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Review

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 - Faith Review

  • Game release: October 11, 2013
  • Reviewed: October 10, 2013
  • PC

Grim fairy tale.

by

We share our world with fables. These figures straight out of folklore have escaped the fairy tales and fantasy kingdoms we know them from and live among us, eking out an existence as best they can. In The Wolf Among Us: Episode One - Faith, you move through the cel-shaded streets of Brooklyn as sheriff Bigby, aka the Big Bad Wolf, keeping your fellow fables in check, and enforcing the laws that keep them safe, sane, and hidden from the prying eyes of mundies--that is, the mundane citizens who walk the streets.

This premise may seem weird--corny, even--but like the comics that inspired it, The Wolf Among Us maintains a steady noir tone that permeates the experience, only occasionally allowing humor to bubble to the surface. There are nods to the world's inherent ridiculousness; Bigby's preferred brand of smokes is Huff'n'Puff, for instance, and you get a glimpse of a shop called the Glass Slipper Shoe Store. But while you'd think that the sight of a porky pig sliding out of an oversized easy chair would be good for a laugh, I was instead struck by the hog's weariness as he shifted his tired bones into gear and slumped in the corner. "Happily ever after" is a myth, even for fables, and The Wolf Among Us takes every opportunity to weigh down every reference to the delightful tales of our childhoods with emotional bricks.

Not so big and bad, after all.

An early scene in Bigby's apartment provides a great example of the episode's dark tone. There's an old box of Chinese food on the table, and cigarette butts are strewn next to the sheriff's rotary-dial telephone. The dingy brown wallpaper is torn in countless places, and a pan rests on a stove burner; you don't know how long it's been there, but you sense it's been there a while, the grease at the bottom adding to the abode's staleness. As soon as I entered this bachelor pad, I swore I could smell it, so pungent were the striking visuals and subtle pulsing bass lines of the soundtrack. Bigby shared my sentiment, remarking that he should have cracked a window before proceeding to do just that.

Bigby is not the episode's "big bad." That honor belongs to the unknown perpetrator of a heinous murder that results in a decapitated head staining the walkway at the entrance to the Woodlands apartment complex, where many fables live. The victim is a fable, which is a shocking development given how difficult these not-so-mythical beings are to kill. And so the investigation begins, though The Wolf Among Us is not an investigation game in the style of L.A. Noire, in spite of some superficial similarities between the two games. You can even leave the murder scene without investigating much at all.

Bigby is a chain-smoking, hard-living antihero, with a furrowed brow and persistent face stubble. He might light a beating victim's cigarette in his best moments--or ask to bum a cigarette from that same victim in his worst.

I wanted to know as much as I could about this violent act, however, and the murderer who would dare resort to such brutality. I noted the streaks of blood on the ground, and collected a bit of denim fabric left for Bigby to find. Actually, I didn't know that it was purposefully dropped there, but I was convinced that the victim's remains were left for Bigby to find. The crime was a message, and I said as much to Snow (Snow White, of course), the mayor's comely assistant, and the one who stumbled upon the victim's head.

I didn't have to tell Snow that I thought this crime was a message, however; as in Telltale Games' previous episodic adventure, The Walking Dead, you're free to follow conversation paths as you wish, and the game politely informs you that characters will remember your words and actions. Just how these choices may affect you in the future isn't immediately clear, and may not even become clear before the first episode reaches its shocking conclusion. And the choices that do play out sometimes have only subtle effects on the story. For instance, should you give a gift of money to a lady of the night, you won't be able to buy a drink at a grimy dive bar later on. Other choices have life-or-death consequences, though you may not even be aware that the effects of your decision ripple so far outward at the time you make them.

Don't kick a good-hearted toad when he's down.

This uncertainty lends great tension to even the smallest of decisions. You have limited time to respond to dialogue prompts and story-altering choices, forcing you to consider many possible outcomes before pouncing on the option that not only seems like the right one, but is also consistent with what you think Bigby would do. Bigby's moral compass never points in the "paragon" direction; he's an asshole in almost any context. You are merely nudging him toward degrees of harshness. Bigby is a chain-smoking, hard-living antihero, with a furrowed brow and persistent face stubble. He might light a beating victim's cigarette in his best moments--or ask to bum a cigarette from that same victim in his worst.

The beast inside Bigby is let out on a few occasions. "You're not really supposed to do that, are you?" asks a witness, upon seeing his eyes glow in rage and his lips spread to display fangs. But it's during A Wolf Among Us' dramatic action scenes that the brutality fully erupts. You don't have free range of movement during these sequences, but you must quickly respond to timed button events and move your targeting reticle into the proper position to survive. The episode's first savage showdown occurs right away, thrusting you into conflict with your nemesis, the balding woodsman, who once had the gall to slice you open to save Red Riding Hood.

