As a huge fan of the Fables comic book series, I was greatly looking forward to Telltale Games’ new video game, The Wolf Among Us. But with the huge cast of characters and busy backstory, a Fables video game seemed like a very easy concept to screw up. Well instead Telltale have nailed it, completely.
For those who don’t know, Fables is basically about a community of mythical and fairy tale characters living in New York. Bigby Wolf, the big bad wolf himself, is the sheriff of Fabletown. Meaning it’s his job to keep everyone in line. Considering he was responsible for hounding, and even murdering, various Fables in their earlier lives he’s not really a very popular man either.
Anyone who played Telltale’s huge hit, The Walking Dead, will be familiar with how to play the game. There are essentially three types of gameplay: conversations, investigations and action sequences.
Conversations are fully voiced dialogue sequences where the player gets to choose what to say. An added time limit encourages snappy decisions and quick thinking. Dialogue choices can be hugely important to the plot and can come back to bite you later if you make a bad call. The theory is as more episodes are released the weight of these choices becomes apparent, piss someone off and they’ll remember, help them out and maybe later they’ll want to help you.
Investigation sequences have you walking around a limited space and looking for clues. Whatever you find out may help you later, especially when confronting other characters.
Finally, action sequences are events where you have to rapidly press buttons or move the control stick on command. Like the conversations they require you to be fast and move on instinct. It all works really well at simulating the real situation, it completely cements you in the character’s shoes.
The graphics have a stylish animated look, with lots of black lines around people and objects to give that inky comic book feel. The characters themselves all look as you’d expect them to. Whenever anyone from the comic pops up you can recognise them immediately. Voice work is equally spot-on, Bigby’s gruff tone being a standout.
The story is basically a murder mystery, which suits the tone well. Fables itself begins with a murder mystery so it’s hardly an unfitting choice for the game. As Bibgy you’ll make your way around various locations trying to discover the truth and see what’s really going on behind the scenes. There’s some nice leeway in how you choose to play Bigby. In the comics he’s capable of being very intimidating and direct when needed, you’re completely able to tap into that if you wish. Alternatively if you want to make use of his nicer side and keep from spoiling any relationships with other characters, then that’s an option too. I found the game did a really good job of simulating the character. Bigby felt familiar but I also never thought I was being railroaded into playing one way or another. It was more about what aspects of his character did I want to push forward or shy away from.
There were a few minor technical problems encountered, but nothing major. A handful of times during action sequences the game would hang for a brief second while it sorted out which section came next, it was enough to be noticeable but not enough to really interrupt the flow. Once, when loading the next chapter, the dialogue began on the loading screen. Then once the actual cut scene began it was very choppy for the first few seconds or so. Other than those I didn’t find any other glitches.
One omission I did notice was the lack of an ability to turn off prompts on what characters reactions were. Occasionally when you strike a nerve or please someone you’ll be told they’ll ‘remember that’ via text in the corner of the screen. This is an incredibly minor complaint of mine, but I would have appreciated the ability to turn that off in favour of a more cinematic experience. It’s a bit of an unwelcome reminder that you’re playing a video game and nicks at the immersion.
Fans of Fables will enjoy some nice little cameos that are scattered throughout the episode, whether it’s knowing what’s under the cloth stand in the office, or just recognising the names on the buzzer, there’s a lot that helps us feel at home. However if you’re brand new to Fables then fear not, a very brief text explanation of the premise prefaces the game. Then the story itself never relies on any information that’s not present within.
Altogether The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 is just an incredible package. Compelling gameplay, an involving story and stylish graphics, even if you’ve never heard of Fables this is worth trying out. Though I wager after finishing it you’ll find yourself dipping into the comics, it works as a great introduction to an exceptional comic book. But even completely on its own, this is a game that’s been polished to perfection.