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The Wolf Among Us - Episode 1: Faith - Review
With The Walking Dead game series on a temporary hiatus prior to Season 2 being released, what does a developer like Telltale Games do in the meantime? The answer is to take another established comic book franchise and craft a adventure game spin-off around it. In this case, Bill Willingham's Fables series.
The world might not be dying in The Wolf Among Us, but it is infested with all manner of fairytale creatures that have been magically dumped into modern day Manhattan. Think The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but instead of a opium-addicted Alan Quartermain, there's a foul-mouthed Mr Toad instead.
Playing as Bigby Wolf, you're tasked with managing this group of magical misfits and ensuring that their identities don't become known to the wider public. As with The Walking Dead game, you're placed in a position of responsibility that will, ultimately, force you to make some rather difficult choices.
As a lead character, Bigby Wolf is somewhat on the quiet side. It's difficult at this point to ascertain whether this was a deliberate choice by the writers, or whether it's more of a gameplay conceit, ensuring that his personality is kept ambiguous enough that your choices show through.
This first episode, Faith, sets up the various plot lines rather well, in particular, the murder of a fairytale character, which is the main focus of the story. The neo-noir setting and murder mystery storyline is much more adventure game friendly than the post-apocalypse of Telltale's previous title was, but, if anything, they still keep the amount of object searching to a minimum. Overall, this is a smart decision and ensures that the plot keeps chugging along and doesn't descend into mindless pixel-hunting or convoluted puzzles.
Quick-time events make their inevitable return, and, given Bigby's propensity for getting into trouble, means that there's a few fisticuffs in this first episode. By utilizing the left and right triggers in combat, things have been made much easier when fighting. Telltale's still pretty lenient with your reaction times during these segments, but this simple change to using the shoulder buttons makes the process flow a lot better and feel less clunky.
Unfortunately, the technical bugs that have plagued the engine still remain, and these fighting sections highlight it the most. Whenever there's a shift between individual scenes there'll be plenty of visual hiccups or the occasional drop in frame rate. Other times, the game will have to pause to load up a character conversation. It's frustrating because, as with their other games, it throws you right out of the immersive environment that the developers have set up. It's by no means a deal breaker, but by this point you would have thought that Telltale would have had a better grasp on the game engine to prevent these things.
Still, the game's writing still remains solid and the subject matter enables the writers to play around with some funny characterization this time around. The highlight in this first episode has to be the game's take on Mr Toad, whose expletive-ridden dialogue is so at odds with how he's presented in the original source material. However, it's the Woodsman who highlights Telltale's use of subtlety and is at the heart of this episode's key themes. In essence, he's a hero fallen from grace, whilst Bigby, his foil, is a villain whose been given the chance at redemption. Without spoiling anything it's surprising that, for a character that is presented as a completely one-sided villain at the beginning of the episode, ends it being the most complex character of them all. Meanwhile, Snow White rounds out the characters that get most of the screen time in Faith, with her relationship with Bigby being compared to that of Beauty and the Beast, who also make brief appearances.
The most surprising element though is the screen that pops up at the end of the episode. As with The Walking Dead it compares your choices with those of other players, and Telltale have certainly made a much more ambiguous set of decisions for you to mull over. In this first episode alone the game allows you to speculate on who you think the killer is, and, players seem to be somewhat evenly split between the numerous suspects at this point.
We'll have to wait and see whether the seeds that Telltale have planted in this debut episode will take root. Therefore it's rather difficult to determine how much of a success The Wolf Among Us is at this point. However, minus the technical issues, this is a confident start for a new series.
The Wolf Among Us - Episode 1: Faith was released in October 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.
© 2013 LudoLogic