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The Wolf Among Us Episode 2, marks the latest entry in the 5 part episodic, Point and Click adventure game series. The game is developed and published by Telltale Games, most notable for 2012’s The Walking Dead: The game, which shares a similar structure to The Wolf Among Us and is now on its second season. Episodes from the two series are alternating in release. The game is played from a third person perspective and is solely a single player campaign. The Wolf Among Us is a canonical prequel to the DC – Vertigo comic book series: Fables, by Bill Willingham, and can be played on: PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360, IOS and Vita. It is 1-2 hours long.
Telltale are known for their stories, especially those embedded deep with dark and adult themes. The Wolf Among Us follows suit. A story driven game, episode 2 is very much a continuation of episode 1, starting very shortly after the end of the first. Upon finishing, it feels far more like a connector episode, setting things up very nicely for Ep.3, rather than adding significant substance to the overlying plot. For those who didn’t play part 1, you play as protagonist, Sheriff Bigby Wolf (or the big bad wolf from fairy tales) and are investigating a murder in Fabletown, a fictional region of New York City, where fairy tale characters – or Fables – are in hiding. However the less you know about the plot going in, the more satisfying you will find the game. What makes The Wolf Among Us special is seeing a multi-faceted, complex version of characters you have grown up with sharing human flaws. Drugs, prostitution, murder, loan sharks; these are real life struggles facing these Fables and are what make them so easy to connect with. They are interesting now. Observing a ‘princess’ partake in less than noble acts is incredibly jarring and is consistently a slap in the face, a reminder of the extent of the hardships they are going through.
Telltale’s formula of diamond-shaped storytelling – everybody starts and ends at the same point, but the route varies based on your choices – is even more effective than in season 1 of The Walking Dead. While in Walking Dead, you undoubtedly played the good guy because you were taking care of a helpless little girl, even if you had to make hard choices at times, in the Wolf Among Us it is a far more viable option to be a badass or ruthless. This route is made more available due to the baggage Bigby carries, in fact the baggage all the Fables share from their reputations back in the Homeland shape a lot of the choices you and the NPC’s make. There are usually four dialogue options, which are more often than not representative of the personalities: blunt, sarcastic, honest/negotiable and quiet. How you choose will shape your path through the narrative.
The game is a point and click adventure in the traditional sense of the word. investigating objects or people in an environment will unravel the story and keep the game moving. The combat is based on quick time events, though are more involved than those in The Walking Dead and boss battles in God of War. A fail state is rare to achieve, as the combat will keep presenting opportunities to recover however it is possible to lose. In these instances the game restarts from a checkpoint. However the game is very light on combat, with 1 or 2 to speak of per episode. Movement through the environment is not smooth, but the slow pacing ensures time so minimal interactive objects are missed. The camera can be panned approximately 45 degrees left, right, up or down, but only when investigating, not during combat. Interestingly, this is not a crime investigation game, you the gamer are not a detective, you essentially control a detective and the mystery keeps the game moving. The Wolf Among Us is very easy to jump into and requires minimal skill.
Cell-shaded like Borderlands, The Wolf Among Us boasts a very interesting neon art style which allows the characters to be more emotive and emphasises a noir film aesthetic. Yellows, Pinks and purples are all vibrant and pop but a majority black colour pallet emphasises the dark mood. as the game is progressing over the episodes and scenes, the presentation seems to be changing, fluctuating between lighter and darker environments based on the tone of the scene. The biggest, most concerning problem with the game is the framerate. Even on a mid/high rig PC, the game suffers from dropping frame rate and animation getting stuck. I have also noticed this cutting off the end section of dialogue, so that your conversation choices can be presented. This is frustrating.
The theme song of The Wolf Among Us is memorable and immediately sets the tone. The synthesised soundtrack is mostly understated. If it were to be described in one word, it’d be ominous. No matter the scene you’re in, you know if things are getting more tense because the soundtrack subtly warns you. The voice actors bring the characters to life and represent well-known characters in a way that sounds right. There is incredible crossover in voice actors between The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead, though most of these go unnoticed, emphasis on most. When you do recognise the voices it can break the immersion but this is often brief and doesn’t interfere with the experience. stereotypical character tropes are reinforced by chosen accents. A scumbag pimp with a northern english accent, a bartender with a think New Jersey accent or a unreliable toad boasting a cocky/east london vernacular, either way it serves to highlight the purpose and role of the character.
Side Note: it must be stated that there are characters in The Wolf Among Us who share very similar designs to characters that are in other Telltale productions. For example, Grant (or Grendel) looks a lot like Handsome Jack from Gearbox Software’s Borderlands 2, which Telltale recently announced they are releasing canonical episodic content on, titled: Tales From the Borderlands. Similarly, Beauty looks a lot like Lilly, from Season 1 of The Walking Dead Game. The third might be more of a stretch, but Telltale also announced a Game of Thrones adventure game, and Jack in the bar looks an awful lot like Jaime Lannister, portrayed by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series.
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 continues the high quality storytelling and graphical design set by previous entries and series. So far I have enjoyed these two episodes more than the entirety of The Walking Dead Game, and I loved The Walking Dead. The mystery definitely is intriguing but I am far more invested in these characters and their intentions than the overlying murder plot. It’s definitely a huge bummer that the framerate bugs out on what appears to be most platforms and most certainly affected my enjoyment of the game, but not by too much thankfully. I really love the art style and film Noir aesthetic, along with the soundtrack and definitely feel like this will hold up a lot better than other games of this generation. I would recommend The Wolf Among Us to anyone who values stories in games, ambigious morality in characters and point & click adventure games. Also anybody who like The Walking Dead owes it to themselves to try this game. DO NOT play episode 2 before episode 1. That would suck.
My Score: 8.5/10
(I give scores in 0.5 increments, in other words a 20 point scale).