The brilliance of these vicious confrontations--particularly the episode's final, breathless assault--is in how simple trigger pulls and button presses enhance the anxiety. Sometimes, the anxiety forms because you must quickly decide whether to throw your seething target into a bookcase or a bed frame. (Which is the more murderous possibility?) Other times, it comes from how quickly you must flick the analog stick to avoid the swing of a sharp axe. Even furiously tapping a single button takes on special significance when that straightforward but strenuous activity is so well matched to the powerlessness you feel in that moment.

Cityscapes are cloaked in deep purple haze and long shadows, and droning minor-scale chords heave and sigh, suffocating you with their smoky nuances.

Few characters in The Wolf Among Us are any more noble than the woodsman, though some are gentler than others. Mr. Toad, seen in his amphibian form because he doesn't have the device that allows him to pass as human, may not shy away from dropping obscenities in front of his son, but he's also fiercely protective of the boy. Acting mayor Ichabod Crane, on the other hand, exhibits a mile-wide nasty streak that makes the "F*** you" dialogue response a tempting option. I found it easy to believe in these characters and their behavior, even when I was ordering a winged monkey to fetch me books in Crane's impossibly large and cluttered office. Episode One's focus on characters and their dilemmas, and its smart avoidance of cheesy humor, is what makes it so believable.

The Wolf Among Us relies on its story and atmosphere to draw you in, so when visual and storytelling blips occur, they're more likely to jar you than they might in another game. When an animation resets at the end of a conversation, you notice the hitch and are aware that you've reached a point of narrative convergence. When the frame rate jitters during a frantic chase scene, the natural tension of the scene is replaced by a worry that you'll miss a prompt and lose sight of your prey as a result. And when Bigby closes a conversation with the rhyming mirror ("Mirror, mirror, on the wall") each time with "Nobody right now," even when it doesn't make sense in context, you notice the line's contrivance.

Even flying monkeys aren't immune to drinking problems.

In spite of such minor bumps, this debut episode from The Wolf Among Us crafts an excellent illusion that usually veils the systematic gears that click and whir whenever you veer down a particular path. More impressively, it nails its atmosphere. Cityscapes are cloaked in deep purple haze and long shadows, and droning minor-scale chords heave and sigh, suffocating you with their smoky nuances. No matter how this story unfolds, it's hard to imagine a happy ending clearing away the pervading darkness.

The Good
Thick atmosphere that lures you in and keeps you intrigued
Quick-time sequences mirror the tension of the onscreen action
Fantastic cast of fairy tale characters facing real-life conflict
Story branches let you make the adventure your own
The Bad
Dialogue and visual hitches disrupt engagement
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Wolf Among Us

About the Author

/ Staff

Kevin VanOrd wasn't intimately familiar with the Fables universe until he started playing The Wolf Among Us, at which point he voraciously started consuming the comics. For this review, he played the episode three times, making different choices each time. However, he still has one playthrough he considers "his," and looks forward to seeing the tale through to its conclusion.

Discussion

190 comments
Thesuperstar2k
Thesuperstar2k

Started on playing this. Things started out great, but the game froze on me at chapter 3 and the lag was like a second really kills me from this game.

Thesuperstar2k
Thesuperstar2k

Played the demo of this and it looks like a great game. The main character is badass!Will try this out when I about to buy episode 1 and 2 right now. 

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

Played it on my iPad, and while the controls felt great it ran like shit. The sequence at the very end when there were so many cop cars' lights flashing it ran at maybe 5 frames a second. 

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

Looks like GS are not telling HOW LONG are the games anymore. :-(

DreamcastAlive
DreamcastAlive

It totally stands  on its own. I had never even heard of the comics before I played this game.  After finishes episode one I was so Impatient for more i went out and bought all 136 chapters of the comic and i've never even read a comic before.I'd recommend both the game and the comic

DAP2010
DAP2010

Everyone is saying this is a good game, im watching the walkthrough without commentary on youtube, and tbh i have no connection with the characters. Then I found out via google search that fables is a popular DC comic series.....so you guys saying its good because you have some connection or have read this comic series or something?

Or is it a good game without you knowing nothing about fables and its characters before?


Thanks :)

se007
se007

Kevin, you should've played this game on pc, there's absolutely no visual hitches there. The game runs buttery smooth at 60 fps,  even on my computer at work.)

NightOfInsomnia
NightOfInsomnia

I hope they release it for VIta, it would be perfect for it.

pedrotaquelim
pedrotaquelim

It would be great to play a Breaking Bad game in this style.

Snakpakk
Snakpakk moderator

Spent a few hours with the first chapter last night and much like the Walking Dead, it inspired me to start reading the comic books again. (So yeah I really liked my time with the game) 

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

Love how this game looks.

Definitely need to play this.

Mikael Thyselius
Mikael Thyselius

Yes but they will eventually release the game on disc like they did with The walking dead. All 5 episodes on one disc with no need to wait until the next part.

evil13killer
evil13killer

Great game the problem is Whatever your choices is key event happen anyway Telltale is the best to give you the illusion that your choices matter the same with the walking dead your choices doesn't matter 

nicecall
nicecall

talltale gonna make fun happy games again?  like sam and max, back to the future, etc.  Walking dead and now this, i need up beat, funny adventure games, not depressing ones.

tomkat69pc
tomkat69pc

watching cutscenes and react to quick time events -  not my cup of tea .. is this really a game?


