Things are a bit Grimm in Fabletown.
Take all of the characters from popular fairy tales, the likes of Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood or Beauty and the Beast, have them forcibly removed from their mystical lands and relocate them in New York. That is the idea behind Bill Willingham’s comic book series Fables, and now the subject for Telltale’s latest episodic adventure, The Wolf Among Us.
The tale told in The Wolf Among Us is set a while before the first issue of the Fables comic. These magical characters have been forced to evacuate their homeland by someone known only as “The Adversary” and have now found themselves in New York. Their community, known as Fabletown, consists of all the Fables who are able to blend in with the human population either due to their natural appearance or through “glamours” purchased from witches to change their appearance. The most important thing is to not let the normal humans, or Mundanes, know of their existence, and those who cannot blend in are sent upstate to “The Farm”.
The task of policing the Fables of Fabletown falls onto Bigby Wolf, formerly known as The Big Bad Wolf. Through an amnesty offered when the Fables fled their homeland, all crimes from before the fleeing have been forgotten, giving Bigby and other less than reputable Fables a clean slate in New York. However, as players take on the role of Bigby Wolf in The Wolf Among Us, Fables seem to have long memories and the past just cannot be forgotten.
The rich world created by the Fables comic books makes for a wonderful setting to The Wolf Among Us. This first episode begins with Bigby being called to a disturbance involving The woodsman, a Fable with whom Bigby has history, and a mystery woman. As this is an episodic adventure, don’t be expecting to get any answers at the end of this two hour romp through Fabletown. Rather, expect more questions and cliffhangers right before a “Next time in The Wolf Among Us” teasing sequence. But let’s just say that the adventure gets off to a brilliant start that does a good job of introducing the characters and setting to newcomers while paying nice fan service to those who read the comics.
A fairytale adventure, this is not. It may be that Fabletown is filled with characters like Jack Horner, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White, but this is no tale for children. As with the previous Telltale adventure, The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is strictly for the mature audience, which is one of the appeals of the comic books. Putting these fairytale characters in mature situations makes them really interesting. This first episode includes a wide variety of quite brutal violence, heavy drinking and smoking, and prostitution. It may only last two hours, but that will be enough to make an impact on any who have yet to read the comics, and likely convince them to rush out and buy them.
Speaking of The Walking Dead, Telltale have pretty much carried through the same gameplay mechanics into The Wolf Among Us. Players will control Bigby from a third-person view as they move him around the various environments during his investigations. Items of interest are highlighted for the player, allowing them to examine or pick up any clues that may be found. Various quicktime events pop up from time to time, forcing the player to act reasonably quickly in pressing a particular button or such, usually during a fight or in pursuit of a suspect.
And players will also find themselves talking at length to the other characters they encounter. Once again, Telltale have included a consequence mechanic in this adventure, ensuring that the players choices will have an effect on the game. This is most obvious when certain choices are made and, at the top of the screen, a notification pops up saying that this action will be remembered by the character involved. This will no doubt result in differences in the game further down the line, making each choice, even if just a verbal response, a potential game changer. There are also a couple of major choices that the player is faced with that will have a more immediate effect, such as which suspect to chase or where to go first. These choices are what makes the game so involving.
Visually, we have a cel-shaded look that is left very reminiscent of the style in the Fables comics. It really does look good, with a grittiness that may be shocking before the player truly understands the setting in which they find themselves. The audio too is of a high standard, never overwhelming the all-important dialogue which, as with the soundtrack, is incredibly good and well acted.
As this is only the first episode of many, it is difficult to tell where the story will go. But The Wolf Among Us has got off to a good start. The mechanics, audio and visuals are of the high standard you would expect from a Telltale game – the same level of quality that left The Walking Dead with so much praise. Bill Willingham’s Fables is a brilliant setting for a dark and twisted adventure game, and this first episode only serves to leave the player wanting to continue their adventure. Bring on epsiode 2!