The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 Review - Testing My Faith

Beware of a book in game's clothing.

by

Our Other Takes present alternative opinions on games from unique perspectives. Click here to read our Featured Review!

From the tropical seas to the snarky suburbs to the zombie apocalypse, Chris Watters is the veteran of many Telltale Games adventures. He likes finding a way to fit in to new roles and new worlds, and generally plays nice with his new virtual friends.

Over many years and many intellectual properties, developer Telltale Games has honed its aptitude for creating player-guided, story-driven games, culminating with last year's critically acclaimed series, The Walking Dead. Now it has introduced player agency to another comic series, Fables, which proves to be an uneasier fit. The bold artistic style and lively characters bring creator Bill Willingham's world to life vividly, but giving you control over a strong personality in this rich universe has a diminishing effect on both.

I own the first trade paperback in the comic series, titled Fables: Legends in Exile. It had been a few years since I'd read it, but when I started playing The Wolf Among Us, it all came flooding back to me. The premise: colorful characters out of fables and fairy tales have been forced out of their magical homelands and now live in modern society. Bound together in a secret community, they must face the troubles of mundane life as well as a few challenges unique to them; nonhuman folks must constantly maintain a costly glamour spell in order to appear human, lest they be sent upstate to the farm where conditions are less than desirable.

There are centuries of viciousness behind that snarl.

It's an immediately intriguing setting, one that drew me in as effectively in the comic as it does in the game. Affinity for beloved characters from my childhood mixed with empathy for their unhappy exile and made me yearn to learn all I could about their plight. The Wolf Among Us is quick to introduce a great example: Mr. Toad. Once the quirky, wealthy owner of the stately Toad Hall, Mr. Toad is now the landlord of a run-down tenement house that is currently playing host to a violent domestic dispute. His brusque cynicism speaks volumes about his change of fortune, and there's an undeniable charm in having an adversarial conversation with a cranky, bipedal toad.

As the Big Bad Wolf (call him "Bigby"), you have a part to play in this dialogue. You're the Fabletown sheriff, and you have to respond to the ruckus in Toad's building, but not before confronting him about his conspicuous nonhuman appearance. Whether you give him a hard time or let it slide this time is up to you, and you can choose your dialogue responses from among four choices (one of which is usually to remain silent). To keep things moving, you have a limited amount of time to choose your response before the scene moves on, and this can urge you to be a bit more instinctual with your choices, as opposed to letting you carefully deliberate as long as you like.

Dialogue choices are the beating heart of the gameplay experience in The Wolf Among Us. By taking a substantial degree of control over Bigby's lines, you take on an active role in shaping his character and, by extension, the story. Having a part to play in the story makes you an active participant and is meant to make you more invested in the characters, events, and world of the game. Many narrative-heavy games have been immensely enriched by this kind of investment, including Beyond: Two Souls, which I had finished a few days earlier and found utterly engrossing. Telltale's previous tales have benefitted greatly from giving the player control through choice, but The Wolf Among Us is poorer for it.

Instead of feeling like I was molding my own character in the game, I felt like I was diminishing a character from the comic book.

So why did this technique work so wonderfully with The Walking Dead yet falter here? The difference and the disconnect lie in the nature of the protagonists. In The Walking Dead, you played as Lee Everett, a character created specifically for the video game adaptation of the comic series. Though his past is eventually fleshed out, he begins the episodic series as a largely blank slate. This leaves a lot of room for his character to develop and, more importantly, a lot of room for you to create his identity. With each choice you make, you are claiming parts of Lee's personality for yourself and becoming more invested in his struggles.

The same is true for Bigby Wolf; with each choice you make, you are claiming parts of his personality for yourself. However, while playing as Lee is like filling a role, playing as Bigby is like taking one over. With every dialogue choice, you are imposing your personality on a strong character; Bigby has a dark past that he has tried to escape in his new life, and the struggle between his reformed attitude and his true nature is a gripping one. It's not that any of the dialogue options feel wildly out of character, because they don't, and the sharp writing throughout strikes a great grim tone with a few welcome beats of levity.

