Cel-shaded film-noir fantasy that combines tense storytelling with fast-paced action
Telltale’s spin-off from Bill Willingham’s Fables graphic novel series takes the real-time engine last seen powering the Walking Dead game and translates it to the mean streets and dingy alleys of 1980s New York. The Wolf Among us perfectly captures the feel of the original comics with its cel-shaded graphics, excellent voice acting and gritty story.
The game’s cel-shaded graphics capture the atmosphere of the graphic novels that it’s based on
In the city that never sleeps, exiles from Fabletown blend in with the human population. From Snow White to the Three Little Pigs, the Fables of folklore and children’s tales were driven into our world by a shadowy force known only as The Adversary. They have been living in the Big Apple since it was called New Amsterdam, with their own society, government, and law enforcement. Sheriff Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf who tried to devour Little Red Riding Hood, is now in charge of keeping the peace among the Fables.
Bigby’s a reformed character and has acquired the ability to transform into human form as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, unshaven and generally hard-boiled detective to whom it falls to enforce the law in Fabletown. Despite its fairytale roots, The Wolf Among Us is definitely not for kids: within the first few minutes you’ll be exposed to prostitution and graphic axe-based violence.
As the game opens, Bigby is called to a disturbance at a run-down tenement block for Fables, run by Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows, who’s currently an unsuccessful slumlord. Bigby bursts in on the Woodcutter, his adversary from times past, beating a young woman. The narrative soon unfolds into a tale of murder, intrigue and undercurrent of tension and resentment against the ruling powers of Fabletown and Bigby Wolf himself.
If you’re used to adventure games that give you unlimited time to think and don’t demand much fine motor control, you may not like how most critical events, such as fights and conversations, progress almost in real time. If you don’t choose an option in a conversation within a few seconds, Bigby will remain silent; fail to dodge a punch, and he’ll be hit in the face. However, the constantly-moving pace makes the fictional world feel incredibly realistic. Just because you’re forced to make quick decisions, this doesn’t mean the game runs along on rails.
Every action and decision you make effects the storyline; every conversational choice influences the way the character you’re talking to will respond in the future. The game regularly auto-saves your current position in the plot, so you can’t just go back and try again if you get an outcome you don’t like. Fortunately, there are no game-ending choices, but there is plenty of value in replaying the game, as you’ll get to see different perspectives and plot paths. Separate save slots make it easy to do this.
The game costs £19, but you only get the first episode, Faith, immediately. You’ll get a further four episodes between now and summer 2014. This is typical of Telltale’s release cycle, with each episode having its own self-contained story as well as filling in more details within a larger story arc. Faith ends with a shocking cliff-hanger that may come as a surprise to readers of the Fables comics. You’ll get about two hours of gameplay out of the first episode, with following episodes promised to be around the same length.
It’s not a traditional adventure game, but we love the way The Wolf Among Us thrusts you straight into a fast-paced fantasy noir detective story. The game’s £19 price works out at £3.80 per episode: well worth it for this artful and entertaining adventure.