Having completely avoided the works of Telltale Games despite the barrage of praise The Walking Dead Season One received, I have finally succumbed to trying out their QTE based games that are a natural progression of the point and click adventures of yesteryear. I had no interest in playing the Walking Dead as I have no interest in the comic book or TV series – sacrilege, I know – but I do have a slight interest in Fables, the source material of The Wolf Among Us. Having read the first dozen or so issues and generally being intrigued by the concept, I thought I’d give finally give Telltale Games a chance.
In the game, you follow Bigby, the big bad wolf, as he attempts to keep peace and solve a murder mystery amongst ‘the fables’, the heroes and villains of fairytale stories that have been transported to Fabletown, New York City.
Acting as a prequel to Bill Willingham’s comic, The Wolf Among Us shows us the grimm world that favourites such as Beauty and the Beast have been left to inhabit. This is very much a human world, in which the characters have to struggle with issues such as debt, prejudice, adultery and life-consuming occupations. It’s an inversion of the original tales we know and love, which used fantastic settings as metaphors for real life issues, as it brings those fantasies back into the real world to witness how these caricatures would survive in reality. It’s a great yet simple premise with malleable lore that Telltale have used to its advantage.
The use of cel-shading ensures the game is firmly rooted in a comic book world. As far as I can tell there has not been a resolution bump for the PS4 version and the graphic fidelity doesn’t exactly bedazzle one’s balls. There are also some minor clipping issues every so often. But even when the textures are low res, the neon drenched noir-ness of it all lifts the game to heights that any attempt of realism in the graphics would undermine. There were also a few instances where the textures turned to black or shook for no reason. It would have been nice for Telltale to have smoothed these out for the PS4 release.
The world is full of small details, as every environment is dilapidated, dirty and messy in its own way. This mostly echoes the divide between the good and bad side of town and the richer and poorer inhabitants.
For me, the insight to these seedy lives outshines the choices that the game revolves around. While the choices do become increasingly more interesting and influencing, the majority fall to good, bad, or, worse, no real consequence at all. At times the game does give you a choice of which places to visit before another, and which ever you choose you’ll miss something or someone will die. There is no right or wrong answer and little opportunity to circumnavigate this, it is simply a trap set for replay value.
One great subversion of the branching narrative and choice system is when confronting Gren, a secondary rival-come-ally, who drops his tough guard only for the player to be told discreetly, ‘Gren won’t remember this.’ It’s a playful moment that fits the narrative and knowingly dismisses the choices made over the last five minutes.
Some of the voice acting in the game can grate, such as with Toad’s comically flawed English accent. The script isn’t gold either. The obtuse swearing may seem unnecessary to some but it does sit well in the world. There’s also the stereotypes, such as the silver-tongued villain and the morally ambiguous or poor having regional and distinct accents. It’s a common trope in all forms of media that is a pet hate of mine, but it won’t be going away any time soon.
For me, Wolf Among Us triumphs where games like Heavy Rain failed by avoiding convoluted storytelling and gameplay and maintaining a charming simplicity. It’s far from perfect, but at least it respects the source material and never becomes a chore to play. I won’t be playing The Walking Dead or the upcoming Minecraft Telltale series anytime soon, but I will play the next entry to the Fables series.
Edible, yet slightly over cooked with a hint of what could have been.
Please consult the rating guide.