Rather, the issue is that in shaping Bigby's responses, I really just wanted to know what Bigby would do rather than choosing myself. By choosing sympathetic, indifferent, or harsh options, I felt like I was shutting off other parts of his personality that might be truer or more interesting than the ones I was choosing. Bigby's strong persona was already well established in this world, and I felt like an interloper. Instead of feeling like I was molding my own character in the game, I felt like I was diminishing a character from the comic book.

This feeling nagged me throughout the game, but I was still eager to see this first of five planned chapters through to its conclusion. Encountering other characters, like the boozy flying monkey or one of the three not-so-little pigs, was a regular treat, and interacting with the hard-working Snow White and the hard-drinking Woodsman left me even more sympathetic than I'd been to begin with. Bigby's investigations lead to some startling discoveries and hint nicely at the conflicts to come (though how much those conflicts diverge from arcs in the comic series, I couldn't say). With strong dialogue and interesting characters, The Wolf Among Us tells a stimulating tale.

There are spikes of action as well that lend some extra drama to the proceedings and offer provocative peeks at what happens when Bigby lets his claws come out. These scenes rely entirely on those double-edged swords: quick-time events. While these scripted skirmishes are exciting and nicely choreographed, the large button prompts tend to draw your attention away from the action, though one type of prompt does counteract this by making you look at environmental elements. Beyond: Two Souls had similar fight scenes, but instead of looking for a prompt, you had to take your directional cue from the protagonist's body language by paying close attention to the dramatic action taking place. I felt invigorated as I closely watched my character's movements, while in The Wolf Among Us, I felt enervated as I waited for the on-screen prompts.

It's hard out there for a pig.

Certain conversations were also plagued with a similarly draining mechanic. Intermittently, the game displays a message in the corner of the screen informing you how a character reacted to something you said or did. Lines like "Snow White is still skeptical of you" or "Toad will remember that" are meant to be teasers of consequences to come, but they feel like placeholder captions for sentiments that should be expressed through animation or dialogue. The Wolf Among Us conveys a range of emotion through the natural flow of the game, making these messages stand out like so many sore thumbs.

After the few hours it took to complete this chapter, I wasn't certain I how I felt about playing the next chapter. The characters and the world of The Wolf Among Us create a strong draw, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was somewhere I didn't belong. The world of Fables is so rich and so intriguing, is there really room for player agency? In The Walking Dead, zombies are a variable that allow for flexible dramatic staging. In Fables, the fairy tale characters are constants on a dramatic stage that is already set. Without an inherent narrative flexibility, The Wolf Among Us makes an awkward fit for the winning Telltale formula.

The Good
Dark and vivid artistic style
Intriguing cast of characters
The Bad
Choices diminish the lead character
Certain mechanics don't fit neatly
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Wolf Among Us

About the Author

/ Staff

From the tropical seas to the snarky suburbs to the zombie apocalypse, Chris Watters is the veteran of many Telltale Games adventures. He likes finding a way to fit in to new roles and new worlds, and generally plays nice with his new virtual friends.

Discussion

145 comments
pip3dream
pip3dream

Othertake,  invented for the sole reason of giving lower / higher review score. :)


advocacy
advocacy

I will laugh so hard if "The Wold Among Us" wins Game of the Year, like "Walking Dead."

