The Ninjabot

The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 Review: A Wolf in Game’s Clothing

Posted on October 13, 2013 at 2:55 am by Victor Chaves

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The Wolf Among Us is an episodic story-driven game from developer Telltale Games which follows Bigby Wolf in a suspenseful mystery through 1980’s Fabletown, New York. The backstory here is that storybook characters (Snow White, 3 Little Pigs, Flying Monkeys a la Wizard of Oz) were exiled from their homeland and now live either in the “Farm”, or if they can afford it, they can live amongst the humans in a section of New York called Fabletown. Problem is that the storybook characters need “Glamour” to hide their non-human features, and if they can’t pay that price, they are forced to move to the “Farm”.

A Start to Something Great

You are probably very familiar with this set up if you read Fables, the graphic novel that The Wolf Among Us ties itself with. If not (like me), you needn’t be worried as the game does not have any required prior knowledge of the comics. The game introduces characters very fluidly, and if you want more information about them you can read about it in an encyclopedia that updates as the story continues (or read the comics, which from what I understand from everyone are incredible).

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Now let’s just get this out of the way, the gameplay for The Wolf Among Us is nothing interesting. 90% of the time it’s choosing which of the 4 pieces of dialogue choices you want, and walking around an environment investigating different things. Every once in awhile you get to participate in easy-to-master quicktime events, where you move in one of the directions, or move two circles together and press a button. There is no depth, no combos, no skill trees, and that is a good thing!

Story is the Focus

You see, the main idea of the game is to tell you a story, and for you to manipulate it in interesting ways in how you feel Bigby Wolf should react to the world. Gameplay is such a non-issue in this game, that any criticisms people make of it shouldn’t factor all that much. It’s like getting a cake and complaining that the plate is ugly, but you’re here for the cake so why should you care for the platter it is brought on? Just slice that controller of a fork into that fluffy slab of sugar and enjoy the amazing story and characters that is The Wolf Among Us.

Bigby Wolf in times past was known as “The Big Bad Wolf” in the stories Little Red Riding Hood and The 3 Little Pigs. He acts as the sheriff in Fabletown, and wishes to reform for his evil acts in the past. At heart this is a redemption story for Bigby Wolf, as everyone in town is fearful of him and what he is capable of doing. This comes out in every interaction Bigby has with the townsfolk, as everyone has a ten-foot pole trained at him, expecting to be pounced at any moment should they say something wrong. Truth is that Bigby wants to reform and joined the local government as the enforcer to protect the people of Fabletown, but people see this as more of an excuse to fight and hurt people, as often is the case when he is needed at the scene to provide muscle.

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Hence the paradox that Bigby lives, as he wishes to protect instead of terrorize, he is selected as the Sheriff of Fabletown because of his capability to terrorize. People he wants to protect avoid him or make his job harder, while the criminals want to fight and prove that he is as dangerous as everyone suspects. It’s what makes the plight of Bigby that much more engaging, as his reputation from before is all they see. If he does something nice, all people say are “You’re just trying to bring my guard down!” and anytime violence is required, everyone points and yells “I knew it! You’re just a violent wolf off his leash!” It’s a sad existence, but the rare moment that someone notices your nice actions as true, or when an aggressor truly understands the powerhouse that is “The Big Bad Wolf”, the story really hits that stride and becomes something truly beautiful.

But this was just Bigby. The other characters you meet are just as interesting. I won’t spoil the wide-cast of characters you meet, but they are all twisted a little bit in such a way where you wonder just how much was omitted in the original stories. This isn’t simply enough though, as the populace also has a bit of a hard-edge to them that living in 1980’s New York would give. A basic example is Mr. Toad (popularized from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) who being rich before the exodus, now is poor due to how expensive it is to live in Fabletown. His destitution reflects how he dresses and acts, often wearing an old and stained robe and trying to cut financial corners like not buying the expensive Glamour to keep him human-looking. Not everyone is exactly like him, but the harshness of their environment has seeped into their minds and actions to make them nearly unrecognizable from their storybook counter parts.

My, What Big Eyes You Have!

The setting itself is incredible. The art direction in The Wolf Among Us is a fantastic showcase of the dark side of New York, with a choice of darker colors that really compliments the environment and character designs. One can easily draw parallels between a character and where they live. Like if someone is depressed, their apartment reflects that mindset, or if something has happened to someone recently, evidence of what they once were still lingers. The audio is atmospheric, with nothing to really pin as fantastic, but the music fits the setting very well.

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Final Thoughts

All in all, The Wolf Among Us is a fantastic game. It tells a great story with a cast of great characters. To follow up on The Walking Dead seems insurmountable, but Telltale Games made a story that was just as good, if not better. To miss out on this game is criminal, and to dock it for uninteresting gameplay is sophomoric. This title is pure story, and it tells a fantastic one, get it, and love every minute you play as the Big Bad Wolf. I know I did.

Presentation: 10

Gameplay: 5

Replay Value: 7

Legacy Score: 9.5

Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

Follow Victor on Twitter @fake_brasilian to keep up on his sandwiches.

    • I’m in the middle of reading Fables right now! I’ll definitely take a crack at this game, if only to see another Bigby story. Hopefully Telltale Games will do more like this.

      • jxcavender

        You might want to wait for the Steam Holiday Sale. I bet you $1 the game will go on sale for 75% off.

        • fake_brasilian

          It probably will be on a discount (I’m imagining around $15 for the holiday sale?), but this was such a bang-up job that I would say this is a very fair price.

          Then again Justin, seeing your thoughts on Beyond Two Souls, you’re not usually a fan of these types of games, yea? To prove my point, here’s a smoking pig.

          • jxcavender

            Haha Well I loved TWD game. Massive Dynamic is a different kind of animal. There you have to do everything for the character. I’m not interested in playing with toys, cleaning the house, watching my kid do homework. That is what bothered me with Heavy Rain. I want to play the game, not live these people’s lives. That’s a big pass.

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