The Wolf Among Us – Episode 1: review

Join Snow White, Mr Toad and a huge cast of fabled characters in an adventure packed with murder, violence and more swearing than a dock yard exclusively manned by Tourette’s sufferers. The fairy tale world featured in The Wolf Among Us may be full of familiar names, but they’re presented in a way you’ve never seen them before. Think Disney gone bad (but in the most entertaining way possible).

Like Telltale’s The Walking Dead before it, The Wolf Among Us is based on a comic book series, this time the DC comic titled Fables. Set 20 years before the first issue, the game introduces players to the world fairly quickly, but in an easy to digest manner that doesn’t demand a prior in-depth knowledge of the characters. We were gripped in less than five minutes, as we were greeted by Mr Toad who went on to drop the F bomb and shatter our naivety that this one might be suitable for the kids.

Wold Among Us

Losing his house in a huff of wolf breath drove this little piggy to smoking

Players hop into the story as the Big Bad Wolf, who prefers to go by the name Bigby these days and is a lot more man-shaped than the beast you might expect. He’s the sheriff of Fabletown, a clandestine community in New York that consists of fairy tale characters who have been forced out of their fantasy homelands. We can imagine that policing New York would be stressful enough by itself, never mind if you’re responsible for a group of fairy tale characters trying to adapt to life amongst the mundies (the affectionate name given to mundane people born of this mortal world). From here the story picks up fast and really digs its claws into your eyes, compelling you to play on just to see what happens next. It would be a crime to spoil any of it, so we’ll swiftly move on and let you enjoy it exactly how Telltale wants you to.

Gameplay isn’t a thumb testing tour of duty, with sections limited to point and click rooms, dialogue choices and quick time events. It may sound simple, but these context sensitive control situations give you full steer over the narrative, much more so than any game that puts a gun in your hand and lines up 50 meat targets for you to mow down. The quick time events are especially well done, used sparingly throughout and not causing an instant game over should you fumble a button prompt. They also cater for split-second decisions in certain action-packed pieces, lending an occasional touch of variety.

The Wolf Among Us

Extreme hugging 2013 competition finalist

Likewise the point and click parts of the game don’t have you desperately trying to use two unrelated items together in an effort to produce a key or magical MacGuffin. Instead they allow you to investigate areas and prompt conversations with characters to develop the story and manipulate their feelings towards you. You’ll occasionally get semi-disconcerting prompts pop-up after these exchanges that read along the lines “they will remember this”, leaving you with a sense of wonder as to how you’ve just tweaked your fate.

Talking of conversations, most interactions will give you four dialogue choices. They don’t just vary in tone and aggression a la Mass Effect, but they also let you choose how to approach, or indeed not approach a variety of scenarios. A time limit is imposed on each as well, leaving you with silence as a choice should you not want to click quick enough. Although a good idea, some of these time windows feel incredibly tight, giving you hardly any time to think about the choice, often leading to snap decisions you might regret. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as it conveys tension brilliantly and tests your ability to keep a cool head.

The Wolf Among Us

Magic mirrors and flying monkeys aren’t even the weirdest things you encounter

Lots of decisions are thrown at you in episode one of The Wolf Among Us, and whilst they do impact the outcome, it’s hard to tell how they will affect later episodes and the final outcome. This is to be expected though really, as you’re only starting to make the first few ripples in a story that is likely to chop and change between players the further it progresses.

You may be feeling an instinctive gut reaction that fairy tale stuff isn’t for you, but we urge you to jump in with both feet and give The Wolf Among Us a go, especially if you liked The Walking Dead. The world is compelling and a brand new twist (for most people) on a very familiar concept. Being an episodic title, you can just try the first episode if you’re after a taster, or commit to the entire thing with the season pass. For us, Episode One accomplished its mission and has us eagerly awaiting the twists and turns that surely lie ahead in Episode Two.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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