How do you follow up a Game Of The Year winner?
Life as a sheriff is a tough one. You’re responsible for an entire community. It’s up to you to keep them safe, but achieving that flawlessly is hard.You’re bound to anger someone along the line, it’s an inevitability that comes with the job. How can you keep a grasp on the politics of the land when you’re so busy protecting everyone? There’s just too many things for one person to juggle.
Bigby Wolf is a man struggling with this conundrum. He’s the sheriff of Fabletown, where all your favourite fairy tale characters, known here as Fables, live in 1980s New York. On one hand Bigby’s past as the Big, Bad Wolf looms over him, but on the other he fights his own urges in order to do the ‘right’ thing for Fabletown.
The scales are very much dipped for Bigby. The hatred and fear from the community outweigh the love and appreciation he receives for his actions. He’s a man who can’t do anything right in the public’s eyes and decided a long time ago that he’d rather be feared than loved.
He's a pretty simple character to understand, because he’s the archetypical Big, Bad Wolf. If he’s anything, it’s feared. Everyone knows his name. Violence and intimidation are recurring themes in Bigby’s past which he finds hard to shake. Fabletown was supposed to be a ‘fresh start’, Bigby often laments.
Acceptable in the '80sBut he’s not the only one who can’t escape his past. You’ll meet plenty of characters who question if Fabletown is really any better than the Homelands, or the mythical lands each figure originates from.
The brilliant setting for The Wolf Among Us is based on Bill Willingham’s long running comic series Fables, and carries on the tradition of Telltale providing canon to an already existing story. This time, however, the narrative in The Wolf Among Us runs as a prequel to Willingham’s series.
Any story set in the ‘80s would be out of place without bright neon colours, and The Wolf Among Us doesn’t disappoint on that front. The sheen of those pink and purple neons, however, disguises the dilapidated and almost abandoned look of many of the areas inhabited by Fables. Bigby’s apartment is advertised as ‘luxury’, but once inside you’re greeted to cracked walls, dusty furniture and a security guard asleep on the job.
Telltale have left the option for savagery purposefully ambiguous, being loud and violent might get Bigby what he wants, but is it worth it?
These juxtapositions immediately throw you into a world where appearance is everything, not only to the humans in 1980s New York, but to the Fables as well. To keep themselves disguised, Fables require a spell called a ‘glamour’ which provides those who aren’t already human with a human disguise. This makes for some interesting character interaction, as even Bigby isn’t sure of who everyone really is, perhaps only recognising them when using their glamour.
Soon in to the story you'll discover that Fables can take much more punishment than Mundies, or the mundane, average Joes like you or me. What would kill a regular human might only put a dent in a Fable, but all that relies on their popularity as a character. Bigby can take more punishment than a relatively unknown Fable, for example, as he features prominently in a greater amount of stories and is a more renowned character.
Lee who?As much as it pains me to do so, mention must be made of Telltale’s previous title The Walking Dead. The Wolf Among Us can definitely stand alone without The Walking Dead’s shadow looming over it, but the likenesses are difficult to ignore.
Guiding Bigby around the world feels very similar to how Lee worked. You get to look at, touch or talk to certain objects of interest, much like you did in The Walking Dead. The game plays in a very familiar manner, but if it’s not broken don’t fix it. The system fits as seamlessly into Fabletown as it fit into the Georgian zombie apocalypse.
Quick-time events again make a frustrating reappearance during action scenes. You’ll be expected to rely heavily on your key mashing skills during fights and chases. While this is an irritating way to play through action, the fights and chases feel heavy and realistic, with both sides often receiving their fair share of the punishment.
With Bigby, Telltale have once again provided you with an interesting main character, who can be taken in any direction you wish.
Unlike Lee, he is prone to outright brutality and it’s up to you to decide whether or not to indulge him or restrain the Big, Bad Wolf inside.
This raises the rather interesting question: are you, the player, in charge of Bigby, or are you simply guiding, pushing and ultimately restraining him along his path?
Clementine in The Walking Dead often acted as an anchor for Lee’s more violent outbursts. Without this moral anchor, Bigby relies on the gamer for some self-control. However, all that depends on what kind of player you are, sometimes it’s just too difficult to forgive and forget.
Telltale have left the option for savagery purposefully ambiguous, being loud and violent might get Bigby what he wants but is it worth it? It also might get Bigby what he wants, but does it get you what you want? Is it better to be feared if you can’t be loved? Can Bigby be loved at all?
- Beautiful, cel-shaded art style
- An engaging 'whodunit' mystery
- Deep, interesting characters
- Top notch voice acting throughout
- Reliance on QTEs in action scenes
- Very similar to The Walking Dead technically
The Wolf Among Us PC ReviewIf it’s not obvious already, The Wolf Among Us raises a lot of questions. Just like The Walking Dead, the issues of morality, actions over intentions and tragedy are thrown to the forefront. Your deeds will leave you questioning yourself, regardless of what you do.
The Walking Dead showed us that a person’s good can provide hope in a dead, broken world. The Wolf Among Us doesn’t attempt to say anything so grandiose, instead it provides you with a standard murder mystery. Added to that, though, are some of the finest characters you’ll meet this year, some beautiful visuals and a story you’ll be salivating to get more of.
The Wolf Among Us: Episode One - Faith comes with my highest of recommendations, roll on episode two.
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