Back in 2012, game developer Telltale Games released a video game set in the insanely popular “Walking Dead” universe to widespread critical acclaim. Telltale Games took home award after award for its work on “The Walking Dead” and for, more specifically, the game’s intense writing and difficult moral choices. Telltale Games not only proved that writing can make the game, but that an “episodic” release model is a viable one.
For those that have never heard of this so-called “episodic” model, it’s fairly straightforward. Every month or two, a new episode is released that’s only a couple hours in length. Your decisions and gameplay choices from the previous episode carry over, allowing players to pick up the story from where it last left off. The end of each episode usually ends with a cliffhanger with a teaser for the next episode. The season will run about five episodes or so before ending.
While “The Walking Dead” is a cultural phenomenon right now and is thus well known, fewer have heard of Bill Willingham’s “Fables” universe. “Fables” is a comic book series that portrays popular fairy-tale and folk story characters after they’ve been forced to relocate from their magical lands to modern-day New York in a suburb dubbed Fabletown. If you have not read the comic books, but would like to play the game, you don’t need to worry. The game’s story takes place before the comic’s story begins.
One plays as Bigby Wolf, who is basically The Big Bad Wolf of fairy-tale legend. Trying to repent for all the terrible things he’s done in his past, Bigby has taken up the mantle of sheriff in Fabletown, though many of Fabletown’s residents don’t trust him. When a fable is found brutally murdered on the steps outside Bigby’s apartment complex, Bigby begins to investigate. The story plays out like a noir murder mystery.
The gameplay is pretty simple, as it’s a point-and-click adventure game. You’ll walk around small areas looking for clues in the environment, gathering evidence for whatever lead you may be following at the time. It’s pretty threadbare and while I didn’t take issue with it, someone who likes a lot of action or deep gameplay may want to look elsewhere. Of the few action scenes, they are all done through quick time events. A QTE is basically an on-screen button prompt that you have to follow. Failure to do so at certain points is really the only thing that will give you a “Game Over” screen in “Wolf Among Us.”
This is where “Wolf Among Us” really shines. The writing and dialogue is top notch, which is great because about 75 percent of your in-game time is spent in conversations. The player chooses how Bigby reacts to certain situations and characters through dialogue choices. The characters you run into are colorful and interesting, and very well written and voice acted. This makes everyone feel tangible and believable, even though they are fairytales.
The game also makes tough choices that much more difficult. From choosing between investigating a time sensitive crime scene or helping out someone in need, the choices in “Wolf Among Us” require players to decide fast. A bar runs down with every dialogue and action choice, forcing the player to act. Be indecisive, and Bigby may fail to act in a critical situation.
“Wolf Among Us” sports a beautiful visual design. The whole game looks like a comic book in motion with thick black lines giving everything a hand-drawn look. Even though a majority of the game takes place at nighttime, the color palette is broad and striking. Characters are incredibly expressive and visually distinctive. It is a pleasure to watch in motion.
“The Wolf Among Us Episode 1: Faith” is a strong first outing. The writing is masterful, the characters interesting and the game’s art direction is superb. Its story focus and simple gameplay make this title easy to recommend to someone who doesn’t play a lot of games. A massive plot twist at the end of the episode has left me hungry for more, and I can’t wait to return to Fabletown. “Wolf Among Us Episode 1: Faith” has easily earned five out of five stars from me.