The Wolf Among Us: Who Doesn’t Love The Big Bad Wolf?
By Jon White, Multimedia Reporter
The Big Bad Wolf is the upholder of the law; Georgie Porgie is a pimp; Mr. Toad is a slumlord… while it may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, this is the world that Fables: The Wolf Among Us presented. The game is based off of Bill Willingham’s comic book series, Fables. Calling it a video game in the traditional sense may be a little bit misleading, as it plays out like an interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. You control the character, but your actions are limited to simple button presses. While this may take away in some games, In The Wolf Among Us, it helps to focus on the story.
For those who are unfamiliar with Fables, it takes classic fairy tales and transplants them into the normal world. There are still magic powers, but they have to hide it from regular people (called “Mundys”). All the fairy tale characters (called Fables), are similar to what a reader remembers, but their representation is shown to be quite literal. For example, Prince Charming is the same one that wooed Snow White, Cinderella etc…making him a playboy and a scoundrel, as he is quite hated for his polygamous attitude.
The biggest difference between the game and the comic is that they have different narrative style. Fables was a hodgepodge of mystery, fantasy, action, and adventure, while The Wolf Among Us is first and foremost a detective story. There is still fantasy and action to be had and the tone is akin to film-noir detective movies from the first half of the twentieth century. While this may scare away fans of the comics, rest assured that once a player dives in, they will not be disappointed with the portrayal of the characters.
Even though the comics contain fairy tale characters, it is definitely not for children. Fables took the violence and shock value from the Brothers Grimm tales and pushed the boundaries further. There is no shortage of nudity, cursing, blood, or gore to be found in the pages of Fables. The Fables are battling for their survival, as they have retreated to our world since their world is wracked by war from someone known only as “The Adversary.” When there is a clash, there are blood and bodies left in the aftermath. There is also plenty of violence to be had in the area of New York, where the Fables reside. Thanks to classic characters and a lot of centuries old feuds, someone has to be there to keep the peace.
The character that keeps the peace, is The Big Bad Wolf (or Bigby as he goes by). He is portrayed as something of a werewolf, though he can change between wolf and man forms when he wants. Where Bigby differs from his classic literature version is that he not the villain that he was to Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. Bigby is the sheriff of Fableton and is extremely clever, making him the best detective the city has.
The Wolf Among Us decides to give us a prequel to the Fables comic series, as it showed Bigby starting out as the sheriff and stumbles upon a serial killer who specializes in killing off Fables. Rather than establishing Bigby as the good guy, he is still extremely feared by the other Fables due to his past. Characters have a hard time trusting Bigby, or else they are just too scared of him to help cooperate. Thanks to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style, the player chooses responses, lines of dialogue, and even how violently he reacts to a situation. The way you choose to act and the lines of dialogue will impact the game and change how future events play out. For example, if you get too violent towards a particular character, they will be reluctant to help you out later in the game. That being said, if you are too passive and just glide over everything, you may not have enough information to be able to solve the crime properly. There is the illusion of choice, however, as it seems that no matter what you choose, certain events revealed themselves regardless of what was chosen.
When Bigby is not out and about trying to solve the case, he is wrestling with his own demons. The developer, Telltale Games, did a wonderful job showcasing how deep Bigby’s character is. Using a very heavy film-noir tone, the darkness inside of Bigby is reflected in the places he visits and in the people he sees. There is a particular moment in Episode One, where Bigby is talking to Colin (one of the Three Little Pigs), and Colin tells Bigby that people do not hate Bigby, they fear him. Bigby replies back, “I thought we were all supposed to have a fresh start here. I can’t change the past,” to which Colin fires back, “Well, you can’t change people’s memories either.” The player then plays out the rest of Bigby’s journey, whether they want him to redeem the monster that is inside of him, or embrace it.
The voice acting for the game is top notch, with all of the dialogue coming through with convincing realism. The designers took the smarter path of having these characters speak naturally, as opposed to making them sound like a stereotyped Disney-version. For example, Mr. Toad is a foul-mouthed slumlord with a cockney accent, as opposed to sounding like some sort of cartoon frog that one has come to expect. The resulting dialogue is much more believable and authentic, which helps draw the player into the world.
The only glaring problem with the game stems from the technical side of things, not the gameplay itself. The game is frequently interrupted by frame rate issues, which shows the characters’ movements stuttering around. The frequency of these problems (which show up often in the second episode), is jarring and sadly pulls the player out of the game for a moment, hurting the flow of the storytelling. This problem has plagued Telltale Games’ other projects in the past (The Walking Dead, Jurassic Park), so it is perplexing that they have not found a way to correct this over the years. Despite the problems, it does not render the game unplayable.
There has been a minimal mention of the plot in this article to keep spoilers to a minimum. But, for anyone who loves the comics, or loves the fantasy characters and do not mind a lot of dialogue and minimal controller activity, they should give The Wolf Among Us is worth a shot. There are currently two of the five episodes available, as Telltale games chose to make the game in episodes, as opposed to releasing a full game. The episodes will take roughly two hours to complete, but the amount of different options heightens replay value. Be warned though; the journey is dark and violent, but it is well worth the ride to see who really is afraid of The Big Bad Wolf.
The Wolf Among Us was developed and published by Telltale Games and is available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.