A couple months ago, I had the chance to play “The Wolf Among Us” by Telltale games. I wasn’t looking forward to the game, not really. I’d played Telltale’s acclaimed “Walking Dead” season one, and it just didn’t “click” with me. It was interesting to be sure, but it was missing that “game-y” element. In fact, much of what people loved about it, the Clementine character especially, I found to be either annoying or just left no impression at all. It was just…dull. There was drama, definite character development, and some tragedy to be sure; but the entire time I was playing I couldn’t help but wonder how the experience the game was offering was any better than the actual TV show, of which I freely admit I am not a fan. The Wolf Among Us was sure to be more of the same, but the premise still managed to pull me in.
The premise is this: the setting is New York City, in a portion of the town inhabited by the characters of just about every fable and fairytale, all of whom have been displaced into our world by some mysterious evil force, which is only mentioned in passing during the game’s first episode. You play as “Bigby Wolf”, formally the Big Bad Wolf, now the lycanthrope sheriff of the fairytale characters (dubbed “Fables” in the game), whose task is to keep order and prevent the world at large from discovering their existence. The story follows Bigby as he hunts down a murderer out for the blood of Fables, and it’s the player’s job to help him discover the culprit by any means they deem fit.
The Wolf Among Us follows the same gameplay formula as The Walking Dead, but oddly enough it isn’t dragged down the same way it’s predecessor is. It’s still a game focused on character drama, and conversation over action, but its quicker pace makes up for many of the shortcomings inherent to the format. In fact, it differed for me in several respects:
– Where the Walking Dead‘s art style felt just like that, a style and nothing more, that same style in The Wolf Among Us suits it perfectly. It truly looks and feels like a comic book come to life rather than just a style picked for no other reason than that it looks good.
-The plot actually has legs; It pulls you along and you’re happy to go with it. There’s always a new twist and nothing is as it seems.
-The characters are genuinely interesting. They advance and react just as they did in Walking Dead, but the fact that they’re more than just people makes the player want to learn about them all the more. Telltale has progressed in how they write characters too, as it’s harder to classify them as “good” or “bad” than it was in Walking Dead.
All of these factors elevate familiar “gameplay” (if you can call a few quicktime-events and talking gameplay), into something that I found to actually be engaging rather than a dull chore. And remember that twisty plot I mentioned? It really hits hard at the end of the episode, almost infuriatingly so.
So what’s all this about then? Well, to put it plainly The Wolf Among Us is actually worth playing, even if you didn’t like TellTale’s rendition of The Walking Dead. It doesn’t do anything radically different from its predecessor, but the more fantastic setting and improvements in the character writing make it a much more enjoyable story to “play” through; that and the idea of being the Big Bad Wolf is something that doesn’t lose its novelty throughout the course of this first portion of the game.
If you enjoy cliffhangers and speculation, then check it out! You have plenty of questions and hints to mull over until the next episode hits. Otherwise, wait until the rest of the episodes are out and then get to it!
If you have played already, be sure to leave your own impression in the comments, as half the fun of games like these is in the juicy discussions.