The hardest thing about having a huge success is following it up. After the critical and commercial success of The Walking Dead, Telltale released the first episode of their latest episodic adventure game, The Wolf Among Us.
Based on the Fables comic book series, The Wolf Among Us is set in a run-down area of New York in which characters from fairy tales live out their lives after being forced from the ‘Homeland’. Ravaged by the pressures of the real world, prostitution and alcoholism are part of everyday life for the fables.
Determined to erase his sinister past, the protagonist Bigby Wolf (a.k.a. the big bad wolf) has taken on the job of sheriff in an attempt to maintain harmony amongst the fables. When a grisly murder takes place in front of his apartment block, Bigby begins his hunt for the killer.
Anybody who has played Telltale’s The Walking Dead will be instantly familiar with the mechanics of their latest offering. To progress, the player has to examine objects and talk to people by clicking on them, and the fight scenes consist of nothing more than awkward and clunky quick-time events.
Despite the critical acclaim The Walking Dead received, it’s gameplay was fairly stunted and unexciting, and The Wolf Among Us is no different. It is literally no different.
However, it was the story-telling and fantastically developed characters that kept gamers lauding The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us promises to be just as engrossing.
Despite the fact that everybody who plays the game will be aware of the big bad wolf’s reputation as token monster and terroriser of young girls, Bigby quickly comes across as a sympathetic character. He clearly wants to make amends, and it prepared to suffer and self-deprecate to do so.
The first episode introduces a lot of characters, and to compensate for this overload of personalities, the player is provided with an encyclopaedia which describes each character as you meet them. These entries help keep the player abreast of all the different plates the game is trying to spin, but one of the most charming aspects of The Wolf Among Us is that practically every character is instantly recognisable. Most of the people who play the game will be familiar with Beauty and the Beast, and they’ll know everything there is to know about Snow White.
What makes the characters so intriguing is that these familiar personalities have been taken out of their comfort zone and abandoned in a Taxi Driver-esque New York. As we have grown older, so have our fairy tales, and instead living in magical palaces, they live in one bedroom apartments and have to sell their bodies in order to pay the rent.
The juxtaposition between gritty realism and colourful fairy stories leads to some psychedelic surreality, which may not have been intentional. It’s hard to be immersed in the seriousness of the story when there’s a rather hirsute gentleman sharing a cigarette with a talking pig named ‘Colin’ over a glass of scotch.
Visually, the game looks and feels like a living comic book, which really suits the tone set by the gruesome narrative. The cartoon-ish characters feel vivid against the murky purple and deep blue environments.
Using comic book visuals was a very good idea, because if Telltale had attempted to make the graphics hyper-realistic, all the charm would have been sucked out and it’d just feel ludicrous when Mr. Toad came on screen in a string vest.
The Wolf Among Us attempts to carry on Telltale’s tradition of forcing the reluctant player to make difficult decisions with only a few seconds of contemplation, but unfortunately none of the decisions in the first episode were particularly hard. Most just involved choosing one of two people to go after first, but seen as though the player has only just been introduced to the characters, the decisions could have been determined by coin-toss for all I cared.
Personally, I can’t see The Wolf Among Us reaching the same dizzying heights of popularity as The Walking Dead did, but I’m going to say one thing. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the first episode of this far more than I enjoyed the first episode of the The Walking Dead. The alluring blend of fairy tales and gritty realism is something I’ve always been fond of. It invokes an odd mix of nostalgia and dread, and I felt totally immersed after just a few minutes.
The first episode, Faith, is clearly setting up a gritty and emotional quest for redemption, and by the time the first instalment finishes, the player will be completely on board.
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A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. However, I'm more than happy playing a wide range of genres on both consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I'm also a History student.