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The Wolf Among Us review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Intriguing, suspenseful story that keeps you hooked until the end
  • Freedom to shape Bigby Wolf into a caring investigator or a snarling badass
  • Keeps you questioning your decisions along the way
  • Some decisions are inconsequential
  • Occasional discrepancy between dialogue options and actual spoken lines

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.

Try again

Foreseeing the potential of Wolf's branching narrative paths, Telltale had the good sense to include a Rewind feature, which lets you reverse to a critical moment in the story and start a new save from there. This allows you to take full advantage of all the options available to Bigby at any given moment, and see how responding differently might change how things play out. Maybe you regret slapping that father around in front of his son, or just want to see if jerkface Bigby gets better results than his diplomatic counterpart. In addition to satisfying your curiosity, it increases the game's replayability, and you stand to gain a lot of insight from using it even once.

That, odd is it may seem, is one of the most enjoyable parts of The Wolf Among Us: making hard decisions without knowing what the outcome will be. While it would have been easy for the game to get mired down in the sort of contrived, one-sided decision making that so many story-driven titles fall prey to, it keeps things fresh and interesting by keeping its choices ambiguous. The "right" answer to any given question isn't always obvious, such as when choosing between visiting two crime scenes when you know evidence will be destroyed at the second, or picking who to pursue when two perps seem equally guilty.

Some choices are admittedly inconsequential (different dialogue options, for example, can prompt only slight variations in response), and seeing that a trying exchange doesn’t lead anywhere can take the magic out of the experience. Wolf also runs into a common issue for dialogue-wheel games, where there’s sometimes a frustrating discrepancy between the dialogue option you choose and what Bigby actually says. (I didn’t mean to insult you, pig-friend, really!) Still, even the least-juicy conversations are fun, and help mask exchanges that seem unimportant but come back to haunt you in unexpected ways.

The season's final episode, Cry Wolf, is a reward for all that tantalizing, rising tension. Unlike its preceding episodes, it tumbles explosively toward the finish line in a swirl of revelations that together feel like an earned victory. The resolution isn't easy or pain-free, and even when the credits roll the knowledge of whether or not you did the right thing is still frustratingly out of reach. But that's part of the magic, because the conclusion still manages to be satisfying without ending in a hamfisted, binary fashion. The Wolf Among Us doesn't have any easy answers to give, and being able to pull that off well is its greatest triumph.

More Info

Release date: Oct 24 2013 - Xbox 360
Oct 24 2013 - PS3
Oct 24 2013 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS Vita, iPhone, PS3, PC, iPad
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Telltale Games
Developed by: Telltale Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco

For all the decisions you make during the story, the physical events that end The Wolf Among Us don't change much. One or two characters swap places, and dialogue options are slightly different, but overall the sequence of events is about the same. Some might say that means your choices are inconsequential and there was no point--but that's not really what the game's about. Telltale stressed from the beginning that this is your story, and it is: it's the story of your Bigby Wolf and who he has become by the time the curtain falls. Whether he's really a changed wolf, and whether he confronts the finale negotiating or snarling, is the ultimate result of your choices. You're asked at the beginning, and you're asked at the end: who's afraid of the big, bad wolf? Nobody can answer that for you. You'll have to find out on your own.

The Wolf Among Us is a game that exceeds expectations, providing an intriguing, painful, and thought-provoking journey that everyone should experience at least once.

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.

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31 comments

  • Cruddi - July 12, 2014 10:37 a.m.

    Lewis Carroll*
  • Cruddi - July 12, 2014 10:35 a.m.

    I got both the walking dead season 2 and wolf amongst us for a steal In the last steam sale and I am glad just waiting for the rest of walking dead. Done to first 2 episodes don't want to go any further till I have the last 2. As for the wolf amongst us I really really enjoyed it, I knew that Bigby was the big bad wolf but I didn't get the name till the 2nd episode Bigby Wolf (Big B Wolf) at first I thought it was all the brothers grim fables I didn't know they were going to draw from different sources (Alice In Wonderland, I actually live in the same town Louis Carol did and ghost stories such as bloody mary) Over all fantastic game couldn't help but live up to Bigby's history any chance I had to hurt someone I did and it was glorious.
  • g1rldraco7 - July 11, 2014 2:30 a.m.

    I wonder if Telltale will make a Season 2? I really hope so.
  • gamer001 - July 22, 2014 12:58 a.m.

    Why wait for season 2 when you can play Zombie Massacre War! It's a great game with tons of cool features, gameplay and add ons. I personally think its a pretty good recommendation. Here are some of the links: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pepper.zombie&hl=en https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zombie-Massacre-War/493162607450960?fref=ts
  • Shigeruken - July 9, 2014 5:25 a.m.

    I felt that the quicktime events became grating by the end of the game (the last episode was particularly annoying). Also, sometimes it seemed as though dialog choices were missing. Sometimes all four options were functionally the same, leaving out room for me as Bigby to change my mind about something or accept another character's argument. The game relies to heavily on the usual 'mash button to accomplish task' mechanic far too often. This in my opinion is the laziest mechanic in gaming history, especially when it's unclear whether or not you are supposed to fail. On the PC side of things, each episode was unrefined technically. The first three episodes had terrible mouse acceleration that couldn't be toggled off, and I crashes common. Given that Telltale needed extra time to complete this series, it stands to reason that we are starting to see the toll a release schedule like this takes on a small developer. Hopefully they staff up or resolve the issues they have with their chosen development process before work begins on Game of Thrones and Borderlands.
  • Fran_Halen - July 9, 2014 1:23 a.m.

