When LucasArts stopped making point and click adventure games a long while back, the world lost one of the most enjoyable forms of video game art. Games like “Full Throttle” and “Day of the Tentacle” were like interactive storybooks that you could sink yourselves into. Thankfully, many other developers picked up where LucasArts eventually left off, and one of those that has risen to the top of the game has been Telltale Games, developers of last year’s amazing “The Walking Dead” game. Not only did it provide a top-notch storytelling experience, it also pumped plenty of emotion to and through the game. They now stand poised to do it all over again with the video game adaptation of the Bill Willingham-written, Vertigo Comics published “Fables” entitled “The Wolf Among Us.”
Readers of the “Fables” series will recognize the title as a nod to Bigby Wolf, otherwise known in fairy tales as the Big Bad Wolf, although he is in human form here, exhibiting the traits of a werewolf. In their reality, the characters from fairy tales, or “Fables,” have had to flee their realm and seek refuge in our world. Living among the “mundanes” or “Mundys” (think “muggles” from Harry Potter), they try to keep a low profile, lest they be discovered. The human Fables live in New York City, and those that look like animals or otherwise live outside the city on a property known as “The Farm.” In the city, Bigby Wolf tries to keep things in relative order, hammering cigarette after cigarette into his face while dealing with violations and disturbances.
We were finally able to get some hands-on with this game, deep inside of Telltale’s visual stunning film noir booth at PAX, which was peppered with details and decorations, making it seem like a tenement building straight out of a film noir, comic book version of New York City, complete with tawdry pink neon signs. The dark interior of the booth was lined with portraits of some of the cast of the game, including fan favorites like Bigby and Bufkin, although since this is set before the events of the Fables comic book series, look for plenty of new faces to fill the gaps left by those not introduced yet. Beyond that, the game awaited, putting us directly into Bigby’s shoes.
Had you not known this was a game set in the world of fairy tales, an initial foray into the world would lead you to think that you were in the world-weary shoes of a hard-nosed detective, which Bigby is after a fashion. However, as he heads to his first stop of the night, he strikes up a conversation with the surly Mr. Toad. Although Toad called Bigby about a disturbance in another apartment. it seems that Toad has been seen in public, and Bigby has been letting him slide without purchasing a glamour from a witch to hide his true nature. You can direct the entire tone of the conversation here, being forgiving or a complete ass, but characters will remember your choices, and the game will be different depending on your demeanor.
Bigby heads upstairs, and directly into a confrontation with the Woodsman (the same Woodsman who killed him in the fairy tales), and a unnamed woman who appears to be a prostitute of some sort. Although you can choose different tacts in the conversation here, all roads lead to an extended fistfight with the Woodsman, where you use multiple pieces of the environment to bash his face in. Inevitably, he’ll go for his enchanted axe, and you have to move quickly to subdue him. You’ll have several options here as well, with more conversation points, but they all lead to you plummeting to onto the roof of Toad’s car below, where the fight continues. At the climax, the Woodsman pummels Bigby’s face, trying to get him to wolf out, before an axe gets buried in the back of his head, courtesy the woman from the altercation above.
“The Wolf Among Us” definitely feels smoother than “The Walking Dead” did, and it is clear that the development team has learned a lot from that experience. The striking artwork, combined with an improved and accelerated conversation system, makes this feel like a next-gen Telltale title. “Fables” has long been a favorite of fans in the Vertigo realm, and this game feels ready to impress us just as much as “The Walking Dead” did. With a Willingham-approved storyline and game design, it might just do that.