Telltale Games seems to be on a roll. After getting a few games under their belt, the company known for its episodic content struck gold with The Walking Dead, one of the most enjoyable games, and definitely the most emotional game I’ve played in a long time.
Similar to the Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is an adventure game that is heavy on dialogue and emotion. Just like it did with Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead, Telltale takes an award-winning comic book series (in this case Vertigo’s Fables) and spins a side-story of their own.
It seems as if Telltale’s practice of telling side stories in an already established universe helps their game in several ways. Firstly, an established comic (or book, or game) means that fans are a ready source of purchasers to be tapped. In contrast, a sidestory (like the Walking Dead) or a prequel (like this one) allows Telltale to largely sidestep continuity issues. Most importantly, it provides a rich field of information, relations and backstory to be mined and refined into a game.
Incidentally, there’s a lot more to the history of Fables, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, you really should. The Fables TPBs already take up a whole shelf on my cabinet, and it’s still growing.
If you have played the Walking Dead, you should be relatively familiar with how the Wolf Among Us works. Gameplay and controls are largely identical; there are quick time events, and mild puzzle solving, but it’s less of a game than an interactive story. Just like the Walking Dead, the dialogue is what you buy the game for.
Any differences are mainly a result of the universe or the character you inhabit. Instead of survival horror, with its palettes of mainly greys, greens and brown, this noir mystery is painted with extremely moody swathes of black and neon. This time you follow fables, some of whom you may know, some of whom you may not. The genre also means that the feel of combat is different. While both Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us are both pretty graphic, as Lee you always have a huge sense of mortality; the smallest nick or bite could mean life or death. In contrast, as the Bigby Wolf your are superhuman, leaping out of buildings and walking away.
The biggest difference, however, is who you are. While Lee was a blank canvas on which you could paint your own moral choices and beliefs, this time Bigby is a pre-established character, and some people (fans especially) might be inclined to play how they THINK Bigby should be played, as opposed how they would play as themselves. I don’t think this is much of a problem though; Bigby is a remarkably deep character, and I can see him uttering most of the options you are presented with throughout the game. Hell, even the fifth option silence is a valid reaction now. Previously, when Lee kept quiet it always seemed as if he (or you) could not find the right words. This time as Bigby (and glares and puffing on smoke) is a suitable interrogation technique, especially when you want to keep your Big Bad Wolf persona. In the same way, Clementine is no longer there to keep you on the ethical straight an narrow. You want to give in to your inner wolf and pull that guy’s arm? It’s your call. Just don’t expect him to treat you very nice in the future.
Telltale seems to have come into its own for a very specific niche of game. The game where the story and the conversation is more important that the number of items you pick up or the number of enemies you kill. The game where it’s more important that you make a decision that you can live with rather than just the one that gives you the most xp. If you like that kind of game, pick up the Wolf Among Us. And while you’re at it, pick up the Walking Dead.