Telltale Games has been leading a sort of “hybrid media” revolution as of late. Basing many of their games on established graphic novels, they seem to blend cinema, tv, games, and comics, into what can only be described as “interactive, choose your own adventure, motion comic books.”
Let me first preface this review with the fact that I have not played any of their other games, but I have heard and read countless reviews on their projects. They are most famous for their series of Walking Dead games, which are based off the comics. This game, The Wolf Among Us, is based on Fables, which is a much beloved graphic novel that I’ve been dabbling in lately. It is also an episodic game, a new installment being released every month or so.
The main character is Bigby, or as he was known before the dark forces took over the fairy tale kingdoms, The Big Bad Wolf. After the fairy tale characters and creatures were forced out of their homes, they fled to our world in which they have disguised themselves and blended in despite them living thousands of years. Bigby is the sherif of their small community, and when a murder occurs, he jumps gruffly into his detective shoes, joining forces with the confident and whip-smart Snow White. The game is mostly well written and well acted, especially for the character of Bigby, and I found myself caring for these characters, even though the episode was rather short.
I should say this is a spectacular game, but not in the classical sense. If you are expecting a lot of action, you might be disappointed. Instead, the game is all about the story. Even the gameplay is only there to be a storytelling element. The rather controversial “quicktime event” becomes a primary tool in the game’s arsenal. For those who are not aware of the term, a quicktime event is a gameplay element in which the player is prompted with onscreen cues to press certain buttons or wiggle certain thumbsticks. It is not a well loved element, however, unlike other games like Halo 4, in which quicktime events are sort of stuffed into the middle of a handful of cutscenes and ultimately feel very out of place, these are actually well implemented. In the few action scenes in The Wolf Among Us, the quicktime events actually serve to increase the tension and the drama. Other than this device, dialogue options, and exploratory scenes in which the player is encouraged to find clues and interact with the environment, the actual interaction that the player is allowed to have with the game is quite sparse… Although there is one huge exception. The game’s storyline will branch based on the choices you make as a player. This becomes your primary interaction. After all, the game is all about the story, and the interaction you have will shape that story.
As stated, this game is not typical. It plays like one big cutscene, but this is not a bad thing. While some might be put off by the deliberately paced, non-action narrative, one should not dismiss it because of this. It is surprisingly fun and engaging, and more akin to reading a comic book than playing a video game. If you like reading graphic novels, this one will suck you in.
Telltale Games is rethinking how we interact with narrative games. The way it changes based on player choice introduces a sort of meta-gaming that can result in a water-cooler social interaction in which players share their experiences and trade stories. This is rare for a video game, and really shows that the game is very concerned with telling a good, interesting, and ultimately personal story that revolves around the player. While we have barely broken the surface with the first episode, the story and the world is very well realized, and has a lot of potential for the upcoming installments.