Robert Kirkman’s zombie survival yarn became something of cultural hit the last few years transitioning from graphic novels to a hit TV show and eventually spawning two video games. Of course the only game worth mentioning here is Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed “The Walking Dead.”
The phenomenally popular adventure game featuring the gut-wrenching story of loss and survival during the zombie aftermath set a bar high enough to make any dev sweat about what to do for their next game. Fortunately, Telltale kept it cool under the collar and chose another comic property suiting their sense of style, storytelling, and gameplay perfectly. “Fables” — a comic created by writer Bill Willingham about fairy tales and nursery rhymes crossing over into a New York City full of danger and intrigue would be their next big thing as another episodic adventure. While, I was more familiar with the stories around TWD, my comically versed friends were all abuzz about when this next installment was announced — here’s why you should care about “The Wolf Among Us.”
Honestly, if you were a fan of “The Walking Dead” and like Telltale’s great storytelling, you should just queue this up and wait for the launch. You won’t be disappointed. “The Wolf Among Us” looked amazing even several weeks out from the release date in October. While I didn’t get to actually touch the controls, the devs reassured me that nothing has been altered except for a much needed “walk faster” button for the impatient gamer. It wasn’t a sprint exactly, but if you were screaming at Lee to “hurry up and get there” TTG mercifully acknowledged your request for a little more gas. Otherwise, you’ll look around the environment with the right stick choosing options to talk, look, pick up, etc. on various highlighted hot-spots. You’ll also interact with several key characters through dialogue trees that steer the narrative. Finally, the 5 part episodic game set up a series of investigations to solve. What intrigued me most was that Telltale let you choose how much or little you want to sniff for clues. Of course, whatever you decide would have bearing in future interactions.
It would be a disservice to you to spoil any of the story I saw but the focus was set on the prominent Bigby character who acted as the Sheriff or maybe PI of Fableland, kind of the secretive areas of New York whereby Fairy Tale creatures generally live. As Sherriff, Bigby was tasked at keeping the order of the land, however, he came from a mixed background — having been a villain known as the Big Bad Wolf. Naturally, this played at odds with how he interacted with other Fabletown people. Basically, he wanted to start fresh and this was one why he could use his unique skillset to get the job done. As the player you decide how friendly Bigby acts towards the denizens he’s been tasked with protecting.
Screenshots don’t really do the game any justice. “The Wolf Among Us”’ art direction painted a world rich in color. The crisp lines and deep shadows helped to pop the vibrant hues creating a real comic feel unlike any other. The lessons Telltale learned with “TWD” proved invaluable in “The Wolf Among Us” as each still moment looked ripped from a comic page. Subtle line work and intelligent use of palette created a brilliant but dark noir-ish reality. The excellent VO only helped breathe more life into these characters despite the cartoonish comic book look.
Additionally, characters moved with a natural flow — especially during one brutal encounter while on the job. Bigby Wolf made a fairly routine checkup at a seedy hotel but after investigating a bit more something ungentlemanly was occurring upstairs. Without going into story details, Bigby and a former rival were at each other’s throats throwing haymakers. The fight was one of the more interactive “game-y” parts to the demo but TT Games didn’t pull any punches. During these brawl, Bigby did everything he could to restrain the true beast within but managed to destroy the hotel room entirely. The dev playing, showed off the various ways a fight can go decisively choosing what do next. Much like in “Walking Dead” you should have several mapped areas on the screen that prompt you with any number of buttons. It was more quick time event than straight up action but felt very cinematic and clean — well as clean as broken jaw and bloodied nose can be. And this was how playing as Bigby and dealing with his internal beastly nature directed the fight and will direct the game’s narrative. He was a bad guy once, but now he’s trying to make right.
All in all, I left impressed for what is to come. Having had very little knowledge on the source material I could still see the care that Telltale incorporated within the gameplay and how fans should fall instantly in love over again with these characters. If “The Walking Dead” captured your heart, then “The Wolf Among Us” should be at the top of your list this fall.