The other day I played The Wolf Among Us, a game recommended to me by recca1821. He’d been insisting I start playing games for a while now and after considering the type of games I liked, he recommended this game. Be warned that this review will have some spoilers in the STORY section.
The Wolf Among Us is a single player interactive adventure game developed by Telltale Games. It spans 5 episodes and each episode takes about two hours to complete. It’s based on the comic Fables by Bill Willingham and is set as the prequel to the series. It’s possible to play the game without prior knowledge of the comic, which is what I did.
As a warning, this game is rated Mature, as it delves (to some degree) into topics like sexual abuse, suicide, violence, and class disparity. There’s also a lot of blood and some nudity.
In The Wolf Among Us, we’re introduced to this community called Fabletown in New York where Fables reside. The Fables that we meet are mostly characters from the Brothers Grimm Fairy tales but we also have people from nursery rhymes, Beowulf, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and various other sources. Fables are different to the “Mundy” folk (humans) in that they live for centuries, are harder to kill, and some are more creatures than humanoid. One of the conditions of being able to live in Fabletown is that Fables appear human and they do this by using “Glamours,” spells that are purchased from the Woodland Witches. Of course, as we play the game, we learn that a huge majority of Fables live in poverty, can’t afford to purchase Glamours, and so they turn to illegal means to hide their true forms.
In addition to Fabletown, we also have The Farm, which is a place in upstate New York where all Fables who can’t keep a human appearance are sent. It’s said to be a place where a Fable can do as they please, however, many Fables see it as a prison.
When the game begins, we play as Mr. Bigby Wolf, Fabletown’s sheriff and the notorious Big Bad Wolf. We begin at a rundown apartment complex where Mr. Toad hurries Bigby to investigate what’s going on upstairs before things get messy. Bigby does this and finds the Woodsman physically abusing a prostitute. Bigby interferes and ends up saving this person and when they part, this mystery woman says she’ll stop by his apartment at the Woodland’s Apartment Complex to give a statement for the events that transpired.
Of course, a few hours later, instead of finding this nameless woman at his doorstep he finds Snow White, Fabletown’s Director of Operations and secretary. She takes him to the Woodland’s courtyard and we find that the prostitute we’d previously met is now dead, her severed head at the entrance of the building. Taking it upon himself to discover who killed this woman, Bigby begins an investigation.
As they start investigating, Bigby and Snow find out that this woman was Faith, the Fable from the story Donkeyskin, and that her husband was still around. Bigby goes to investigate the husband, believing that he was an automatic suspect in the case. Of course, when he arrives at the scene he realizes there are more players involved in this murder.
The threat then rises when Snow’s severed head is found.
One of the things that immediately had me hooked was the idea of Fairy tales. I am a lover of Disney’s princess stories and retellings, and this game really had me impressed. Instead of the usual happily ever after scenes that we see in fairy tales, Fabletown is riddled with the complete opposite. Snow White who met Prince Charming, got married, and had a happy life, is actually divorced and has been for years. Ariel never actually convinced her love to kiss her and she was left to roam the lands as a human and now prostitute. Beauty and the Beast, while still together, are constantly in a state of financial trouble as they try to keep their previous life of luxury intact.
Aside from the fairy tale part, I was also impressed by the mystery murder story. I hadn’t been expecting Snow to get involved in this mess and when episode 2 begins, I’m slightly relieved. I can only imagine how the players from 2013 were coping with episode 1’s cliffhanger ending!
While I was impressed with the story, I did start to lose some interest near the end. We’d already figured out that Crane wasn’t the murderer but that he was involved with “Snow’s” severed head. Instead, a new player was introduced: The Crooked Man. We learned that he had connections everywhere and that he helped Fables who couldn’t get help from the Woodland’s offices (which were many), however, his actual appearance was anti-climactic and rushed. In just one episode Bigby tracks him down, kills off Bloody Mary, and takes him in at Snow’s orders.
The only interesting play I can remember from episode 5 was fighting against Bloody Mary but I liked that part because of the character designs and not so much because of the story.
