Set in Fabletown, NYC, USA, 1986, The Wolf Among Us takes you through the lives of the Fable residents as they continue adjusting to life outside of the colloquially named Homelands, what we would know as the collections stories and fables that told us of their origins. Even in this real world, the Fables have memories of their pasts and recognize each other even in their glamour forms use to hide themselves from human eyes. These are working people, just trying to make it the way most immigrants would.
The time period sets you up for what kind of story is to follow. The mid to late 80s in American history is a rather turbulent time period. After a series of economic growth spurts in the US following the oil price shocks of the 70s, the mid to late 80s were characterized by a bit of chaos as large manufacturers close up shop to move operations overseas and the fated but long pushed for ramping up of the War on Drugs. Joblessness, hopelessness, mistrust of government, and the like abound, it is a very chaotic time in history and in the story’s of our characters here.
Sheriff Bigby Wolf is just trying to get a little rest, but the city, and he, never sleeps. Responding to a call for domestic violence, Bigby halts the abuse of a prostitute, Faith, as he takes down The Woodsman, his natural foe. Little did Bigby know this was the first domino as that night, Snow, Mayor’s assistant, finds Faith’s head on the doorstep of the Woodlands apartment building. What follows is a long investigation headed by Bigby and Snow to track down Faith’s killer.
This isn’t an open world game however, your decisions and choices allow for you to see as much of the city as you would like. Prompts give you choices between locations and people to talk to as well as the usual variety of responses you can give in tense and normal conversation that can be expected in TellTale games. Craft the type of sheriff and person you think Bigby should be. Will he be the Big Bad Wolf or will you turn him into a docile character in search of peace and willing to do anything to find it.
The Wolf Among Us continues in the line of interactive experience games offered to the public on every device imaginable, except PS4 and Xbox One until later this year, and it exceeds the feats of even it’s predecessor, The Walking Dead: Season 1.
High praise, but when you break it all down, the decisions you make in Wolf Among Us, color more of the perceptions people have for you and you have a far greater ability to change the narrative around your character and the path of the game than you ever had with Lee in the first season of The Walking Dead. Everyone already knows who you are, Sherif Bigby Wolf, aka The Big Bad Wolf, and everyone knows what you’re capable of. Your history precedes you the moment you walk into a room. Sometimes it can make the job easy and other times it makes the job hard. Either way, your ability to take keen notice of how you deal with people paints not only how you’re seen by the public of your fellow fables, but also how you solve the cases of those around you.
From language to content, The Wolf Among Us earns every bit of an M rating, but it feels worth it once you understand who these characters are and what they’re going through in Fabletown. The mayor Ichabod Crane, poor tenants like Toad and Tiny Tim, and other characters will adorn our doorstep and your travels through Fabletown and figuring out how to help or stop these characters will draw you even more into this murder mystery you find Bigby attempting to solve.
If there is any downside to the richness of the known backstories of the characters, it is the absence of any explanation of how those who reside in the real world got there and how those who didn’t make it fared, not every fable is represented or mentioned in the story. This is something likely explained more in further episodes, but it really makes each character a bit more interesting to wonder what spurred them to seek out a new life for themselves outside of their own stories and within ours. There is also little human interaction or care given towards how many times it seems like humans should be responding to some of the things that the fables find themselves a part of.
Ultimately, the slow unveil of what happened to each of the characters in the Wolf Among Us is a part of the appeal of the game because it will leave you wondering in what way you can continue to gather more information on what these characters have been up to since crossing over into our world. That is where the intrigue lies within the Wolf Among Us; to focus on the “how” would be like parsing through time travel in the movie Looper. As they said there, it’s simply not worth the time to explain it.
Unfortunately, technology on occasion will truly detract from the story. The glitches, crashes, and frame drops I experienced in my playthrough of the game on PS3 were nauseating, causing me to spend many moments waiting to see if something was loading if it had crashed. Normally, I am partial to playing these type of games with the touchscreen of my iPhone or iPad as I think it makes it easier to respond than with the analog sticks on a console controller. For my first time playing this on a console, the game completely crashed more than once in the midst of playing the game, the loading screens between various scenes took over a minute to go through and heaven forbid you get a trophy in the midst of the loading. This could not mean much for you, but as someone who is a bit more impatient when playing through story-driven games it takes me out of the moment to constantly be on the lookout for whether or not the game has glitched or if it’s just the usual slow loading time. In scenes where a lot of action happened on screen, frames would often drop causing jumps from moving images leaving difficulty in being able to respond to some of the prompts.
The majority of my problems with the game come from that paragraph above. The technical issues far outweigh any continuity issues in the story for me. This is a simple enough game asking complex questions about what it means when we ask, “Who is the wolf among us?” There are few games to have tackled the role of government in crime as effectively as The Wolf Among Us in asking the right questions without harping on what are the outcomes of improper of poorly coordinated governance. You’ll eventually even have to figure out for yourself what is good and what is bad. These intricate ways in which the game thwarts some of the more holistic ideals of government alongside the intelligent ways your responses to people paint your character in their eyes, create a very intriguing game.
I wish I could say more here about the story, but I think it better if you just play through it. If you would like to read some of my spoilerific thoughts on the game, then please continue reading below the review score.