“The Wolf Among Us? What’s that? Isn’t that that game Telltale Games keeps working on that keeps them TOO busy to work on the next episode of The Walking Dead game?” This was my initial thought process to The Wolf Among Us. My initial thought process was “hurry up and release new episodes of The Walking Dead! Clementine is in danger!” In the beginning my attitude was “it’s nice you have a 2nd videogame franchise; hurry the hell up though.” So initially I didn’t have any interest in The Wolf Among Us.
After a few months, and an episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 2 (or two) I found myself wanting more. I saw the comments, saw the reviews: “This one MIGHT actually be BETTER than The Walking Dead” many of them said. My reply? “Challenge accepted.” I was skeptic. Really all I knew was there’s “a werewolf in a shirt and tie running around” which is pretty much the story of my own life seeing as I am Puerto Rican and therefore atrociously hairy.
What I found was that they were right – The Wolf Among Us is a masterpiece and in many ways has surpassed what was accomplished in their rendition of The Walking Dead. I am 3 (out of 5) episodes into The Wolf Among Us, and I am pretty much completely hooked.
Here’s the backstory for those of you who were like me and are only seeing “a werewolf in a shirt and tie” (because most websites seem to overuse the same pictures over and over): The Wolf Among Us is based on Vertigo Comics “Fables” series by Bill Willingham, a comic series about a group of fairy tale and fable/fictional characters who have sought refuge in the “mundane world” which we live in, keeping their identities secret and trying to establish a community after being chased out of their homelands by a massive invasion force led by someone known only as “The Adversary.” Fables get a new start in our world, and many of them fall into the same pitfalls that the rest of us humans do. Although it’s a new start for them, old habits die hard for many of them. By the way this game is a prequel so if you're worried about spoiling the series for yourself or worried you have to read the series first in order to enjoy it, don't. I went into this one blind and as a result now I want to go back and read all 200-something issues of Fables that have been released.
Your role in the game is Bigby Wolf, formerly “The Big Bad Wolf” who is now not only a humanoid form, but the Sheriff of Fabletown that has to keep peace between various unruly fables in the city. Given his past as “one of the bad guys” not many people are comfortable with Bigby nor are they friendly and many of these characters are the ones you will interact with. Just like in the Walking Dead you will have choices of what to say to certain characters that will decide how they react to you and reply to you throughout each of the remaining episodes. In The Wolf Among Us the story revolves around a series of murders and as a result, some characters really won’t like you asking questions, implying, or outright accusing them of the murders. Not to mention you’ll have to factor in the pre-disposition many characters in this game already have towards the Big Bad Wolf.
What I think makes The Wolf Among Us far more unique than The Walking Dead as a “Choose Your Adventure” styled game, is the fact that unlike the Walking Dead where you are often following the same path the same way the same time (albeit with different responses), The Wolf Among Us also factors in time. At certain points you’ll have the choice of where you want to go or who you want to investigate and events will play out entirely differently based on who you decided to see first (or at all). Additionally, sometimes just during the game, you may have to “wait” for people to finish doing what they are doing before they become available. I like the concept of time being an issue, and it adds a whole new factor into the consequences of your actions and decisions.
Another enjoyable aspect of the game is that the quick-timer events sort of spring up on you at a moment’s notice. In The Walking Dead you often know exactly when something is going to go down by the sound of moaning and the appearance of a huge zombie horde. In the Wolf Among Us, dealing with living people, you don’t know at what point someone’s going to try to start pushing you around or attempt to punch you in the face and cause a segment where the game is telling you to push DOWN or Y or LEFT or whatever quickly. There’s a certain unpredictability in The Wolf Among Us which is not present in The Walking Dead.
One factor that I find more amusing than what we've become accustomed to with The Walking Dead is the fact that because this is based on characters out of storybook Fables you never know who is going to show up and when or from what novel. Sure, a few characters are introduced to you quickly such as Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast, but I’ve found part of the fun of the series is wondering who is going to turn up next, and how they are going to be presented in the modern world. It leaves you a little more variety than “zombies, zombies, and more zombies.” This is in no way trying to detract from Telltale’s work with The Walking Dead but it is definitely something different and something worth checking out.
Another interesting aspect is the fact there is a “gallery” of sorts that collects stories and pieces of information outside of the game, for those of you that have an itchy trigger finger to “collect it all.” The catch is that many of these “gallery” pieces are gained through certain decisions, actually giving you incentive to replay the game. During TWD I never really had the desire to go back and change anything – one, because there wasn’t any achievement, trophy, reward or need to do so, and two, because it almost felt like cheating already knowing what happens next. You add a little incentive to go back and you add a little replayability. In fact I have three saves dedicated to The Wolf Among Us – one where I play the decisions as realistically as I personally would choose them being in the same shoes, a second save where I go out of my way to be nice to everyone, and a “Dickhead” save where I pick the meanest, cruelest, most violent actions possible any time they are presented to me. It’s fun to see how subtle or how dramatic the differences in those paths happens to be.
If you like what Telltale has done with The Walking Dead you owe it to yourself to try out The Wolf Among Us and it’s the same typical formula as before: Episode 1 is included, the other 4 episodes can be paid for one at a time, or all at once at a discounted rate. Believe me when I say that this one is a masterpiece among us that definitely won’t leave fans of this style of gameplay disappointed. Makes one wonder what exactly Telltale has planned for their upcoming Borderlands and Game of Thrones titles, but that’s another story for another day. The Wolf Among Us Episodes 1 through 3 are currently available on X-Box 360 (X-Box Live Arcade), Playstation 3 (Playstation Network), and Steam, and from recent reports the game will be surfacing on the X-Box One and Playstation 4 soon. Now if you'll excuse me I have about 200 issues of Fables to go read and get caught up to speed on.