The Wolf Among Us is centered around decision making, consequences, and morals. From the beginning we’re forced to make decisions and interact with the characters in Fabletown, however, as I kept playing I felt that each choice I made had less of an impact to the story. After all, I was getting to Ending D no matter what route I took. The only thing that changed was how the other characters of Fabletown reacted towards me: was I the feared wolf or was I halfway decent?
When a decision was presented we got menus like this one here, with four options and a red bar underneath. The bar was a timer that spanned a few seconds, in some cases only long enough to read the choices and make a swift reply. Depending on the persona we gave Bigby, he could come off as the jerk he was reputed to be or as a rehabilitating Fable. During my first play through I acted somewhere in-between, being a jerk to some characters I didn’t care for and trying to be polite and nice to others.
Aside from making decisions like this, we were also forced to make moral choices. One example is when Bigby takes in the Woodsman for questioning in episode 2 (or one of the Tweedles). Bigby has the choice of peacefully extracting information from them or turning violent. When I first played it, I didn’t think I had a choice and I ended up smashing a bottle, burning, and punching the Woodsman. Later on this violence is brought up by both Snow White and The Crooked Man as a way to persecute Bigby.
Since I played on a PC, I mostly used the arrows for walking around, A S D and W for moments of action, Q for struggles, and the mouse to click on objects or to land blows.
One of the things I’m always fixated on with games are achievements. In The Wolf Among Us there were 35 possible achievements and most of them could be achieved by just playing through the game. Others, however, could only be achieved if we replayed certain major decisions. On the second day I played this game I ended up glued to the computer for hours just replaying certain scenes. At first I thought it was interesting to go through and choose different routes, however, there were some episodes where I just really got tired of replaying the same events.
For example, in the first episode, after Bigby and Snow find out that the prostitute is Faith, they get a disturbing call from Toad, who we met at the beginning of the game. After the phone call, Bigby has to choose who to go see first. Does he investigate what’s going on with Toad or does he go look for Faith’s husband? Depending on his choice, Bigby will either find an assailant at Toad’s complex or save Faith’s husband from committing suicide. I thought this part was a fun replay and I didn’t mind because the events were different enough that I didn’t get bored.
On the other hand, we have plays like the one in episode 3 where Bigby has three choices in searching for Crane’s witch: look through Crane’s home, go to Dee and Dum’s office, or look through Lily’s belongings. Even after playing all three of these, the events are all pretty similar and I had to stop playing because it was making me angry. I mean, having to listen to Flycatcher defend the two brothers was really grating on my nerves…
Maybe if there had been a way to hurry character dialogues or even skip certain scenes I would have liked it a bit more, which is why I’d only replay this if I had a really long break in-between each play through.
When I first opened the game to play, I was slightly off about the visuals. There was something very purple, very unrealistic, but also realistic about it and I didn’t like that contrast. As I started to delve into the story these details mattered less to me and I ended up finding they fit the game perfectly.
While I did enjoy the game from beginning to end, I can say that the ‘OH’ moments decreased as I neared the end. In fact, I felt like the amount of interaction drastically decreased once The Crooked Man was introduced, possibly to hurry up the explanations of who did what and why. None of the characters really stood out to me, possibly because they felt really mundane. I know Snow once made the distinction that Faith wasn’t killed by her husband because that only happened to Mundies, which I thought was interesting because the Fables acted very human (selfish, greedy) to me.
The only characters that stood out to me were Snow and Bloody Mary, possibly because they grated on my nerves the most, and Aunty Greenleaf because she was voiced by Laura Bailey (it was awesome!).
I also felt pretty bad for Bigby because no matter what I did, the fact that he was a wolf and a possible menace remained. Even when I tried to help out others, during episode 5 everything wrong that I’d done would come to surface. By the end of it, Nerissa seemed to be the only one who appreciated my help and my once partner Snow all but ignored me in favor of her “work.”
I am glad that I played the game and I’m really hoping that there will be a sequel because I just couldn’t get into the comic (the art was just too…different for my tastes) but the world is interesting enough that I’d play more.
Played On: PC
Rating: 4 out of 5
Play Time: ~ 15 Hrs
I also found these articles where others also reviewed this game. I definitely recommend checking them out! The second article goes more into the themes that the game tried to cover.
The Wolf Among Us: Final Review by theamazingworldofgummies
A Closer Look at The Wolf Among Us by Matthew Codd