Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: April 8 (PC, PS3), April 9 (Xbox 360, iOS)
“There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.”
When it was announced that Telltale Games were taking on additional IP’s (including Borderlands and Game of Thrones), many were left wishing that the quality of their game products would not dip to a lower standard. If the recent entry in The Walking Dead didn’t have you convinced otherwise, Episode 3 of The Wolf Among Us should convince you that there is no stopping this narrative-driven game development train.
Leading off right from the tail end of the events of Episode 2, “A Crooked Mile” places Bigby Wolf picking up the pieces after a grizzly and shocking revelation that provides him with a key witness. Players do what they have done best in previous episodes; gather evidence, question witnesses and involved parties, make difficult dialogue choices and make sure not to piss off the wrong people. Diplomacy works most often in The Wolf Among Us, however getting your hands dirty can also get the job done quicker.
It is in those moral dilemmas that have been Telltale Games’ writing staff’s bread and butter over the past years, and in “A Crooked Mile,” the decision-making becomes the most powerful motivator yet. Some choices feel like they could be life or death scenarios for those involved. Doing something dangerous or immoral might be easier to do if it weren’t for other members in your party (like Snow White or Beauty) present, available for scorn and judgment. I had to force myself from not replaying every scenario in all multitudes of options and learn to deal with the consequences.
Every aspect of the writing and direction The Wolf Among Us has involved in its third episode has taken a great step forward. Keeping the noir-esque murder mystery notions in mind, the clues that arise come both in grand and subtle notion. Looking through extra case files can help you paint a better picture of the world of Fabletown and its many magical denizens. Character dialogue is quite believable. Even the humor, which is reserved to break up the grim and torrid pacing, is used quite masterfully. I am beginning to enjoy this more than I am in The Walking Dead, something I can’t believe I am saying.
One of my biggest gripes with The Wolf Among Us, in the past, is in the technical limitations. The PC version seems to run fine, but the long loading times and broken-up frame rate issues on the PS3 seemed to be bandaged over instead of looked into. I am happy to report that the PS3 version has been greatly improved. Problems with doing quick scene changes in recaps at the beginning and end of the episode no longer occur, and the loading screen slowdowns are limited to one or two short situations. I’m glad that Telltale Games took the time to work on this, as it was one of the main reasons why players should pick up the PC version over a console edition.
A stark criticism of games like The Wolf Among Us is the illusion of choice. It operates as a linear graphic adventure game, where you dictate how exactly the end-game plays out along the journey. To me, that is where the fun lies; in sussing the story out while gathering clues and engaging in well-acted scenarios. “A Crooked Mile” doesn’t pretend to be a procedurally-generated game; it involves the player in its detailing while conveying the message it wants to send.
For example (avoiding critical plot spoilers as best as possible), there is a point in this episode where Bigby must choose where to investigate further. Out of three options, you must choose one place to go to first. Depending on your choice, the story shifts based on what you know and what you don’t know by avoiding an entire scenario altogether. I love the fact that relevant information told in a linear story can be discovered through a non-linear way. It is quite a refreshing way to proceed without spoonfeeding information to the player, and is one of The Wolf Among Us’ strengths.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the lightness of the gameplay in this episode. Excluding one or two spots, there is a lot less action or puzzle-solving in “A Crooked Mile” that one might hope for. While the story content can make up for it a bit, need I have to remind readers that this is a video game. Story takes precedent, but gameplay should at least have some focus outside of dialogue choices. What happened to opening hidden treasures, chasing after suspects and everything else that prevented the game from being called a hallway simulator?
The Wolf Among Us doesn’t hold back in its third episode of five. We learn almost all of the players involved, uncover truths about their roles and set ourselves up for the slow burn towards the end. Outside of gameplay, everything is on point in Bigby’s tale of uncovering the true murderer of Fabletown’s victims. Story, technical execution, voice acting, artistic styling; the Fables comic series is having justice done in its video game prequel adaptation. No longer as predictable as once thought, Bigby is in for the biggest uphill battle of his life. I couldn’t be more invested in seeing a mystery play out to its conclusion.
(A code has been provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)