Telltale is at its highest point yet creatively, having just come off of one of the most successful indie stories of all time — The Walking Dead. No I’m not talking about the bloated Activision shooter, or the over-produced television series that fell off after the first season. I’m talking about a humble game that came along, took the world by storm, and showed the videogame industry that you don’t need a million and one polygons to tell a realistic, emotionally gripping story.
With expectations at an all time high, Telltale is now unleashing their newest series into the wild, which serves as a prequel to the Fables comic series in the form of the five episode long series The Wolf Among Us.
So what’s The Wolf Among Us actually about? Well, simply put, it’s the story of fairytale characters (Fables) who are now in the real world, forced to live with humans (known as “Mundanes,” or “the Mundies”). Some of them are fairly humanoid in nature, so they don’t need help blending in. The rest must resort to “Glamours” — powerful spells that make Fables appear to be human, to avoid causing a stir and risk uncovering the entire fairytale community. The person in charge of maintaining order and making sure this doesn’t happen is Bigby Wolf, who functions as a sheriff and general queller of rabble rousing.
The only problem is, Bigby is the “Big Bad Wolf” of yore, and a lot of residents only remember his feral nature, as well as his past transgressions. This leads to a pretty interesting dynamic where half the residents want to trust him, and the other half doesn’t. Faith maintains a very fickle balance of morality throughout the episode, which should make for some very interesting plotlines as Bigby attempts to suppress his true nature. Don’t worry — you don’t need to read the Fables series to understand everything since The Wolf Among Us is a prequel, and the previous paragraphs are more than enough information for you to be able to comprehend what’s going on.
Gameplay is very similar to Telltale’s previous adventure games, in that there is very little you can actually do to interact with the game outside of making dialog and action choices. There’s your typical item gathering mechanic, the ability to look, touch, or talk to objects, and the occasional QTE that will spring up during an action sequence — if you’ve played The Walking Dead this is par for the course, and about what you can expect from Wolf. You’ll chat with locals and persons of interest, choosing one of four dialog choices along the way, and at several points throughout the episode, you’ll be tasked with a major choice that comes with its own set of consequences, and changes your overall story throughout all five episodes. In this particular episode the consequences aren’t immediately apparent, but I have a feeling that at least one of them will impact the next episode in a big way.
As you charge through the episode, you’ll find some very interesting characters you may remember from your childhood. Snow White, Ichabod Crane, Beauty, The Beast, and even Mr. Toad make an appearance living alongside of Bigby, and all of them have a spark of their fairytale personality, with a certain twist to make them new characters in their own right. Performance wise, Wolf Among Us is pretty competent, but I wish there was a bit more enthusiasm from a few members of the cast.
For instance, the actor for Mr. Toad plays a wonderful foul mouthed shady character to a tee, and you instantly get the feeling that he’s untrustworthy right off the bat, with a bit of nuance to him. Bigby’s actor does a decent job of gritting under his teeth and maintaining a somewhat frightening allure, but I cant help but think a little more spark could have gone into the role to give Bigby more life (I’m picturing Steve Blum as perfect for the role). Perhaps when Bigby is put into more dire circumstances the voice talent may come out, but for now I was left a tad underwhelmed by him, and a few other characters like Beauty.
Regardless of the performance quality however, let it be said that The Wolf Among Us is Telltale’s best looking game yet, even if the visuals aren’t up to par with a lot of other developer’s efforts. While some character designs are stronger or more pronounced than others, the art style is undeniably impressive, and the vibrant neon color scheme really makes the series shine in a way Telltale’s past games never did.
I tested out Faith on the Xbox 360, and unfortunately I encountered a number of framerate issues, as well as extremely lengthy load times. These hiccups came at some of the most unfortunate of moments, like in the middle of a tussle (thus screwing up my required QTE) or during a really emotional transition, which took away a bit from those scenes. Telltale may have a patch already in play for these problems, but just keep it in mind before you choose your platform.
Like Telltale’s previous franchises, The Wolf Among Us tops out at around one and a half to two hours for the first episode. There’s not a whole lot to do outside of replay the game again and choose things differently, and you’ll most likely want to do that, even if the major choices in Faith aren’t particularly earth-shattering. For the completionists out there you can collect a decent number of extras in the form of character bios and extra Fables-related information, but most of it is unlocked automatically through natural progression.
Faith is very by the numbers in terms of the level of storytelling with a few hiccups in tow, but I have a feeling that like The Walking Dead, it’ll ramp up as time goes on. Whether you’re a fan of Fables or not, I see a lot of potential in The Wolf Among Us, and I’ll be following its progress beyond a shadow of a doubt.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Xbox 360 game The Wolf Among Us: Faith.