The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – Faith
The Wolf Among Us is a showcase for developer Telltale’s maturation. It finds them peaking with the adventure game, building off the strengths of last year’s The Walking Dead while improving on past weaknesses. The first episode is a refined pilot that propels forward with smart pacing, top-notch writing, and improved mechanics, all wrapped into an alluring neon-washed world that balances grit and glamour in even measure.
It’s the art that sells everything. The Wolf Among Us has a distinctive, striking look that impresses throughout. It allows the environment to flourish in vibrancy and wade in the grunge where it needs to. An accompanying synthesized score pays dividends in tying the atmosphere together. The exaggeration allows for highly expressive characters, complimented by thoroughly solid voice acting. Whereas character development was vicariously delivered through Clementine in the The Walking Dead, here it is more direct and fully realized.
The pilot introduces an imaginative world adapted from Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series. The characters are already established and are pulled from popular fairy tales, showing what might happen if their legends lived on into the modern day and how that would look in the context of city life. We play as Sheriff Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf from lore, a grizzled and uncompromising character whose conflicts and relations to other fairy tale stand-ins play out in a detective story.
This allows Telltale to blend their clear progression with The Walking Dead with their roots in the detective adventure with Sam & Max, which receives a few nods throughout the first episode. Puzzle elements have largely been dropped in favor of straightforward investigation, which allows for dialog options that present a promise for a big payoff. Action’s also been refocused into tightly bound quick time events, fluid little vignettes that move the story where it’s needed, whether we’re squaring off with the Woodsman or ripping another creature’s arm off to prove a point, it’s well conceived in the context of the story and satisfying to play.
The first episode provides big potential for payoffs on choices. Over a couple hours it establishes a strong setting and cast of characters and leaves us wanting more. It also ends hard, taking big character risks upfront. It achieves everything one could ask from a pilot and on the strength of its setup, Telltale have room to execute what’s looking to be yet another genre defining adventure.