is necessary? Your decision or action could cause an immediate effect, it may not be felt until later in the episode or season, or it may not make a difference ever. Because the choices you make are yours, the experience that you have with the game could end up very different than that of a friend. Even making this game better is the fact you will have a very short time on deciding on how to react. Having only five seconds to decide on whom to chase as a prime suspect creates a thrill that cannot be obtained otherwise.
Time Management – This gameadds yet another dimension to the way choices are made. Not only does it matter what you choose, but when you choose to do it. Time is always ticking in game and Bigby cannot be in multiple places at once. If you choose to check out a certain location before another the second location could potentially be completely different. You will have to accept the consequences on choosing where to go and what to deal with at any given time.
The graphic art in the game comes from the inspiration of Mark Buckingham, the artist for the Fables comic books. The game looks as if it could have been taken strait from a graphic comic book strip. The difference is that these characters move and talk in real time. The characters look very well detailed though made to look as if they were ‘drawn’ in. The background artwork in the game varies from location to location. Though it is detailed enough so you don’t look that close at it on certain parts it is obvious that some of it looks dull, flat and semi-blocky. Other times the background looks like nothing but lines that don’t belong there in general. Overall the artwork plays well with what it is trying to portray, but is nothing like a typical game’s graphic now days.
Like all Telltale Games the gameplay is similar to their previous games. If you have not played any other Telltale games the gameplay may be just a little different than most games, but not difficult at all to pick up and understand. You control a main character that you control in certain areas of the game and you have to discover and interact with clues and possibly other individuals. The game is not all dialog and clue examining as you will learn very quickly. There are a few Quick Time Events (QTE) that require you to press a button or series of buttons within a short amount of time, which always involves some sort of action sequence. Though fairly easy to accomplish once again decision making will play a factor. Do I push this individual to the left towards the soft couch, or do I push him towards a hard sink? Each action will have a reaction that will play its part either immediately or in the long term of the game.
Age – Even though this is about typical ‘fairytale’ characters this in no way is a game for children. Filled with intense violence, blood and gore, strong language, sexual themes, nudity, alcohol/drug use, and strong moral decisions this is a game that has earned a very fair “Mature” rating.
Time – Each episode takes about two hours to complete from start to finish. As a whole the comic will take about ten hours to get from the start to finish once it has been released entirely. The game is not designed to present any hard barriers and will not ever feel as if you have to ‘grind’ through it in any way. It is made so you enjoy one episode at a time, enjoy the story and then move onto the next episode.
Characters – As previously stated you will be meeting a lot of different fairytale creatures possibly in a new light that you may not have seen them in before. As stated earlier you have the choice to change the outcome of the game. Every decision you make could potentially change someone that you thought had a level head into a complete arrogant creature if you push the wrong buttons. Of course with the decisions you make you could turn the hardest criminal into a weeping child with some soft words of encouragement.
Death – Even though this game was made primarily for the story there are some action sequences. That being said it is possible to find your death in the game. Thankfully you receive checkpoints often and if you do end up finding your demise, more than likely you will have less than a minute or so of gameplay to find yourself not trying to make the same mistake again.
Soundtrack – The title screen is the only screen I have ever heard any type of soundtrack on. The track itself is very short and on a continuous loop. It has an interesting slow melodramatic ‘devious’ sound to it. It fits on the type of game it is on, though do not leave the game on the title menu for very long as you will go crazy listening to the short 15 seconds loop.
Episode 1 Review
First Impressions – Upon turning on the game for the very first time it felt very dark and depressing. For me it really was a turn-off that lessened my beliefs on how good of a game it could potentially be. As soon as you get control over your character you are faced with decisions. This approach for me set a very good hook that plows you into the story immediately. Though not knowing exactly what to expect I saw very quickly that I could try and be the ‘good guy’, ‘good guy that still enforced the rules’, or the ‘hard ass wolf that leaves no room to make exceptions for the rules.’ Starting with the first conversation I attempted to be the ‘good guy with rules.’ Even though the short-term results was not the one I was looking for, it entertained my emotions to the point I was hooked. The QTE Events felt as if they responded really sluggish at first but after getting used to it a little turned into nothing more than a mild chore.
My Thoughts – Progressing through the game the QTE sequences became more enjoyable as I felt they actively played a role on shaping me into the character I wanted to become. Even though I enjoyed the decision making aspect of the game some of the decisions that I was forced to make felt as if they wouldn’t have any type of effect on the gameplay in the long scheme of things. Some decisions I really wanted to ponder on which type of decision to make, other times it felt really black and white on what the end results were going to be. It provided for a good gameplay experience but I had just a couple moments of dreading on how long it was taking to move on.
Storyline – The story itself is a very good one. All the fairytale creatures with a hidden past creates a baseline for a great story. It flowed fairy well without too much time feeling I was getting fed details. The mixture of action, drama, and a little romance creates not only a good story, but one that keeps your interest. Only a few times throughout I felt as if the story was slightly forced. It flowed well but at least one time I sat there wondering, “…why?”
Voice Acting – The voice acting in the game is well done. You know when a character is angry, irritated, or when they are potentially lying as well. Though the voice acting doesn’t always correctly correspond to the visual facial expressions it is easy to tell what the fable is feeling. Once again it is well done but some of it feels forced, especially when it comes to any type of ‘romantic’ feelings.
Future Episodes – I highly look forward to future episodes to continue the story of the Fables. The first episode ends really well in my eyes and really sets a hook for me to continue the story.
Other Features / Comments
Options – Typical audio options are found in here including volume control. There are also the options to turn sub-titles on or off for all the dialog. The most game-oriented option is the ‘selectable’ option. With this option on if an object is able to be interacted with in game it will be highlighted. With this option off you will have to be a superior detective to find everything.
Our Review Score – I personally give Episode 1 in The Wolf Among Us a 3.5 out of 5.0. Though it has a very good story and overall it is a very well made game I believe there is room for significant improvement in certain areas such as facial expressions and certain forced dialog sequences. I believe the biggest improvement would be the consequences for your actions. As stated before some actions/dialog feels black and white and doesn’t feel as if it makes much a difference as a whole.
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