The Wolf Among Us is a video game created by Telltale – a developer who rose to prominence back in 2012 thanks to the award winning Walking Dead. Much like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is a five-part adventure game based on a popular comic book (William Willingham’s Fables in case you are wondering.) Players can choose to purchase each of the game’s episodes separately or pony up the cash upfront to get the whole saga at a slightly reduced price. How I envy anyone who waited for the whole thing to come out before buying it. Due to my impatience, I opted to grab each chapter as soon as it came out, which was an excruciating experience. Part one was released back in October 2013 whilst the finale hit us in July 2014. Waiting several months to see how a cliffhanger would pan out is no fun.
Set in the mid-eighties, The Wolf Among Us takes place in Fabletown, a New York borough populated by fairy tale characters that have abandoned their mystical roots to settle down in the USA. Why they have relocated is beyond me, as dwelling in a magical land sounds preferable to putting up with the Big Apple’s traffic. Perhaps they cannot resist those delicious American doughnuts? Anyway, players take control of the Big Bad Wolf who is best known for tormenting Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. “Bigby” Wolf has been appointed Fabletown’s sheriff and is tasked with maintaining the peace despite being known for having a short fuse. Regular folks don’t question why a canid is patrolling the streets thanks to an enchanted glamour that morphs him into a humanoid (although it is prone to failing whenever he gets mad and hulks out.)
The game’s story begins with Bigby mediating a financial dispute between a prostitute and his old nemesis the Woodsman. Things then gradually escalate to Bigby investigating a murder were the unfortunate victim has lost her head (and I don’t mean that they lost their composure.) The case ends up exposing the corruption plaguing the upper echelons of the Fabletown government, in addition to unveiling the community’s seedy criminal underbelly that preys on the most desperate. Sounds like a tough job. Life was much simpler when Mr Wolf only had to worry about devouring the elderly and knocking down poorly constructed houses.
Despite being an adventure game The Wolf Among Us is for all intents and purposes an interactive movie. Unlike adventures of yore, the game is lacking the puzzles you would find in something like Monkey Island or Sam & Max (the latter which also features a Telltale canine investigator.) For the most part gameplay consists of nothing more than walking down linear paths and tapping on highlighted areas to examine objects. None of that matters however as Telltale are the masters of crafting engaging storylines that are influenced by the choices you make. Just like in Mass Effect, the most fun part of The Wolf Among Us is interacting with the characters you come across. Thankfully, unlike Bioware, Telltale has the writing chops to pen a satisfactory ending.
Visually speaking The Wolf Among Us is a gorgeous game. The graphics look just like an American graphic novel brought to life via animation and excellent voice acting. The aesthetics are however hampered by a few incidents of choppy frame rate during some of the action sequences. Whether these issues stem from the lowly iPad trying to power a PC level game or due to the programmers being sloppy with the port is anyone’s guess. The graphical fluidity didn’t annoy me much, although the quick time events that occur during combat did. As I have mentioned in other reviews I am not a fan of QTEs, especially when I fail them due to the touchscreen not registering my finger swipes. Well that’s my excuse… it’s always possible that my snail like reflexes were to blame for those failures.
My rating for The Wolf Among Us is four stars. It narrowly misses out on top marks due to the above-mentioned technical hiccups. It also feels like Telltale is just emulating Walking Dead’s winning formula instead of innovating. If I had to compare the two, I would say that Walking Dead made more of an emotional impact on me. The Wolf Among Us however edges out the contest for most colourful characters, thanks to its cast of fairy tale stars. Story wise I would say that TWAU is the better of the two, as its mystery yarn is more interesting than a zombie apocalypse tale. TWAU also has a powerful ending, which trumps Walking Dead’s “fishing for a season two” finale. Should Telltale ever abandon video game production they should consider entering the marketing business instead. Just like The Walking Dead, after finishing The Wolf Among Us I am interested in sampling the comic it is based off. They are in effect making interactive adverts that I am happy to buy!