Muhammad Maulana
Muhammad Maulana

it should be 8 at least it was more interesting than your 9,5 / 10 rated gone home

Jon Taylor
Jon Taylor

I am going to get this when all the parts are out

JURGMANDR
JURGMANDR

I'm really bothered with the way it's a prequel and the ending totally fucks with the continuity of the comics. As I've heard that this game is supposed to be canon, that kind of takes the wind out of the end, because I know certain characters will be back before long.  Minus those  complaints it was pretty damn fun, I played it twice just to see if my choices made a big difference ( and some matter more than others, while some are irrelevant).

obsequies
obsequies

at least its on almost every platform

sensesfail99
sensesfail99

well the problem here chris watters is that you read the comic series, as for me, i have not. I didnt have all the problems and griping you had. I was taken back, i loved it. I had always wanted to get into the Fables comic book series but just never got around to it, maybe this will be the push i need. For your little nit pickings, a 6 isnt really a justifiable score...your scoring it on a comparison to a book, how is that fair? Even with your problems you had with it, if i had the same ones, id atleast have given it a 7.5

elbauto
elbauto

What's wrong with you Telltale?This game is disturbing

Jasurim
Jasurim

I enjoyed shaping Bigby in my own way through choosing his actions/dialogue, it's half the fun.   I can see where you are coming from though, especially considering this already a developed character with a set personality for the future.   I've never read any of the comics and purposely stayed away from looking into the story too much so I could stay more open minded and I suppose surprised while I played.  I'll probably look into them later, but after I'm done with the game.

jo8n3645
jo8n3645

Certain conversations were also plagued with a similarly draining mechanic. Intermittently, the game displays a message in the corner of the screen informing you how a character reacted to something you said or did. Lines like "Snow White is still skeptical of you" or "Toad will remember that" are meant to be teasers of consequences to come, but they feel like placeholder captions for sentiments that should be expressed through animation or dialogue. The Wolf Among Us conveys a range of emotion through the natural flow of the game, making these messages stand out like so many sore thumbs.

the walking dead had the same thing........?

iBuSHiDo
iBuSHiDo

I haven't played it yet, so I can't say how much I liked it or not, but I wanted to point out something I disagree with about the review. I do agree when it comes to those little messages that pop up. I know about those from The Walking Dead and that idea really bothered me so I made sure to turn those off. I heard that you can't turn those off in this game so that was a real bummer and I I would definitely take points off for that. 

The part I disagree with is the idea that we are diminishing an already established character instead of molding a new one. I don't disagree with the concept. I would be bothered by that too in most circumstances, but in this case I can let it slide for a specific reason. The character is already established in previous works, however, given the back story and the situation he now finds himself in, he is one of those characters who is sort of at a crossroads. There is a polarity there of being the big BAD wolf, and now being a sheriff who is given the responsibility of looking out for people and protecting them. Because of this internal struggle, I don't think he's the kind of character you can diminish no matter what you choose, because they're leaving it up to you to decide which side of him comes out on top. 

If it had been a character that is a solid, one-track-mind kind of person who has always been the same and will never change, then I'd say it would be weird and unfortunate if the game allows you to stray from that specific personality that you're used to. With Bigby, however, I feel like there's room in his character for either direction to be believable and therefore whatever you choose wouldn't feel like he is being wrongfully portrayed or ruined in any way. 

Either way you look at it though, I still feel that a game designed to give the player choices about who their character is and what they care about and how they interact with other characters is better left to brand new, "blank slate" characters. 

dxcqcv
dxcqcv

I like this game, I feel the wolf so man and awesome

robchiang1990
robchiang1990

Guess it's about time for the "Other Take" on Spec Ops the Line, in depth and with spoiler warning in the title. And Mr. Watters, please have the "Other Take" on Beyond Two Souls, I would so much like to see you pick that mess apart.

diskotheque
diskotheque

"Beware of a book in game's clothing." - Truer words never spoken my friend!

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

I'm amazed by Chris Watters, he writes what he feels and doesn't care about the backlash. Wish I could do that, my hats off to you sir :)

analogjunkie24
analogjunkie24

I wish you guys would do a "Second Take" for Gone Home. That was quite a divisive score it received and I think it would be great to see someone else's opinion.

Legolas_Katarn
Legolas_Katarn

"Choices diminish the lead character"

Never read the books but I easily saw that being a problem while playing a game. If it's a canon prequel I don't feel like I should be radically altering the main character of a long running story's personality.

john1912
john1912

I knew nothing of the comics, so maybe that made the game more enjoyable.  I REALLY enjoyed TWAU.  More so then TWD.  TWD tone never changes its just fucking dreary.  

