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The Wolf Among Us - Review
This review covers the entire series of The Wolf Among Us. You can find a review specifically looking at the first episode here.
Telltale Games had already proven what they were capable of with their first season of The Walking Dead. With The Wolf Among Us however, they have had a different challenge to prove. Can they work the same magic as before, and more importantly, would that magic even work with a radically different comic book series?
Fortunately, The Wolf Among Us proves that, yes, Telltale aren't simply a one-trick pony. Sure the developers have worked on other series prior to The Walking Dead but it's their work on Robert Kirkman's zombie apocalypse that seemed like a genuine change in direction for the team. And Wolf sees them continue to improve on their craft.
Set up as a prequel to Bill Willingham's Fables, The Wolf Among Us casts the player as Bigby Wolf, otherwise known as the Big Bad Wolf. Much like Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the series takes classic figures from literature, in this case fairytales, and sticks them into a more modern setting in order to provide a completely different take on these unique characters.
In many respects, Willingham's comic book series is a much better fit for a developer like Telltale, with the fluorescent, neo-noir setting being far more conducive for typical adventure game material. That's perhaps the most important point to take away from The Wolf Among Us, it sticks much more to classic adventure game tropes, with the player, as Bigby, having to investigate the death of a prostitute in Fabletown; a secluded part of New York where all of the fairytale characters live.
For those looking for as much choice as they did in The Walking Dead you might end up feeling a little bit disappointed. Whilst there's still choices to be made, and some will genuinely have you dwelling on them for quite some time afterwards, this is a much more on-rails kind of story. It's an interesting balancing act, given that this is a prequel to the comic book series, it gives Telltale plenty of material, but at the same time limits their options as the game always needs to adhere to the comic book in the end.
This is still an impressive show from Telltale however, just as The Walking Dead made players question what morality was in world that was no longer bound by any, The Wolf Among Us has the player question the role of justice and what it means. Frequently, through the series, Bigby is given the option of hurting people to get information, in some cases killing those who may or may not be guilty. Telltale's greatest trick though is to never criticise the player, only make sure that every choice ultimately has repercussions.
Likewise, for a story that starts with the violent murder of a woman working as a prostitute, Telltale to a solid job ensuring their female cast aren't relegated to pretty models that get beat up. From Snow White, to Holly the troll, to the Little Mermaid, each character that is a victim of (usually male) violence is given the chance to speak up and be at the centre of Fabletown's attempts to seek justice.
Bigby meanwhile, is an interesting protagonist, not least because he directly goes against the prevailing mould of most video game leads. Here is a character that is strong, threatening and capable of horrific acts of violence, as Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs will attest to, but the use of that strength comes at a significant cost. A huge part of the story is the exploration of violence and its role when seeking justice. Early on in Episode 2 you're left with a prisoner (who it is depends on your choices in the first episode), and have to decide whether or not to physically harm them in order to gain potentially important information.
This might sound like typical morality choices that have made their way into many a game these days but with The Wolf Among Us there isn't a single good/evil bar in sight. In fact, sparing a character is just as likely to get you injured in the following episode; just because you might have achieved a moral victory doesn't necessarily mean you'll come out on top.
In most games, a protagonist can go about murdering scores of people and yet still emerge as the hero at the end, just by virtue of being the lead character. The Wolf Among Us subverts that notion; violence is an ugly weapon that is directly tied to the institutions of power, and throughout the game's five episodes Telltale do a great job of exploring that concept. Here, might isn't always right. As a story it's well worth playing through, even if it at times it comes across as a little hamstrung by the source material.
It's unclear whether or not there's going to ever be a second series of The Wolf Among Us, considering this series dovetails straight into the start of the comics. But as a stand-alone series it does a great job of telling a gripping yarn and exploring some potent themes to boot.
This is one wolf that isn't just full of hot air.
The Wolf Among Us was released as a series of five episodes starting from October 2013. It was released for 360, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, PC, Mac, Vita and iOS.
This review is based on the 360 version.
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