It’s no secret that Telltale knocked it out of the park with last year’s The Walking Dead. What is surprising is that the format works so well when Clementine, everybody’s favorite walking conscience, is removed from the equation. Just like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is based on a series of comic books. This time it’s Fables, and aside from the lovely comic book aesthetic, the two games are completely separate beasts.
I feel like knowing the comic series beforehand would be appreciated by players, since terms from the comics are thrown around without explanation and the exodus of character from their stories is never explained. Still, individual characters are introduced well, and the story makes sense despite this small oversight.
Where Lee Everett was a blank slate for the player to mold as they chose, Bigby Wolf has a distinct personality. No matter what you choose, he’s going to be a gruff, no-nonsense cop trying to put his past behind him. He’s going to get into fights, he’s going to make mistakes, and he’s always going to wonder if things could have gone better than they did. The choices in The Wolf Among Us feel more substantial than those in The Walking Dead, and I’m genuinely curious if all roads lead to solving the mystery or if it’s possible to lose enough leads and miss enough clues that whoever is killing fairy tale characters might escape.
The story is equal parts fantastic and familiar. Those who have read Fables already know the setup, but something forced fairy tale characters out of their stories and into New York City. Here you’ll find familiar characters like the Big Bad Wolf (Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs), The Woodsman (Little Red Riding Hood), Ichabod Crane (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and Mr. Toad (The Wind in the Willows).
Bigby is the current sheriff of Fabletown, and somebody is killing residents so it’s his job to find out who. Taking well-known and well-loved characters out of their element just makes the murder mystery more interesting, because I’m not just learning the secrets of some drunk; that’s the woodsman spilling his guts, so not only is this story affected, but I now look at Little Red Riding Hood differently as well.
The writing is tight, and the story so far is engaging. Characters feel alive and unique, despite all being lifted from other stories. They legitimately feel like a modern imagining of classic characters, and seeing how they interact with one another and deal with a sudden change in economic status is gripping on a small scale while the mystery is gripping on a large one.
Mechanically, The Wolf Among Us is a step up from The Walking Dead. Bigby moves faster than Lee by default, and can transition to a light jog to move even quicker. Combat is more often close-quarters than gun-based, and it feels more responsive and engaging here. There are choices to be made, even during fights, that make it easier to feel like you’re actually playing Bigby and have a degree of control in how the story turns out. Combat is still based on quick-time events, but button presses seem more logical here. I didn’t feel like the game cheated me when I missed one; I simply felt like I had missed my prompt.
I’ve already fallen into the same rhythm with The Wolf Among Us that I did with The Walking Dead. I want to replay the first episode because it’s excellent, but I want to let my choices stand as they are and see where the story goes without creating a “perfect” save file. Even more than with Lee and Clementine, it feels like Bigby is supposed to screw some things up, and I’m going to be there, trying my best, living with my mistakes and being excited about it the entire time.
Pros: Well-written characters, fun combat, interesting choices to be made
Cons: More introduction to the world of Fables would have been welcome