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

Same sh*t going on in the comments.

Anonymous 1: "This is bullsh*t!"

Anonymous 2: "Learn to tolerate his highly unpopular opinion."


MrFacepunch
MrFacepunch

Good review, but it seemed like you liked it more than a six (which is a pretty low score). Just from your wording I guess. I for one loved it TWAU but either way this is a good review.

DamnILoveGames
DamnILoveGames

Who cares what the score is? Read the review and then say something. Would you not rather know what the reviewer thought than the number they allocated over a few seconds or minutes?

TimeFrame
TimeFrame

Well, Tom McShea giving Bioshock Infinite 4 was laughable. xD 

As soon as I saw that score I just quickly scanned the review in 5 secs and thought : "Yeah, I really don't want to read an silly opinion about a pretty good game, that would probably just be frustrating and annoying." 

So I didn't.

I do think it's cool idea with the "other takes", I must admit though that the pool of reviewers opinions that I respect is seriously shrinking nowadays.. Too much subjectivity and politics. 

joke_man
joke_man

"The same is true for Bigby Wolf; with each choice you make, you are claiming parts of his personality for yourself. However, while playing as Lee is like filling a role, playing as Bigby is like taking one over."

Since I didn't read the comics/graphic novels, I don't get that feeling at all...

MasterRazz
MasterRazz

Any review that isn't written by a mindless drone is going to have an element of personal opinion and will be colored, on some level, by the authors likes, dislikes, ect. That's normal.A good review, however, puts far more weight on what is *objectively * right or wrong with the game.This on the other hand, is something else.

This is a review where the primary issue with the game is a problem that exists ENTIRELY in the reviewers mind!

focuspuller
focuspuller

The worst part about Gamespot, it has a readership of people that complain about EVERYTHING. I mean I get disliking this or that but come on. There are other game sites to read, you know this right?

This site has turned into the Howard Stern of gaming. lol

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

'The issue is that in shaping Bigby's responses, I really just wanted to know what Bigby would do rather than choosing myself.'

If you don't want to be in control of the lead characters choice of dialogue and overall decisions, why are you even playing a Telltale game?  A game that's driven by its story and player choice gives the lead character consequences to said choices.. and that's a bad thing? If you're so concerned with making Bigby the 'Big Bad Wolf' kind of character, then play him that way. You're not ruining the character, as you ARE the character.

As for the hints towards how particular characters respond to what you say and do, those can be turned off in the options menu. But a Telltale Games veteran should be well aware of this, right? Right.


Look, I accept that we all have different opinions, and alternate reviews aren't really a bad thing.. but it sounds like you're going for the hipster crowd with such a low score. You spend as much time talking about Beyond and TWD than you do this game, rationalizing such a low score.

blackzio
blackzio

well, i still want to play this on my ipad, i had so much fun playing twd when traveling, guess i'll have to wait quite a bit.


plasticreality
plasticreality

Really digging the alternate reviews.  It's good to have multiple opinions.

iBuSHiDo
iBuSHiDo

@jo8n3645 Yeah, but it gave you the option of having it display those messages or not. I chose to keep them off because I'd rather just go by how they react to me. It felt more realistic to have to wonder how much something I did bothered them or made them more comfortable with me until the next time something happens. 

JURGMANDR
JURGMANDR

@Legolas_Katarn  The game really doesn't dramatically alter Bigby's personality, no matter what choices you make in Ep. 1.  I've read the comics for quite some time and the writing is smart enough that every response you could make is one that Bigby would've (or could've) chosen.  The biggest issue is what happens at the end of Ep. 1 as that shit makes no sense with this being both a prequel and canon.

dogfather76
dogfather76

I agree. Tom McShae is just trying to be different. Definitely one if the lower points on the website.

