In spirit, The Wolf Among Us is not such a grand deviation from Telltale’s previous endeavor, The Walking Dead. Their art style is similar, they are both adventure games with deviating routes, they are both tied to comic series in one form or another.
Yet, though their settings are different, The Wolf Among Us offers a vastly dissimilar experience.
Author Note: The below text is part hands-on and part interview without direct quotes. I had the chance to speak with Pierre Shorette and Nick Herman from Telltale Games about The Wolf Among Us, but due to technical problems with my tablet and zero time to find out why, I’m left to work from memory.
For those unfamiliar with Bill Willingham’s comic series, Fables centers around characters from fairy tales and well-known stories everywhere as they’ve been forced out of their homes and must now live in upstate New York under the guise of human beings.
As a prequel to the comics, Telltale have a bit of freedom to play, but I have been assured that all available paths will remain copacetic with the comic series.
Now, what is there to say about The Wolf Among Us? It’s gorgeous to look at, with visuals similar to The Walking Dead in style, but there’s something sharper about it. Perhaps it’s the lack of deadened color that accompanied the story of moving corpses, or perhaps it’s the fact that despite taking place in New York, there’s a certain magical element about Fabletown that gives it a livelier tincture. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s gristly, but there’s a certain je ne sais quois that is far more spirited than before.
Unlike Lee in The Walking Dead, Bigby Wolf is more of a doer. Things don’t necessarily happen to him so much as he makes them happen. As the appointed sheriff, Wolf is tasked with keeping the peace in Fabletown, a place where all the stories of our youth come alive like we’ve never seen them before.
I kind of came in blind to Telltale’s latest, merely knowing that it existed and not much else. I pieced together what little I knew from their history, pegging it for another episodic adventure title with branching paths depending on your choices, but knew nothing of the characters involved, the setting, or even Fables’ existence as the source material.
The short demo begins as you pull up to an apartment building responding to a disturbance. You, as Bigby Wolf, exit your vehicle and encounter a short man who isn’t a man at all. No, he is a walking, talking amphibious chap by the name of Mr. Toad. Wait, Mr. Toad? My, if that name didn’t blow some wind through the willows. Everything kind of clicked for me at this point. I understood that Fabletown was meant to be some kind of singularity in which characters from popular lores came together, though not necessarily by choice. And they’re not as nice as you remember them, considering Mr. Toad and Wolf drop several F-bombs in their parley.
That must mean…
Yes, Bigby Wolf was none other than the Big B(ad) Wolf, who seemed a lot less interested in gutting a hooded girl in scarlet and more keen to shut up some noisy neighbors. After a brief (and potentially hostile) chat with Mr. Toad, who is unfortunately out of his human form due to a lack of “glamour” (some magical goodness that guises the not-so-human entities as friendly pink faces), Wolf heads upstairs to see what the ruckus is about.
As the resident mover and shaker, you have the option to approach situations with either aggressive overtones or subdued natures. Personally, I opted for a more direct approach and after calmly hanging up a dangling handset from a phone and snatching up a matchbook from a local bar, I put my foot to the door to see a burly barbarian beating on a frail young lass over some nasty dispute regarding money.
My, how things change. The wolf coming to the rescue.
An exchange of, ahem, “pleasantries” ignited some familiar repartee between the the grizzled menfolk as they laid into one another through fisticuffs. If Wolf is indeed the Big Bad Wolf, then our giant, aggressive counterpart here must be the heroic lumberjack that all too cordially came to Little Red’s rescue from a false grandmother. The connection is made all too clear when partway through the scuffle, our hulking adversary reaches for the wooden handle of a sharp ax.
I’ll spare you the details from here on out to let you decide how things play forward, but combat seems to be a lot more responsive in The Wolf Among Us than The Walking Dead, as Wolf comes across as an able-bodied figure versus a passive reactionary entity. Being able to take initiative and deliver those blows requires a keen eye for the on-screen prompts and fairly quick reflexes. Though I didn’t fail any of the devastating prompts, I can imagine that Telltale provides a forgiving checkpoint system for those lengthy sets of quick time events so you can pick up more or less where you left off.
The demo comes to an end with a dramatic defenestration, but it’s up to you to see the whole event unfold when the first bits of Bigby Wolf’s adventures hit your favorite platform.
Episode 1, entitled “Faith,” of The Wolf Among Us is set to arrive in Q3 of this year for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac. The rest should follow in quick succession. More than likely, we’ll be seeing iOS and Android platforms in the relatively near future, as well.
With that, I’m off to find out where I can buy these comics, because they probably kick ass.