With the release of its third episode, A Crooked Mile, Telltale Game’s newest series A Wolf Among Us hit its halfway point this week, and I’d thought it was time to give my impressions of the tale so far. Based off and a prequel of sorts to series writer Bill Willingham’s Fables graphic novels, The Wolf Among Us is a dark detective noir-style thriller set in a section of 1980s New York occupied secretly by classic fairy tale characters, refugees displaced into our world after theirs was destroyed. You play as Bigby-a.k.a. the Big Bad Wolf and currently sheriff of Fabletown- and follow his pursuit of the perpetrator behind a grisly series of murders.
The game is driven by the same mechanics that drive Telltale’s beloved series The Walking Dead. Playing out like an interactive HBO series, each episode is driven forward by player driven dialogue decisions, light adventure game like exploration, key decision points, and QTE-like action sequences. While definitely not deep in terms of player interaction, Telltale does a great job of making the actions that the player does have feel meaningful, with the action sequences tense and the timed decision making even tenser. Moreso than in the Walking Dead, I’ve felt more regretful or doubting of my decisions as I make them in this series, as the tangled web of a complex murder mystery has a lot more ways it can go wrong than character disposition in a survival situation. Leads can dry up, or evidence can get lifted from a scene if you didn’t arrive their fast enough because you decided to check somewhere else first, and this can lead you to question whether you are on the right track at all. The Wolf Among Us also adds in a little dash of Phoenix Wright and/or L.A. Noire to its gameplay through its occasional crime scene detective work, which does a nice job of slowing down the pace and adding back in some adventure game aspects into the game.
Of course, the mechanics of a Telltale game are all there in service of the story, and as of now it’s a story I’m chomping at the bit for more. The narrative has already taken a fair amount of twists, with this murder case spinning itself a wider and stickier web of lies and intrigue with each episode, just like a good noir should. Bigby’s tired, grizzled detective can be as understanding or as ruthless as the player sees fit, and each decision feels organic and natural with the flow of the story.
For those who enjoyed Telltale’s previous work with The Walking Dead, this series is almost guaranteed to be for you. If you’re not a fan of detective stories, this might not be for you, but if you are, this will more than scratch your itch for a good mystery now that True Detective is over and Sherlock will be back again who knows when. The Wolf Among Us only has two more episodes left to unravel the identity of the killer and the greater conspiracy surrounding them and all of Fabletown, and I look forward to impatiently waiting to see how it turns out.