Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: Sheriff Bigby Wolf is the law-keeper for a hidden band of fairy-tale characters who reside in the seedy streets of New York. When one of them shows up dead at his front door, he is plunged into a shocking conspiracy…
There seems to be no stopping Telltale Games right now. They are definitely one of the more exciting gaming companies out there right now, coming up with the breath-taking Walking Dead Game. With games failing to find the right balance between game and story, The Walking Dead could be argued to be the closest hit yet. And while I am exciting for season two, I am glad that the company have turned their focus to another comic book to adapt, and even more importantly, a completely new genre. I want to see what else this style of game has up its sleeve.
Despite not seeing the comics, I think exposition is handled well and we are given a good account on where our allegiances should lie and who isn’t to be trusted (of course, with some of the Telltale cloudy moralities thrown into the mix). After some terrible disaster in the Woodlands, which saw many lives taken (apparently Little Red Riding Hood didn’t make it – will that come up in a later episode?), the Fairy Tale community fled to New York, where they use a magic cloaking ability called Glamour to make their appearance see human (if you cannot afford it, you are sent to the farm, which is a glorified prison, according to the inhabitants). The Big Bad Wolf is a reformed character from his villainous days and he has become the law-keeper that the rest of the community don’t truly trust. When a dead Fable (a fairy tale inhabitant) turns up at his doorstep, the player is thrown into a mystery to determine who the killer is where every wrong move could mean another death.
I enjoy how the story tackles the actual fairy tale characters, although the comic book series should probably get most of the credit for that. Fairy tales are interesting to depict outside of their genre, as these characters are so set in stone that I enjoy a writer exploring outside of that box. During my English Literature course, I read so many alternative versions of Little Red Riding Hood (including one, where she mowed down the Big Bad Wolf with a semi-automatic), yet Episode One does some interesting things with the fable. I also enjoy that although the Wolf and the Woodsman, or Woody as we know him here, are some of the main figures of this series, Little Red Riding Hood is a symbol lost in the past. It is a strong and gripping take on a story told to death. Other tid-bits I appreciated were one of the three little pigs turning up to remind Wolf that he owes them a house. This series is a dark one, but it never forgets that small light of comedy that Telltale Games have such a finely-tuned balance over.
But it isn’t just fairy tales that Wolf Among Us needs to tackle, but the seedy world of Noir. Noir is one of my favourite genres, so this game is pretty much the perfect area for Telltale Games to tackle in my books. They have all of the trademarks pinned down so well. The mysterious femme fatale who is tied up with the wrong people, the corrupt politicians stopping you from properly doing your job. The lead character is the perfect Noir hero as well. The difference between a noir hero and a classic detective fiction hero (like Sherlock Holmes and Poirot), is that while they are distant from the crimes and murder, a Noir detective is usually dangerously entangled in the case (romantically involved with one of the main suspects, is usually the most common). Bigby Wolf has a dark past, compelled to help those who have been dealt a shitty hand in life and on top of all that, has a sharp, dry sense of humour. One of the most satisfying aspects of the game is letting your character come back with the perfect retort to an insult. You feel like you are in your own detective movie. Visually it is impressive as well. Every frame feels like it has pulled right out of a comic book panel. The noir imagery is juxtaposed with the harsh neon lights of the underbelly of New York. Certain shots are magnificently done. Every frame is glorious to look at.
But story is all well and good, but what about the gameplay? Well, it’s Telltale Games gameplay, so again, this is for the non-gamer. There are more fights though, although they are made up of quick time events and thinking fast. They are done well, but if you were dissuaded by the slower approach that Telltale Games usually takes, then this game is not for you. New fans might come from those that liked LA Noire. This game does ask you to think and the exploring a crime scene moments must have been inspired from that game. There’s room to improve here, but this first episode feels more like a tutorial, rather than truly applying your skills to good use. I am anxious to see how the series involves as it grows over the next few months.
The real exciting thing about this game is how it makes you think. We know from Walking Dead that a wrong move could totally change the story. A character you have grown fond of could turn against you, or you could end up heading down a path that results in their death. There is a moment midway in the game where you need to choose which crime scene to check out first. It is a tense moment as you realise that going to the wrong one could stagger the case and give the killer good time to make an escape, letting the trail go cold. This is the closest we have ever come to a detective show in a game and I am loving every moment of it. I also like the fact that you have to tell the game who is your main suspect by the end of the level. It helps organise your thoughts, although I am sure there will be a few twists that will shake things up along the way.
Final Verdict: There is no other game like this out there, taking everything that made their previous games work so well and applying that to a thrilling murder mystery.