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

@TimeFrame Lol, IKR? Apparently, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a better game than Bioshock Infinite.

cpfast
cpfast

@TimeFrame The only laughable thing here is your lack of tolerance for a different opinion other than yours...

I for one applaude mr Mcshea for having the courage to express how he really feels about a game that apparently everyone is blindly suposed to love. 

I also didnt care for bioshock infinite, i didnt find it enjoyable, and im free to say so.

And yes, of course an opinion is subjective...duhhh, now whos silly?????

hadlee73
hadlee73

@focuspuller Give it a minute. People will start complaining about you complaining about them complaining. :P

hadlee73
hadlee73

@plasticreality Absolutely. People (including myself) had been requesting this feature for some time and its great to know Gamespot listened.

focuspuller
focuspuller

@plasticreality I'm waiting for an alternate review of Marlow Briggs if only to see if someone realizes what a waist of time it is.

That's right Kevin VanPoop, suck it!

blackzio
blackzio

@plasticreality 

the problem is when tom mcshea gives bioshock infinite a 4. That's not a professional review, is the game broken or something? One reviewer gives it a 9, the other a 4. One thing is an opinion, but that much of a difference is like they played completely different games, the review felt more like a rant from mcshea than a review. 

cpfast
cpfast

@DiverseGamer @TimeFrame I havent played that one yet, but i have played some games with low scores that i found much more entertaining than some suppose much better games (looking at you hitman absolution...you utter disappointment). Sometimes just because they are different or just because i found them more challenging.


If, like me, you mostly value a game taking into account the amount of entertainment and fun that it can offer to you then the production values dont matter that much.  


I for one dont care about how beautiful the graphics are if the game is a chore to play.

Total_mischief
Total_mischief

@cpfast @TimeFrame Granting Bioshock Infinite a 4 simply destroys any standards or guidelines this site has tried to establish in game reviews. It remains an unofficial review, a second take, but there's a level of quality that's not subjective at all to that game and I speak of production value. Story and characters are much more developed than the genre standard while visuals (Art Direction aside as this is purely subjective) and gameplay are average. The problem is that it brings utter inconsistencies and, as was shown with the Bioshock: Infinite second take, can rely too heavily on fanboyism to the point of dismissing almost any positive point about a game. I can't say about the above review, I haven't played the game myself, but  McShea's opinion was, although rightfully subjective, laughable coming from a professional critique.

blaqphantom
blaqphantom

@cpfast @TimeFrame i agree to an extent about Mcshea and Bioshock the gameplay was pretty repetitive but I did enjoy the story and visuals while i do think its overrated it is nowhere near a 4/10 but that is Mchea.

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

@cpfast And now GameSpot is deleting my comments because I disagree with them. Great. It's nice to see this place hasn't changed, AT ALL.

You can't even begin to rationalize one of the highest regarded games of this year as a 4/10.. it's fine to not like the game, but to pass such hipster nonsense off as fact is completely ridiculous.

sensesfail99
sensesfail99

@cpfast @DiverseGamer @TimeFrame While Hitman Absolution wasnt the same as Blood Money, it was still enjoyable. I did miss the subtle things in Blood Money that werent in Absolution. but to each his own i guess

cpfast
cpfast

@blaqphantom @cpfast @TimeFrame i agree that the game is well made, but it didnt work for me, id give it a 7 or a 7.5 max.

i dont laugh at others opinions though.

Im eager to try thisn new series from telltalle though, really enjoyed the walking dead.

blackzio
blackzio

@NYSailorScout @blackzio @plasticreality 

i dont mind if you give a low score, but a 4 it's pretty much telling that the game is broken. a 6/7 might be "the game didn't live the expectation", 4 is just a unprofessional rant for that game. The graphics are amazing, has a decent shooting mechanic (maybe not as good as the other bioshock, but still) and the story is also amazing. 

a 4 is a game you shouldn't pick even on sales.

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

@NYSailorScout Don't be a troll. BioShock: Infinite is clearly far more deserving of a better score than a 4, regardless of your hipster drivel. 

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