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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.
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 2, though we've been told we'll find out more in 2014. If you're reading this in 2013, that's a bummer--but if it's 2014 now, you might only be days away from new Fables details.
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.
Should you get it? You might as well! The first episode is wonderful, and sets up the season extremely well.
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.