Game Review: The Wolf Among Us

I’m a great lover of folk and fairy tales. I still have an old, beat up copy of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales that I devoured as a child. It used some very archaic language and used the German names for favourite characters; Cinderella was Aschenputtel (which I pronounced “Ashen Pudding”) but I loved it. Plenty of writers, directors, etc. like to put a new spin on these old tales, whether it’s Disney, well, Disneyfying the stories or someone telling a familiar tale with a “dark and gritty” twist, even the traditional stories have dozens of different variations (on local and national levels). I’ve seen Pagan writers expound on the so-called “Pagan origins” of this or that story. There’s really no end to what you can do with such a large body of public domain works.

One of the more recent attempts to put a new spin on familiar tales is Fables, from Vertigo Comics and created by Bill Willingham. In this series, characters from folk and fairy tales (called Fables) have been forced out of the Homelands by the Adversary, and have begun a new, if clandestine, life in New York City in the community of Fabletown. It sounded like something that was right up my alley. Unfortunately, the creator’s conservative views turned me right off of the series.

Then Telltale Games announced that they were making a game based on Fables, called The Wolf Among Us, in the same style as their Walking Dead games.

Well, I avoided it for as long as I could, but ever since playing The Walking Dead, Telltale has their hooks in me, and it’s only a matter of time before I buy all of their recent adventure games. I am lusting after the Game of Thrones one right now. I needs it.

Anyways, in The Wolf Among Us, you play as Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown (of, you guessed it, Little Red Riding Hood fame). It’s Bigby’s job to protect the citizens of Fabletown, so when a brutal murder literally arrives on his doorstep, it’s up to Bigby to catch the killer before more Fables die.In a nutshell, think of this game as the brothers Grimm meets film noir.

Since this is a point and click game and not a shooter, gameplay involves pointing and clicking on people and objects, and QTE-based action sequences. Occasionally you’ll get to make a choice that will impact the story in future episodes in minor or major ways. If you’ve played The Walking Dead games, you’ll know what to expect from this one.

There was a great emphasis on story in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of twists and terms at least one “Holy shit!” moment per episode. Thematically, the game deals with issues of poverty and classism and the way that law enforcement and government reinforce those systems.  Overall I’d say that the story was solid and kept me at the edge of my seat. I should also note that you don’t need to be familiar with the comics to enjoy this game, although if you’re a fan you’ll definitely see some familiar faces. (Then again, if you’re a fan you’ve probably already played it.)

Love the graphics in this.

 

I think my biggest criticism of this game was that it just didn’t have the raw emotional impact of The Walking Dead. Don’t get me wrong, it has a great story, but I was never really agonizing over a decision or turning on the waterworks. I also feel as if my choices had less of an impact on the narrative overall and I found it was easy to win characters over to my way of thinking. This might be due to the fact that I was trying to play a “nice” Bigby, whereas a more violent Bigby would have a very different experience. Something to note is if your thing is getting achievements, you unlock different Book of Fables (basically a codex that contains information about characters and concepts from the series) entries for making certain decisions, so there is some incentive to replay those sections.

As for things to watch out for if you’re sensitive to them. There’s a suicide (I only encountered this character after their death but I hear you can intervene and stop them if you make the right choices) and the game doesn’t shy away from getting bloody and violent, but there’s also a good dose of violence against women, especially sex workers (although Bigby can intervene most of the time and tell the abuser to cut that shit out). You can do some really nasty things while torturing interrogating a suspect. One character has a bizarre sexual fetish (which is treated as an invasion of privacy and creepy stalkerish behaviour) and there’s also a reference to slavery. The only nudity that I saw in the game was when Bigby visits the obligatory strip club and one of the characters is doing a pole dance naked.

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that it was a bad game. I loved it and can’t wait for the second season, it just didn’t have the same emotional impact as The Walking Dead. If you just can’t get enough grim(m)dark fairy tales in your life, you want more adventures like The Walking Dead, or you just like adventure games in general, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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