Some Fun While Waiting for the Dead

» game review
By Michael WORKMAN

Those who have been waiting patiently for season two of Telltale’s critically acclaimed “The Walking Dead” game have reason to celebrate. The bad news is season two is still in development and won’t be on gamers PCs or consoles till the last quarter of 2013. The good news? Well, the fine people at Telltale Games have released another game that might do more than distract fans awaiting “The Walking Dead”’s next season. Does Telltale’s latest title, “The Wolf Among Us” live up to the success of “The Walking Dead?”

“The Wolf Among Us” is an episodic graphic adventure based on Bill Willingham’s comic series Fables. The game is set 20 years before the events of the comics that takes place in New York City and follows the lives of fairy tale characters who have left their world to start a new life in their own.

The story focuses on Bigby Wolf, the literal Big Bad Wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood story who has reformed his ways and now acts as sheriff of Fable Town, a hidden community of fairy tale characters trying to blend into “mundy” or mundane human society. When a grizzly murder comes to light, Fable Town is sent into panic at the prospect of a fable serial killer and it’s up to Bigby to figure out who’s behind it all.

Like “The Walking Dead,” the gameplay of “The Wolf Among Us” is in a point-and-click style that is relatively straight-forward to pick up. Items or objects that players can interact with are highlighted in a circle for players to examine. Some might see this as too much hand holding on the developers’ part but it proved to be very useful and kept the flow of the story nice and crisp.

Dialogue choices make a return giving Bigby the option to be diplomatic and levelheaded or tough, using some stronger language. Or if the players feel like it, they could choose to have Bigby remain silent and give an intimidating glare. The conversation choices can be downright hilarious; a prime example is insulting Mr. Toad early in the game about his height.

Like “The Walking Dead,” the game uses quick time events during heated moments of action, such as during a fight or a chase. The gameplay for these events has been somewhat altered in “The Wolf Among Us” so that the player uses much more of the keyboard to dodge a blow. Unlike in “The Walking Dead,” Bigby is very used to fighting, which might be the reason for an updated action system. Bigby is going toe-to-toe with monsters that could easily kill normal humans, but fables are much more difficult to kill. People familiar with “The Walking Dead” game should have no problem adjusting to the new system, and even people new to the genre probably won’t find these events all that difficult.

Without giving away too much of the story, the ending of first episode of “The Wolf Among Us” has a huge plot twist that left me wanting more and cursing the fact that the next episode doesn’t even have a release date yet!     Playing as the Big Bad Wolf is fun already, but Telltale’s trademark choices-based system makes it much more rewarding and deep. Bigby is feared or hated by pretty much all the other fables in Fable Town, which has its advantages and disadvantages like when trying to get information out of a tight-lipped character. Players can choose to bare their fangs and provoke the Big Bad Wolf side of Bigby to get what they want, or they can have Bigby show that he has really turned a new leaf to exhibit patience and compassion.

Dan Connors, CEO and co-founder of Telltale Games, offered hints that players will see consequences for how they play Bigby stating, “We’ve gone back in and really tried to take a lot of what we learned from ‘The Walking Dead’ and get that integrated into the story with Bigby and the characters that he meets. We want to make it a real interesting battle for Bigby between should he give in to the wolf side, or should he try to get along and keep everybody safe? There’s a lot of work in trying to make that work.”

Telltale’s “The Wolf Among Us” blew me away with only the first episode. The writing is witty and engaging while the story is an amazingly addictive, gritty noir that reminds us how fun detective games are.

Action, suspense and nail biting choices are sure to come as the upcoming episodes are released.

Telltale’s “The Wolf Among Us” is for PC and gets a rating of 5/5.