The Wolf Among Us – Episode 1: Faith Review
With the success and acclaim Telltale Games had with The Walking Dead, the pressure to follow that episodic adventure up with another hit must have been insurmountable. For that task, Telltale dialed up another comic property, Fables, for the inspiration behind The Wolf Among Us. Though Vertigo's Fables is a popular comic, it doesn't have quite the same rabid (and massive) fanbase as the Walking Dead. It was a risky venture to follow up a zombie thriller with a hard noir story, but after playing just one episode of The Wolf Among Us, it's clear Telltale has another masterpiece on its hands.
The Wolf Among Us takes place some time before the comic series actually begins, so like The Walking Dead, no previous knowledge of the source material is required. There are flourishes throughout the story that longtime fans will appreciate, but Telltale does a nice job introducing new players to the world of Fabletown and its inhabitants. The story kicks off with Fabletown's resident sheriff, Bigby Wolf, called in to investigate a domestic disturbance at one the many Fables-only residences in New York. It's there he meets a mysterious woman suffering at the hands of one of Bigby's longtime nemeses, the Woodsman. As Bigby, you'll have to dispatch the burly man before you can start asking questions about the night's events.
The enigma at the center of The Wolf Among Us springs from Bigby's first encounter with this abused girl, and this meeting kicks off a chain of events that soon start spiraling out of control. Without saying too much about the narrative, there are plenty of twists in this first episode, and Telltale has captured the feel of an old-school pulp detective novel perfectly. Every sequence offers new pieces to the puzzle, but like a great noir, as you uncover more, you begin to realize the puzzle might actually be much larger than you expected. By the conclusion, you'll realize you don't actually have much of a clue about what's really happening at all. It's a wonderful bit of writing when a story can make you think you've got a hold on what's happening, only to find you've merely grabbed a thread.
For the most part, Wolf Among Us plays identically to The Walking Dead. You explore an area, and certain prompts will appear on items you can interact with in the world. The interface has been streamlined a little bit, and looks much cleaner as a result. The quick-time events have also been tweaked just a tad, making combat a bit more of a challenge. Most instances, you'll just have to hit the right face button in time, or move the right analog stick quickly enough to dodge an attack. Those moments are intuitive and straightforward enough, and they give you a sense of control, even though you don't get to do any actual fighting.
However, there are some other moments where you'll have to line up two circles, then hit one of the trigger buttons, and it's not immediately clear what to do. In fact, the first few times it happened, we weren't really sure what the game was asking us to do. Fortunately, there's no real failure to speak of. If you do happen to screw up a quick time event, it just means the fight drags on a little longer. Should you fail multiple times, you may have to replay a quick section, but at least you'll be better prepared for the second time through since events play out identically.
The same bold comic book-style artwork you might remember makes another appearance in The Wolf Among Us. It suits the game perfectly, and the crisp, bold lines provide some character to the world. Unlike The Walking Dead's more muted color palette, Wolf Among Us relies on a lot of heavy shadows and purples and blues to create a sense of personality. Comic fans might see a lot of similarities between the look of Wolf Among Us and the coloring style of Val Staples, colorist on (among other things) Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillips' Criminal. The deep hues really make this version of New York pop, and give it a sense of something dark lurking around every corner.
The Wolf Among Us - Episode 1: Faith continues showing Telltale has an incredible grasp on crafting outstanding adventure games. The story and characters are compelling, and coupled with gameplay tailor-made for this type of mystery, Wolf Among Us has a strong foundation for which to build success. There are still four more episodes to go, but Telltale is off to a great start in building one of the year's best games.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of The Wolf Among Us - Episode 1 provided by the publisher.