    I bought this when the season pass was on sale for $8.99 (I think) in the PS Store. It was well worth it and I will definitely get season 2. Seeing storybook characters as pimps, junkies, and murderers was pretty sweet.
  • Kapi7an - July 8, 2014 11:34 p.m.

    I'ts a great game, but the amazon price is way to high. I bought it on kinguin and it was like $10
  • LoboMau - July 8, 2014 11:38 a.m.

    I like the game but I keep thinking that one could emulate the experience by watching youtube videos with hiperlinks.
  • BladedFalcon - July 8, 2014 10:25 a.m.

    I'm amused that the negative points are what's par for the course for ALL games with dialog trees and "different choices". It's like complaining about regenerating health in a modern day shooter :P
  • Vonter - July 8, 2014 11:12 a.m.

    I think it's subjective, in some games it's kinda OP having regenerative health. And for dialog trees IMO is more of that decision having a point, or telling something clever or amusing and not feeling pointless (but again that's subjective, since some can subtly show character traits despite being inconsequential). Same with the use or overuse of checkpoints.
  • BladedFalcon - July 8, 2014 11:32 a.m.

    Oh, I actually think Regenerative health is a lazy and bullshit gameplay mechanic in most cases, but one that is so popular and universal in almost most modern FPS that it's kinda pointless complaining about it at this point. Same goes for the whole pseudo "multiple choice" most games have been doing for the last 2 generations, in which there is objectively very little change to the plot outside from some aesthetics, dialog options, or different characters that don't matter or are replaceable in the long run. It's a shame when you think that older games actually DID go trough the trouble of changing the game entirely depending on which paths or choices you took. But once again, just like with regen health in FPS, complaining about it at this point is rather useless, as that's what happens with most games anyway.
  • Vonter - July 8, 2014 11:45 a.m.

    I actually have more issues with checkpoints, since it was kinda nice having the option to save key moments in games, or being able to fail if you weren't cautious with saving. But I suppose practicality wins in the end. Still Alien Isolation shouldn't have checkpoints... but we'll see. The main problem I have with choices is in how still very few have an impact in a conclusion. Chrono Trigger worked because the game could end very early because of choosing to beat the bad guy at an earlier stage. I'm not too picky with that yet, I only condemn good/evil morality systems than for the most part those are pointless.
  • BladedFalcon - July 8, 2014 3:06 p.m.

    Chrono Trigger's kinda cheating though, because it's just different endings with in-game cut-scenes, not really new or different playable segments depending of what you did. (Like what Contra: Hard Corps did.) But still, what CT is definitely more than what most games do these days. (And it's about the only truly special thing CT has going for it, everything else is overrated.) Anyway, I'm with you regarding checkpoints. Most games have becoming way too forgiving with them nowaways, to the point that if you have quicksaves, (like say, The elder scrolls games) any potential challenge or fear of death becomes absolutely meaningless. Yet again another thing Dark Souls did right, and thus another reason why you should leave your silly prejudices behind and actually give the series a try :P
  • Vonter - July 8, 2014 3:41 p.m.

    Oh nice, I'll have to check that, didn't expect you mention an action game as example. Yep, it's especially harsh in survival horror, since a checkpoint can ruin a surprise like an achievement. Like oh, the setpiece has ended or well, here comes the bad guys. I'll just finish the projects of this month and I'll give it a try. I feel confident, not even the bonus stages of Mutant Mudds standed a chance.......... Does it have continuity? Since I don't know if I should start with the first one or the second. I have a 360 so Demon Souls isn't accessible for me.
  • BladedFalcon - July 8, 2014 4:09 p.m.

    It kinda does... but not really, if you start with the second game, there might be some allusions to the first's world, but nothing too important. Honestly... it depends on how you wanna go about it. Personally, I think the first Dark souls is the superior game, but the second one is a bit more streamlined, and a bit more "user friendly" and easier. It's also a bigger game than the first. So I guess it depends if you want to start with the "easier" one and kinda less spectacular one, so you can save the best for last, then start with DSII. But keep in mind that DSII does have some gameplay and technical improvements that might make the first DS feel a bit of a "step backwards", but it's a much better designed game, creature and world-wise. Shame you can't play Demon Souls, since that's the one I'd recommend first, and it's still a great game in it's own right, and pulls off some stuff that makes it stand out from the "dark" series.
  • BladedFalcon - July 8, 2014 4:17 p.m.

    More food for thought: DS2 has an item that lets you "re-spec" your character stats, whereas DS1 doesn't. This is worth noting because being able to re-spec, while it's limited, allows you to play around with different builds and play-styles without having to start all over again from zero. That might be good to let you experiment and know from the get go what you want to play as in DS, since in that game, once you spend a point of experience, it stays there forever. Just... make sure you play the first Dark Souls one way or another. DSII is pretty great, but the first one is the real gem in terms of the experience it gives you, and I'm not sure if playing DSII first might dilute that experience... So maybe if you don't want anything to tamper with your experience, play Dark Souls 1 first? XD I may not be a lot of help right now, sorry, lol :P
  • shawksta - July 8, 2014 6:55 p.m.

    GOT REV UP THOSE GENERIC EXCUSES WHEN A GAME HAS NO FLAW
  • Fran_Halen - March 3, 2014 11:18 p.m.

    I caught a sale on the PS store and paid around $9 for the season pass. I've played the first episode and that episode alone was worth the money.
  • universaltofu - February 4, 2014 2:37 p.m.

    Ooh, now I can get this and the season opener of walking dead for back to back telltale action.
  • shawksta - February 4, 2014 12:12 p.m.

    Nice.

Showing 1-20 of 31 comments

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