The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 Review: Grimmly Satisfying

Credit for that is due in part to the great voice cast, all of which feel born for the characters they bring to life. After a decade imagining how they’d sound, it’s gratifying to hear them matching my personal expectations almost exactly, but I imagine people new to the universe will find the performances equally compelling if only for the world weariness and anxiety each actor brings to the role.

Longtime readers will instantly recognize certain characters who are, in the main series, long since dead. They’ll also have built-in context for the world in which the game takes place. The uninitiated, however, might get a little lost. Fables might be Vertigo’s most popular title, but readership is vastly smaller than the massive success enjoyed by The Walking Dead. Further, while the Walking Dead also benefits from a hit TV series, Willingham’s comic has instead been the unfortunate victim of some of the most blatant ripping-off in recent memory. ABC’s “Once Upon A Time” and the recent film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters are only the most egregious.

Not helping matters is the fact that while The Wolf Among Us ably captures the spirit of the comic series, it treats everything in it as taken for granted. All of this means players new to the world might find it either derivative or confusing. To help this out, Telltale has included unlockable documents from a codex of sorts explaining the background of the story as well as character bios. But as we’ve seen with some recent, more high profile games, reliance on supplemental material to flesh out a narrative is rarely the best way to make sense of things.

But these are small problems easily mitigated by the clever detective story and great acting. Perhaps the only real disappointment to be found – and it’s a small one – is in the general impotence of the story’s murder investigation. You’ll search around for clues, examine them, interrogate NPCs and so on, and it’s fun. But much like in the earlier The Walking Dead, when talking to NPCs dialogue choices are superficially straightforward, but they don’t really clue you into how characters will react to you. It’s definitely a much less punishing version of LA Noire’s inscrutable investigation mechanic, but nonetheless feels slightly superfluous.

In addition, while The Wolf Among Us has Telltale’s trademark branching outcomes system, the branches often lead to the same place. There are a couple of instances in which you can have a very, very different result depending on how you proceed, and these moments are genuinely surprising. But for the most part, you know you’re going to end up crashing out of a window, or getting into a fight with a Danish monster, regardless of what you do. It’s far from being a game breaker, but it might disappoint players hoping for wildly different experiences during replays.

But it must be said again that these problems are minor. Obviously, fleshing out the story narratively would require much longer episodes than Telltale tends to make, and based on what’s seen here, I’m confident there will be much more delving into the world of Fables beyond the codex. And if The Wolf Among Us is going to be a richer experience for those who come in fully familiar with the source material, it’s only a matter of tiny degrees. Further, branching outcomes or not, it’s still a faithful adaptation of the source material, and a pretty decent detective story as well.

If you’re a fan of the comic series, The Wolf Among Us is proof that it lends itself easily to adaptation. If you’ve never touched it, even with the somewhat steep lore-learning curve it’s a fine introduction with plenty of promise. And if you just love a Telltale Games production, rest assured you’ll come away happy. Not a bad deal for a game that’ll set you back five dollars per episode. Play it if you haven’t already, and wash the taste of Once Upon A Time out of your mouth for good.

Pros:

  • Well-written story that captures the comic series’ tone and style perfectly
  • Story expands on previously established canon adeptly
  • Voice cast feels perfectly chosen
  • Well-plotted mystery that makes the series’ fantastic setting feel real
  • Branching story has promise, actual surprises

Cons:

  • Choices offered to players are sometimes pointless, some scenes play out in a specific way regardless
  • Dialogue options don’t provide a clear indication of how characters will react to what you say
  • Could use some backstory for people unfamiliar with the series

Final Score: 89/100

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2 Comments on The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 Review: Grimmly Satisfying

Michael

On October 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

So this piece of unfinished crap gets an 89 while beyond 2 souls gets a 55. I give up. Telltale makes a bunch of crappy games. Is it because its 5 bucks? THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE GAME. Ugh…

Sense

On October 19, 2013 at 3:47 am

Michael, are you trying to win some award for the most vapid comments ever posted? I know from your troll posts on the Beyond: Two Souls review (which was completely fair and accurate) that you’ve got your tongue lodged up David Cage’s rectum and can’t accept when valid criticism is directed towards his work, but this is just too stupid to even really analyse. The Wolf Among Us is not ‘unfinished’ – it’s episodic. The episode itself IS finished. The whole idea of an episode videogame is that it’s released in self-contained episodes. If you can’t understand that basic concept then you should just give up on videogames entirely. The irony is that David Cage’s games have such piss-poor writing that they come closer to being unfinished than just about anything.

Please do give up, because what you’re trying to achieve is on par with a lobotomised dung beetle.