Genre: Graphic Adventure
Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Platforms: PC, PS3, XBOX 360, iOS, Android
Feeling Like: A little piggy
Is this my first Telltale game?
It is! Oh boy!
Telltale Games could do no wrong in my eyes from about 2012-2014. The Walking Dead was not only my game of the year selection for Snackbar Games in 2012, it’s ludicrously high on my all time list. I always enjoyed point and click adventure games at Dobbo’s house, like the King’s Quest series or Leisure Suit Larry, but they never quite reached the emotional highs I was seeking. If you count being terrified, however, Phantasmagoria certainly hit that nerve.
But I heard amazing things from the Indoor Kids Podcast about Telltale’s most successful game to date and for the next few years, I was completely hooked on everything they did. I loved the emphasis on characters and plot progression over gameplay, it felt like a nice break from all the other FPS or RPGs I tend to play. There’s very little chance of defeat; I might miss on a quick time event, but that’s all part of the ride. It’s rare to get a game over.
Instead of levels, bosses and secrets, it’s all about following your character through the story. You have some agency about what kind of person they’ll be as the dialogue options will determine what kind of relationship you develop with the other denizens of Fabletown. Sometimes crucial choices will present themselves and, if the game is doing a good job, you will feel conflicted about what path to take. I know I did.
The cel-shaded graphics are really well done, it’s appropriate tonally as The Wolf Among Us is based off a set of graphic novels about a detective in a hard-boiled/film noire set in New York in the 1980s. Everything looks grimy, even the good looking characters appear to be beaten up, either physically or mentally. You can’t entirely trust anybody. There’s a murder and a mystery, but that’s not the entire point of the game.
The “Fables” react to your character with trepidation and fear. There’s clearly some backstory that isn’t presented at first and many conversations will be about the past as much as the present. I’m a bit embarrassed to say how long it took me to understand that the character I was controlling, “Bigby” was the Big Bad Wolf. Then it clicked why the other Fables were apprehensive of me, even though I felt like I was just trying to help.
This is my jam. Decisions often led to me feeling guilty, mostly due to the excellent voice acting but also because there’s rarely an easy choice. Options aren’t as simple as “be nice” or “be mean”, “help” or “don’t help”. Bigby is trying his best, but when you find out that people are lying to you and there’s a murderer on the loose, you don’t always have time to be diplomatic.
I never understood the notion that your choices don’t matter. This may be blowback to the often advertised highlight of these types of games; if my choices matter, why does everybody see the same ending? To that complaint, I shrug. My choices do matter. I see different dialogue trees. Maybe a character survives or doesn’t based on what I say or do. Maybe I’m more forgiving on the developers since I’m naturally inclined to love this genre. I never once felt like my choices were irrelevant, but to be honest even if they were, it wouldn’t be a detriment. I’m here for the show.
The finale was more than worth it; Bigby finally reveals his true form and you finally understand why the rest of the Fables are terrified of him. The ending was more than satisfying, though I will admit the details escape me. The tragedy, of course, is that there’s a bit of a cliffhanger at the end and we never got season two! We’re supposed to get it next year, but when it comes to a modern iteration of a Telltale game, I’m not holding my breath. Didn’t the company go under? I’m so confused.
It’s my least favorite Telltale game and it’s still one of the best graphic adventures I’ve ever played. I still haven’t gotten the satisfaction from other narrative type games, so maybe I’m just a Telltale fanboy? Regardless, The Wolf Among Us is unforgettable; seeing classic fairy tale characters in a dirty, brutal New York is a strange combination, but it works fantastically well.