- Format: PC (version reviewed), OS X, PS3, 360
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Players: 1
- Site: www.telltalegames.com/thewolfamongus/
By the Half-life series’ episodic standards, four months between instalments actually seems quite reasonable. However, for those of us who eagerly ploughed through The Wolf Among Us Episode One, these have been four of the most nail-biting months in recent gaming memory. But finally, the story book that so abruptly slammed shut in November has finally reopened again to let us play through chapter two: Smoke and Mirrors.
Picking up almost immediately where Episode One left off, Smoke and Mirrors opens with Bigby interrogating a suspect. This opening scene immediately features consequences from the last episode, as the character who is tied to the chair is determined by the baddie you collared at the end of episode one. The scene is packed with moral choices and rough interrogation techniques that – whilst not quite pushing GTAV’s notorious torture segment – still allows you to take a fairly sadistic approach to things. Of course, the lengths you go to depends on what kind of protagonist you’re trying to play.
As mentioned in the last review, the story is the main and overwhelming draw of this game, and as such we won’t be delving into the events anymore. We will however give you the following Twitter-esque summary: “OMG at that ending!” You may see it coming, it may lamp you by surprise, but the closing seconds of The Wolf Among Us Episode Two will leave you howling for Episode Three. As much as we enjoyed it though, it did seem to crop up a little quickly.
We know each episode is meant to be a bite-sized morsel of something grander, but we can’t help but feel that Smoke and Mirrors went by just a bit too fast. It barely clocked in at two hours, which may not be too far off of the first chapter, but it just felt shorter. It’s a testament to how much we enjoyed it though as we really didn’t want it to end, and if each chapter averages two hours, then you can’t grumble too much at a ten hour total.
Pacing is still a storytelling strength that Telltale possesses, although things didn’t seem quite as adrenaline-pumping as the first episode. From a gameplay point of view, we’d go as far to say that it was disappointingly sedate. Unlike the first game, it didn’t feel like there were many game-like moments, and nothing that quite matched a couple of the fast-paced highlights from the last instalment. There are plenty of dialogue opportunities to upset or win over the other characters, although the grand effect these actions have on the overall story is still to be seen as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of differences when comparing different playthroughs. We’re sure it’s all leading to some big things as the episodes progress, but there isn’t a glimmer of a clue as to what they may be just yet.
Another big departure from episode one was the lack of ‘left or right’ style decisions. We weren’t offered any obvious story branches that would affect how things play out. These may have just been subtly woven into dialogue choices that will play out later, but there was nothing along the lines of “will you chase A or B” or “visit X or Y first”. It’s wrestled a small degree of control away from the story, which makes episode two feel much more constricted, especially if you’re playing through it at a similar time with friends to compare outcomes.
Don’t get us wrong, The Wolf Among Us: Smoke and Mirrors is still a stellar master class in story telling; it just failed to match the first one in a few key areas. It remains to be seen if the following chapters will pick up or peter out, but we’re happy to accept that episode two could just be a blip. It certainly hasn’t dulled our anticipation for episode three, although we do hope that Telltale are ready to ramp up the action and start to throw in a consequence to our actions or two.
Judged by its own merits, Episode Two feels like a bit of a let-down. If this was the opening episode we would have been far less enthralled by the story and characters. We just hope this filler in the middle is the lull before the tooth and claw filled storm. If episodes three and four play out in a similar way, a lot of us might not have the patience to get to the fifth and final part. But let’s hope that’s not the case.
Whilst it’s a little weaker and tamer than the gripping opener, Smoke and Mirrors is still worthy of your time. Judging it as a single product puts it completely out of context, as the production values, writing and characters are still just as sharp as before, and the conclusion to number two ramps up excitement for episode three. For now, it’s still a story we’re invested in and one that we want to unravel a little more. Just pray that Telltale doesn’t leave it another four months…