Telltale Games has almost single-handedly resurrected the adventure game genre for the main stream with titles like Sam and Max, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and most importantly The Walking Dead which was for many people game of the year for 2012 and is somehow showing up in 2013’s game of the year polls. Telltale has built up a track record that could possibly rival Lucas Arts from more than 20 years ago. They have at least done well enough to earn a little faith from all of us gamers and that faith is rewarded with what might be the start of another game of the year title.
The Wolf Among Us is based on and set approximately twenty years in the past of the Fables line of comics from DC’s imprint Vertigo. Fables is takes place in a neighborhood of New York City called Fabletown where all of the characters of the childhood stories/fables that we grew up with have been kicked out of their world to live among the normal folks called mundanes or mundies. Human characters hide themselves pretty easily amongst mundies but a majority of the animal based characters hide themselves behind human personas via magic spells called glamours. The price of receiving these glamours becomes a major sticking point for many of the characters leaving them with the choice of severe poverty style living or the mysterious and secluded Farm that is implied to be very prison like.
Players will find themselves in the role of Bigby Wolf who is the the sheriff of Fabletown and also from whom the title of the game derives itself from. Bigby is a gruff sort of fellow which makes a whole lot of sense when you realize he is the fabled Big Bad Wolf that tried to eat Little Red and blow down some pig houses. Bigby’s job is to keep order amongst his displaced compatriots but murder has come to Fabletown for the first time in hundreds of year and it is Bigby’s tail in the fire if he does not solve it.
The mechanics of The Wolf Among Us should be instantly familiar for anyone that played The Walking Dead game as they are virtually unchanged from interface design to the actual gameplay. You will be doing the same moving/interacting with set pieces, dialogue choices, and quick time events. Choices you make as Bigby will have far-reaching consequences throughout the season just as they did for Lee in The Walking Dead. Even the basic art style is similar due to the source material being a gritty comic also.
You might be asking yourself why you would open your wallet for a title so similar to its predecessor. The answer is because the characters, theme, and plot create a very different experience in The Wolf Among Us. Bigby and by proxy you don’t have the same motivations to make choices as you did if you played Lee. Lee’s focus was survival for both himself and Clementine. The only guide for Bigby is the nuanced history between characters that is both familiar and unknown. This plays into the noir slash crime thriller style of delivery that let’s everything fall back unto solving the mystery.
While the graphics are similar to The Walking Dead, the palette used really differentiates it to the point of it being unique. Dark earthy tones with flairs of color mixed in with a seedy neon of 1980’s New York really brings home the atmosphere to deliver the kind of tale that The Wolf Among Us is telling. Fabletown looks seedy and downtrodden. It looks like the kind of place where one might hide. Mix that with some top-notch voice acting and these characters come alive.
The only real complaint with The Wolf Among Us has to be the controls during action scenes. All the issues and negatives found in The Walking Dead find their way to The Wolf Among Us with the added issue of the interface cues being reddish colored and often finding their way overlapping other reddish colored things making them hard to see. Also as with The Walking Dead the issues are easily forgiven for the experience.
The Wolf Among Us is a great follow-up for Telltale Games. All aspects of the game from graphics to audio to plot come together to support a noir theme filled with characters that feel so alive. Despite similarities to Telltale Games’ previous title The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us sets itself apart as a unique title with a different experience that looks to be just as good.