Nothing is more surprising to me than the fact that I loved this game. Surprising because I had a bias about "Interactive Movies" being passed off as "games." My bias stems from all the negative commentary I read when the first few started showing up on Steam and I cemented my opinion that this genre should not rightly be called a "game." A game is something you play – a movie is something you watch and never the two should meet. The jury is still out on whether they deserve the label "game." I suppose it would depend what level of interaction there is. Regardless, it stopped me from giving them a chance and I went a long time before purchasing The Wolf Among Us.
My other consideration concerning games like this is a growing trend towards episodic releases. I don't want to wait for the next instalment of something I'm immersed in. So, my opinion on that part probably won't change and I will wait for all episodes to be out before buying any game that comes in this format.
For my first experience with this genre, however, I could not have asked for a better one. The Wolf Among Us is superb with one exception – the controls. Fortunately, few are needed, but they are sub par. You cannot re-map the keys, but due to the small number of them, I was able to do a little jigging with my programmable mouse. The only thing I couldn't change was the QTE key, which is hard-coded to Q. The movement keys are also WASD, but luckily, for people like me, the arrow keys also work even though this is not indicated in the menu.
With that out of the way, on to the game and it's a big WOW. If you're a story junky like me, this game hooks you right from the beginning and reels you in. The premise is quite weird, but it works. If you've ever seen the movie, "Men in Black," you can sort of get the picture – non-humans that take on human form in order to meld with the world. However, in this game, the characters are not aliens, but "Fables," which stems from the fact that they are all from storybook fables. We have The Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Ichabod Crane, one of the three little piggies, and others. After the Fables were forced to flee their Homeland, they settled in Colonial America in New York City. They call this zone Fabletown and protect it from discovery by the "mundies" (humans) through witches' magic. Like any neighbourhood, it needs policing and our protagonist, Wolf, acts as the sheriff of this burg and Ichabod Crane as the Deputy Mayor. Some Fables can easily pass as humans, but others need to use a potion called Glamor. Glamor is very expensive and a black market has grown for cheap knock-off potions that can often fail. During confrontations, Fables can resort to their true forms and become more powerful. Although many of their kind were enemies in the past, their forced proximity calls for an attempt to co-operate with each other and make life better for all.
As the sheriff, Bigby Wolf is responsible for trying to keep the peace and for dealing with any criminal elements. He mostly keeps to his human form, but finds this difficult when provoked, struggling to control his natural aggressive instincts. This is just one aspect to the depths of the narrative and why the story and characters are so gripping. Secondary characters are also given more depth than one-liners, so that the tale is fleshed out into something more meaningful. Wolf has a history with some of these characters from former days and is generally treated with suspicion and dislike. Although he is trying to change, this distrust lingers on amongst the population of Fabletown. The main story centers on a series of murders that Wolf must solve along with the aid of Snow White, whose role is assistant to the Deputy mayor.
The game boasts of making choices that matter. There are people who say that these choices don't make the slightest difference to the story, and they are right. Nothing will actually change the plot and choices are limited to which baddy you want to run down or which location you want to visit first. These will change minor parts of the story, such as a relatively unimportant side character living or dying, but will not effect the course of the game. "The choices that matter" seem to be left to the interpretation that you can decide whether Wolf will be aggressive or try to be more restrained in his actions. Again, however you play it, it will not affect the plot, but may affect how other Fables view you.
I'm not familiar with the comics and Wolf's relationship with Snow down the line, but the beginnings of a possible romantic involvement are there. Being a prequel, it's obvious that they are very attracted to each other and that the door is opened for future involvement. Telltale gets the tension between the two just right.
At the end of each episode, you will get some statistics that tell you what percentage of people chose what action. Extras include achievements and a book of Fables, which unlocks a short bio on characters.
Much of the game is like watching a movie. Interaction consists of being able to examine locations for clues and some combat that involves point and click movements combined with some movement keys and a QTE using Q. Player movement is very restricted and confined to these areas. Between these, you get cinema.
The graphics are comic-book style and the game is based on the comic series, Fables. It is set as a prequel to those comics. The first comic was issued in 2002 and the series was ended in 2015 with issue #150. However, in 2014, it was announced that The Wolf Among Us would be converted for release to comic as an entirely new story to the series.
The game ends on a bit of a question mark, but players think they have it figured out. It certainly sets up the game for a second season, but Telltale has been pretty busy with their other projects, The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, The Game of Thrones, MineCraft: Story-mode, and Batman. So far, there has been little news about the possibility of a season 2 for TWAU. Although the game sold well, I suspect that we might never see this, which might have something to do with the fact that Telltale games are tied into approval based licences on existing media.
Their modus operandi, so to speak, is making games based on other works in film or comics. They secure licenses from the owners to develop these games, and recreate the characters and stories in a unique way. Telltale does not retain ownership for most of their games and sometimes must tow the line in how they re-interpret an IP.
As much as people love Telltale games, they are also known for being buggy, a problem that has become chronic with glitches that never get fixed. Although I have never had to use it, apparently their support is worse than Steams, which should tell you just how bad it is. In general, what I did find through playing a few of their later games is that the stories are good, but their interactive control schemes are usually not the best.
Unfortunately, their last few games such as Game of Thrones and Batman have also been rather a disappointment performance wise and some attribute this to the continuing use of an old game engine. Regardless, Telltale keeps pumping out games and some customers are getting a tad irritated with their failure to address many problems.