Baistch
Baistch

*Spoilers*
My biggest gripe is that prior to the cab ride with Snow I made every effort to conceal Faith's profession as a prostitute. I avoided any choice concerning her profession or her pimp, yet in the cab ride Snow says (paraphrased) "I didn't know there were fables out there that had to turn to prostitution". How did she know that Faith was a prostitute? Where did she get that info? Because as my decisions in the game dictated, she would never have had that idea at all. 

arinor
arinor

Awesome game, loved the cell shaded graphics, very stylish. Voice acting and music are great as well.

I've actually played twice, because I wanted to try some different choices, and the second playthrough felt good too.

Pr0ving4Gr0undz
Pr0ving4Gr0undz

at 3:20 did he really have to go under that couch? XD

aovannor
aovannor

I don't like that they've made a game just like their walking dead series.. they've kind of cloned their own game. Now, the Walking Dead series isn't as special anymore.

Umar Nexus
Umar Nexus

Too late mate.. I'm a jerk~ deal with it~

StMagnus
StMagnus

Not to tell you (gamespot) how to do your shit; but shouldn't i, in a review, be able to tell what kind of a game im reading about?

Joshua Dragonj Joung
Joshua Dragonj Joung

Hey dumb ass the spoiler alert goes at the beginning of the comment ass hole.

polishfish
polishfish

@DAP2010 in fact, the game has made me want to read the comics...but since this game is a prequel, i'm afraid of learning things that are best left as surpsises! 

so i have to finish the games before i can read it! oh no....

polishfish
polishfish

@DAP2010 i had never even heard of the comics...just bought on steam because i loved the walking dead series

i felt very connected to the characters from very early on, based on the plot and the dialogue options.  the voice acting is excellent, and the characters are well-animated and complex.  

quite good, can't wait for next episode!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

@DAP2010  I knew nothing about Fable and really enjoyed it. I just found out it was a comic after reading comics. Although I will admit I'm not nearly as attached to the characters right now s I was in Walking Dead. But I still enjoyed it.

NTM23
NTM23

@se007 He played it on PC, as you can see at the bottom of the review.

polishfish
polishfish

@se007 yeah same, didnt notice a single jolt or jitter whole game

Thesuperstar2k
Thesuperstar2k

Haven't watched breaking bad, but that's a good idea to make a game out of it by episodes!

BearJew721
BearJew721

@tomkat69pc Like you I never liked games like this, but I gave it a try and absolutely loved it, the story is so rich and the decision making process is quite intense. 

denhoffi
denhoffi

@tomkat69pc If it's not your cup of tea that's ok, but I think you're really missing out, try the game at least I promise it's fun, it's nothing like Beyond for example. Here what you choose to do has actual consequences and I think the story and style are worth playing it.

Icarian
Icarian

@Baistch Same thing happens with the Woodsman in the bar. If Bigby chooses not to tell him that Faith is dead/murdered, he still somehow knows it anyway after the fight with Grendel. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Baistch That's actually one of the things that bothered me in the story. Depending on how you choose, it may never be explicitly said--it's just assumed as fact either way. 

AlmostUndead
AlmostUndead

@aovannor Have you played their previous games? Because they are all point and click adventures with dialogue you can pick.

Bumblebee1138
Bumblebee1138

@NTM23 @se007 I played it in PC as well and didn't get any visual hitch 

skimad432
skimad432

@polishfish@se007 It looks much better on pc! I don't have a pc but have the game for 360 and have seen pc videos

Baistch
Baistch

@Kevin-V @Baistch Thanks for taking the time to respond, Kevin. It really affected my immersion in a negative way. I know you pointed out a few other issues that suck you out of experience, and looking back at my time with this episode, those criticisms rang very true. 

aovannor
aovannor

@AlmostUndead @aovannor Only the Sam and Max ones.. and they weren't the same. They were about using items you find in and on the environment like the old style P+C games. You didn't have a response time and the art style wasn't the same. Walking Dead, and this, are more interactive storytelling. They aren't the same as traditional point and click adventures.

Baistch
Baistch

@Voice_of_Wisdom There are examples where this episode does well at pointing out consequences for your choices. To give examples I feel would spoil more of the story. The game does a very good job of sucking you in so, as Kevin pointed out in his review, when the game does these funny inconsistent story assumptions it feels really jarring. I'm still interested to see how my choices ripple through the rest of the episodes.

The Wolf Among Us

  • Xbox 360
  • PlayStation 3
  • PC
  • Macintosh
  • + 2 more
  • PlayStation Vita
  • iPhone/iPod
The Wolf Among Us is a five episode series from developer Telltale Games where your every decision can have enormous consequences. As Bigby Wolf , the big bad wolf in human form, you will discover that the brutal, bloody murder of a Fable is just a taste of things to come.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the The Wolf Among Us Wiki on Giantbomb.com