The first season of The Wolf Among Us felt absolutely brilliant! The story was engaging, the characters were interesting, and the gameplay kept me on my toes. I could not wait to talk about this game again once I had finished the final episode of the first season “Cry Wolf”. However, wait I did since most games tend to leave us players with lingering feelings (good and ill) that skew perception away from what it should be. Now that the rose-colored fervor has worn-off though, I feel that my head is clear enough to give this game a fair look and pick out its best and worst aspects. Each portion of this game has them, the much touted story included.
A Slice of Life Turned Mystery Turned Suspense Thriller!
The plot of The Wolf Among Us felt at its best as it near-seamlessly transported us between genres. It started out as a day-in-the-life of Fabletown’s most disliked (and feared) resident, Bigby Wolf (aka The Big Bad Wolf) out on yet another late night call as the magical community’s sheriff. From there I, as Bigby, found myself in conducting a murder investigation, which led into a mystery with potentially much higher stakes, and then through all of the confrontations and revelations that resulted from it. Each episode felt more and more intense while still somehow keeping the answers to the biggest questions just out of reach, and all the while kept me guessing if I was going about it the right way. It was definitely a ride worth getting on to be sure.
…But the Gameplay Got in the Way a Bit
Like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is structured into episodes, which gives it a TV show sort of feel. Not a bad thing in itself, but it creates a feeling that at times seemed very at odds with the actual game aspects of its composition. For example on several occasions Bigby was given a choice of which of three locations to check for clues first, and since the story needed to continue regardless, the choice felt very hollow. All of the same conclusions are reached no matter what, which made it difficult to get a solid sense of progression out of it. To me I think it would have been better to just have Bigby himself choose and establish that progression rather than giving the player an obviously empty choice, but I suppose that could just be me.
Cameos Instead of Characters
This one is more of a nit-pick than anything else, but it felt like the antagonist just wasn’t around long enough. There’s an idea put forward that maybe they’re a necessary evil, but there just wasn’t enough time to really explore it due to…reasons. Ah well perhaps in season 2…
The Gameplay Felt Good!
I really enjoyed the gameplay of The Wolf Among Us. Checking around each area was neat and kept me looking for little secrets to find (even though there weren’t any to speak of). The action bits kept me engaged too, they made each action scene feel a bit more engaging and visceral. What I enjoyed most, and incidently what I felt the was meat of the gameplay, was having Bigby talk to the other characters and defining him through those conversations. All other gameplay aside, for me this whole game was about making Bigby who I wanted him to be. Taking him from a blank slate to the kind of person I wanted him to be was what drove my interest. It’s what made many of the other bits of the actual gameplay feel relevant, and caused without it led me to my last issue with the game.
…But It Left Me Wondering
How much of this actually needed to be a game? All of the choices I was asked to make throughout these five episodes, with the possible exception of one, only really affected Bigby and how he was defined. Everything else was already a foregone conclusion. So with much of the choices not actually mattering, why bother having me make them in the first place? I believe I honestly would have been fine if everything that did not involve developing Bigby had just been a cutscene. Again this may just be me, but I’d rather not have to deal with empty choices. If the result is inevitable, then I’d rather have a more interesting journey to it instead of the flimsy illusion of having “chosen” it.
The Good Outweighs the Bad
Annoyances and questions aside, I feel that The Wolf Among Us is definitely worth your time. Building your own Bigby might be the best case of player-controlled character development I’ve seen yet, even beating games like Mass Effect. He actually grew as the game progressed and I felt like it really was the result of the choices I was having him make, unlike Commander Shepard who, now that I look back, only ever felt like “my Shepard” because of the personal motivations I had taken upon myself to invent for them. Like I said though: the plot is gripping, the gameplay does its job, but it’s this element of character creation that makes the game worth playing and why I heartily recommend it to you now.
Have you had the chance to play The Wolf Among Us? What did you take away from it? If you haven’t played it, what’s been holding you back?