How is Episode 1: Faith?
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.
How is Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors?
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.
How is Episode 3: A Crooked Mile?
A Crooked Mile feels more like The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 than it does Episode 1--that is to say it leans more on the role-playing elements than it does the big "oh no who do I chase?" moments. What that means in a practical sense is that you might not feel so much like you're choosing between crazy options and launching into branching paths. Instead, you're making a bunch of little choices that shape and craft the world to feel like one you actually inhabit. It's less about whose neck you snap and more about what you say when you're asked tough questions, helping The Wolf Among Us further distance itself from Telltale's other series without losing any of the magic.
I did feel like I had a say in the events, though. Bigby's investigation pulls him through every nook and cranny in Fabletown, and has him meeting new and familiar characters on his path to find the killer. This creates to an episode that makes you truly feel like an investigator, rather than just a hired muscle. You're calling the shots in the investigation (especially considering the revelation at the end of Episode 2), and having full control for the first time without worrying about stepping on toes. The choices you make feel more impactful, and your actions have an air of finality to them--which could lead you to take paths you wouldn't have expected to take.