Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf? That's what Telltale Games asks when it puts you in the shoes of Bigby Wolf and tasks you with solving a fairy tale murder. It isn't a rhetorical question; while Bigby carries out his investigation the game keeps asking it over and over again: who fears you? Or better yet, who are you going to make fear you? That question is at the heart of The Wolf Among Us. Between its carefully paced, enthralling story and emotionally intense conclusion, the journey to figure that out is as riveting as the eventual answer.
An episodic prequel to the comic series Fables, The Wolf Among Us is set in the fictional New York City borough of Fabletown, where various mythical characters fled after the invasion of their Homelands. The game kicks off with a murder case that Bigby and Snow White must solve before the killer strikes again. But things aren't so simple. Their investigation sheds light on a dark underworld more extensive than they ever expected, and the deeper they go, the harder their choices--and yours--become. It's very much a game about making decisions: who will you help during your investigative journey? Who will you accuse? Who will you befriend, and who will turn against you? The story does a great job of putting you in control before immediately testing your mettle, and the twists it uses to do that are exciting and often unexpected.
In keeping with the structure of a good mystery, early episodes in the season have a slow burn, building steadily toward the ultimate conclusion without ever giving too much away. Most of the game is spent meticulously pawing through evidence, trying to decipher how it relates to your whodunit. These investigations are punctuated by snatches of intense but technically loose action--Bigby will, for instance, perform the same scripted action regardless of which trigger you hit when a prompt appears. While some might object to the lack of skill involved in progressing through these sequences, they do help break up Wolf’s quieter moments, and are just punchy and exciting enough not feel intrusive.
The action sequences are all smartly realized, each with its own purpose and impact on the story. You will always walk away from one feeling like you've gained hard-won knowledge. Though you occasionally have the freedom to explore and talk to characters as you please, the game will eventually steer you in the right direction when necessary. It's subtle enough that it never feels like your hand is being held, and seeing the "You connected the evidence" message after successfully drawing conclusions from a crime scene is more rewarding than any victory fanfare. Each episode also does a great job of upping the ante with new revelations and heightened stakes, consequences for failure becoming greater at every turn. If that weren’t enough, through it all you have to bear the anxiety of never quite knowing if you've measured up.