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One of the first scenes in The Wolf Among Us's opening episode has you saving a prostitute from Little Red Riding Hood's drunken Woodsman. You're the Big Bad Wolf, Woodie is belligerent, and she's having a rough night. You toss him around using quick-time events, bash him in the head by pounding on the shoulder buttons, and then tumble out a window with the nigh indestructible plaid-wearing brute. Then, after he limps away mumbling about cutting you open and filling your belly with rocks, you're able to offer the woman money so that she doesn't go back to her pimp empty-handed. You have no reason to do it, but you also have no reason not to; it's just a choice you can make to shape the kind of person you want Bigby Wolf to be.
When it comes down to it, that's what The Wolf Among Us is really all about.
Editor's note: We'll be updating this review as the episodes are released, but won't be assigning a score until the season is over. Scroll down to see reviews of the first two episodes.
Telltale's last game, the stellar game of the year-winning Walking Dead, didn't require too much suspension of disbelief besides the whole "zombie apocalypse" thing (which, let's be honest, you've already seen a thousand times). The Wolf Among Us? That's a weirder pill to swallow unless you're caught on on Grimm or Once Upon a Time or one of the other fairy tale shows currently airing on prime time television.
Telltale is yet to date Episode 3, though it's said that the wait won't be nearly as long as it was between the last episode. Let's say... March?
Set in the world of the Fables comic series, where fairytale characters have been exiled from their homelands and now live in a small, hidden community in New York, the game casts you as sheriff Bigby Wolf (formerly of blowing-down-little-pig-house fame). You're noir-ing it up around in Fabletown, a charming setting for a dark, bloody, adventure, filled with characters you know and love, even if you don't know them in their current state.
The emotional core of the story lands on the shoulders of Bigby, the Wolf from the title. While at first you might find his calm southern drawl to be somewhat ill-fitting for the man who attempted to dress up as an old woman to eat a child, it eventually grows on you. He's not that same bad wolf--he's reformed, more honest, more amicable. Sure, you can threaten every witness you come across and huff and puff at anyone who looks at you the wrong way, but it makes for a less likable hero. He's still able to fight when he needs to--the action scenes are much improved over the ones in The Walking Dead, and feel much more powerful and violent.
But despite having a lot of lore to catch up on, the complex world is never overwhelming. The first episode, Faith, does a fantastic job of keeping you informed enough to understand what's going on without feeling like you're being drowned in exposition. It communicates through nods and winks, letting fans of the Fables comic know what's going on while leading those new to the franchise towards exploring the world for themselves.
This sense of discovery is aided by the gameplay, which emphasizes investigating crime scenes and interrogating witnesses. It's simple, to be sure, but it does its job well, and works as a solid procedural crime drama (except you're solving the murder of a mysterious fairy tale character and you're interacting with Beauty and the Beast so that's actually kind of different).
The first episode of Telltale's new series does a great job at setting the stage for a thrilling season, and one that has the potential to reach the heights of The Walking Dead. It might not do so by making you miserable, but the storytelling thus far is top-notch, the visual style is slick and sexy, and the world is charming enough that you're definitely going to want to see its happily ever after through to its conclusion--so long as the rest of the episodes hold up.
The first episode of The Wolf Among Us followed Telltale's Walking Dead formula pretty closely--right down to the oh god everything's in slow motion now I need to make a painful choice ending. Smoke & Mirrors' darker story differentiates itself from this formula and focuses even more on the role-playing experience than it did before. That means you're interacting even more with the charming world of Fabletown. Whether you're running into Georgie Porgie or brushing off the perfectly annoying Jack Horner (of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, Jack O'Lantern, and Jack the Giant Killer fame), the sense of immersion in the world is paramount.
It also means there's no stand-out, "what did you do at that one part" moment that usually dominates talks about the episodic chapters. Bigby is still forced to make decisions, and they're fully integrated into the story and dialog--you'll need to decide how much patience he has, and how he reacts when people get in his way. There are some hiccups, and a few instances where the game seemingly ignores your choices for a short period of time in favor of furthering the narrative, but those moments are few in number, and hardly distracting for more than a minute or two. While it's certainly not a stand-out episode, Smoke & Mirrors is far from dull, and pushes the story along well and builds some great suspense for the next episode.
Should you get it? You might as well! The first episode is wonderful, and while the second episode is definitely different, it's still making for an incredibly engaging season.
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