rating: 4Pessimism and disappointment ran its course on The Wolf Among Us throughout development. Not only is Telltale Games coming off of a plethora of award accolades for The Walking Dead, theres also just so much feverish anticipation for Season 2 that not many became enthusiastic with the plans of a new episodic series hitting first. Furthermore, a sizeable amount of the gaming industry became worried that the success of The Walking Dead was a fluke and that Telltale should strictly focus on it instead of venturing into other comic book adaptations. As always, the simplest and most honest way to gauge the credibility of these accusations is to just wait patiently for the release, play the game, and pass judgment. I am pleasantly pleased to announce that The Walking Dead wasnt a fluke. If anything, for months and months upon end you are going to be treated to multiple internet debates and arguments over which episodic series is better. Based on a line of Vertigo graphic novels by Bill Willingham dubbed Fables", obviously this series doesnt carry with it a strong mainstream presence similar to The Walking Dead; its actually pretty niche. Also similarly, you thankfully dont need previous experience with the comics to fully understand the narrative http://youtu.be/QIgx0vPPDtA Instead, Fables and more specifically The Wolf Among Us uses its highly imaginative setting to create intrigue. This is a world set in the sleazy slums of Manhattan where Fables (Characters you will most definitely know from your childhood such as Snow White, Ichabod Crane, etc.) live amongst human beings albeit by glamouring themselves to blend in as normal humans. Centralized to all these classic characters is a hardened no-nonsense Sheriff Bigby Wolf whom is not only the Big Bad Wolf of legend, but tasked with keeping these characters from doing anything that could potentially blow their cover. That includes literally killing each other which brings me to probably the most enticing creative decision of the franchise; this is not a romanticized story about mythical characters you grew up with. If I had to draw comparisons, I would equate the narrative as a cross between Watchmen (Adult oriented envisioning of a subject often romanticized) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Someone is killing off Fables one by one), all dressed up in the Point and Click design of a Telltale game like The Walking Dead. Some of the fairy tale characters in this rendition are actually prostitutes abused by The Woodsman. One of the Three Little Pigs lives with Bigby, only he isnt the loveable animal that is burned into your mind here, but rather an overgrown, hideous looking pig that enjoys alcohol. My point is that this game is not your average interpretation of these characters but rather seemingly throws you curveballs at every possible turn in its accomplished effort at setting itself apart from more family friendly versions. What we are left with is a game where Bigby Wolf investigates some horrifically grisly and mysterious events where the player must find clues, piece plot points together, and make very difficult narrative choices that will affect future segments and episodes. Everything from the noir-ish slums of Manhattan decorated in neon lights, trash, and morally ambiguous characters to the presentation of fabled characters normally associated with childrens tales and Disney films receiving this ugly makeover to tell a gripping story clouded in murder and mystery mesh together creating one of the most striking and refreshing atmospheres in ages. Its all executed with a sense of style and superbly written dialogue that shows Telltale really knows what theyre doing with these characters. As usual for a Telltale experience the gameplay is very minimalistic and takes a backseat to the narrative, but there are still Quick Time Events and dialogue choices amongst your detective exploration. The QTEs have actually received what Telltale obviously intended as an enhancement but is actually met with some frustration. Tapping a button or pressing down on an analog stick isnt very intrusive or challenging but rather a tried and true concept that works and has become commonplace in most video games. Sometimes however, Telltale insists on you moving a red circle over something in the environment designated by yet another red circle, and what sounds incredibly simple rears its head as a flaky exercise in practice. When youre in physical combat this isnt really a huge deal because chances are, the red circle you have to overlap another circle with is openly plastered on whoever youre fighting in plain sight. Its when youre chasing someone and a circle appears in the distance that will disorient you resulting in you messing up. Either the color of the circle needs optimization resulting in less blending in with the environment or this mechanic just needs to be completely tossed aside because as it is, its a nuisance. Also, while this is graphically the most detailed and vibrant game Telltale has put out, there are some framerate hiccups that can completely stall your game for 2-3 seconds at a time. The loading screens can feel tediously long at times too as the game loads different areas. Its still a remarkably looking game however that most definitely nails the graphic novel visual tone. Roundtrip out the overall presentation is a wonderful synthesized soundtrack fitting of a murder mystery in this warped of a setting. Episode 1 lasted me around 2 hours and offers some very tantalizing branching paths to test out, which isnt a bad deal at all for $5. Whether its the dialogue, absolutely shocking ending, or the amalgamation of seedy Manhattan with fairy tale characters in an adult oriented setting, The Wolf Among Us will hook the everlasting hell out of your leaving you clawing through your wallet for the debit card to buy the Season Pass for the remaining 4 episodes (due out hopefully sooner than later). Until then, there is already some fascinating discussion to be had that will hopefully smooth over the anxiety filled wait, and that is ideally the mark of a truly great episodic series. Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us is available now in NA and the UK for PS3, 360, and PC
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