Thoughts on The Wolf Among Us Episodes 1 & 2
(some spoilers follow, I have hidden the main ones)
I have no experience with the Fables comics, and The Wolf Among Us is my first foray into that world and its characters. The only thing that attracted me to the game was that it was developed by Telltale, who I felt did an extraordinary job on The Walking Dead in 2012. With that in mind I was hopeful but not wary about what to expect from The Wolf Among Us, but what I have played so far is one of the most interesting and colourful stories in games. It is also deeply frustrating in numerous aspects, and I will discuss these now.
Firstly, Episode One, Faith, blew away my expectations and almost immediately convinced me to love the setting. I thought the idea of fairytale characters living in New York sounded pretty uninteresting, but the dark adult tone and events of Episode One combined with the depiction of the characters and phenomenal art style easily got me invested. Bigby is a weighty character, with a real sense of potential menace that Lee Everett largely lacked in The Walking Dead. The character designs are just fantastic, and the lighting and colour aesthetic give everything a lot more energy than The Walking Dead possessed.
The quality of the music and voice acting is really strong, adding further power to the game and really drew me into its events: prostitution, marital estrangement, murders, class income differences, urban living, attempting to differ ones actions from the expectations of others and other really good stuff was all at the forefront of Faith. When the titular character ends up beheaded and Bigby is tasked with finding the killer the story really took off for me and kept me intrigued until the end despite a lack of major decisions to make. The most aggressive action I took in the first episode was ripping Grendal’s arm off, which felt like something that Bigby may do despite me largely playing him as a repentant cop with a gruff Solid Snake like nature.
The ending of the episode, with Snow’s head on the steps of the Woodlands was a shock for me; the idea that they would kill off such a likable character so early in the series, despite my only barely getting to know her in the first part of the game, was bold and daring, and I was pumped for a more twisted and dark second episode.
Unfortunately, Episode Two, Smoke and Mirrors, is exactly what its title says, and I felt greatly let down by both its narrative direction and its scope. It felt far shorter than Faith and its wholesale retreat from killing Snow was a betrayal of my investment in the first episode, despite my relief that she was not horribly dispatched as I had believed. There are no major moral decisions to make and the character interactions really did feel like they came down a notch. The whole back and forward suspicion of the Woodsman and Tweedledee felt weak considering it is clear neither of them are the killer, and the ending was disturbing in its revelation but left no real answers.
As this is a Telltale point and click narrative adventure I am not exactly looking for deep gameplay or mechanics, but I do expect decent technical performance, especially considering the amount of time they take to put each episode out. I played on the PS3, and not only were all my complaints about hitching and stuttering from The Walking Dead back in both episodes, but it was worse than ever and noticeably took away from my enjoyment of the game. I really do wish it would run smoothly because the art design deserves it. It also enraged me that the trophies for Episode Two did not properly unlock, another problem I had with the achievements on the 36o version of Episode Three of The Walking Dead. This was obviously not a huge deal, but it is further indication of the sheer technical issues that this developer has on a constant basis, and coupled with their inconsistent release schedule makes me disinclined to get episodic games from them in future before all the series is out and patched.
Overall, I am loving The Wolf Among Us so far. It is a vibrant breath of fresh air narratively that I wish would be a bit braver but still has 3 whole episodes to go. I just hope they are more like the first one instead of the disappointment of episode two, and that the game performance improves, though I guess if I want that I would really need to play on a PC, because it seems Telltale can’t make a game function on a console. I really hope that this is a game which achieves its potential by the end because it is doing things which I find much more interesting narratively than the vast majority of what is available out there. Hears hoping that Episode Three brings the momentum back. I am also looking forward to finding out why the chapter picture for Episode Three changed in the interim between episode releases. More mystery abounds!
- · Natural and energetic introduction to the setting
- · Lovely visual aesthetic and music
- · Ambition realised in a dark and engaging story
- · Technical hitching
- · Combat feels even worse than The Walking Dead
- · 4/5
Smoke & Mirrors Review-
- · Maintains dark theme
- · Events are still interesting
- · Shorter and even more technical problems
- · Narrative direction takes a cowardly retreat
- · No major decisions
- · 3/5