By Meagan Sutherland
Episode two of the Fables inspired video game, “The Wolf Among Us,” just released and it was awesome! It is a balanced blend of video game melodrama and comic book sequences. Every second playing the game felt like I was reading a back-story by Bill Willingham in a Fables encyclopedia. Telltale games incorporates the characters we love (Bigby and Snow White) and also those that I hate (really just Jack). But it brings the characters together in a completely new story, and so far it feels like I’m playing a film noir detective version of Fables.
The Fable’s comic series follows the characters from various collections including Hans Christian Anderson, Aesop’s Fables, Brothers Grimm, Arabian Nights, etc. The characters depart from their home worlds because they are being overtaken by a tyrant. They escape to upstate New York where they have to work in order to keep Fabletown alive (the city they have created and hidden). Witches hide the city by using magic to create glamour’s and this is how Bigby Wolf is able to work as Sheriff for Fabletown and still appear human.
Though I knew the game was a prequel, I didn’t know when it would be taking place. The episode starts with Bigby going into a seedy apartment building which creates a set-up that reflects the dark tone of the comics. The art direction uses a dark color palette containing lots of purples and neon highlights to contrast with the darkness. Most of the scenes take place at night which creates a more serious and sinister setting compared to a comic book frame. However, the beginning dialogue was on point with the comics, incorporating dark humor and punchy lines.
You play as Bigby Wolf, the big bad wolf, and he uses a glamour to appear human, however he is prone to transforming back into the big bad wolf in times of extreme pressure which creates a ticking time bomb effect.
The game starts when you are called by Mr. Toad to investigate a fight happening upstairs in his apartment building. The Huntsman (who’s from the same story as Bigby, “Little Red Riding Hood”) is beating up a pretty girl who we find out is a prostitute and also a Fable, but not a recognizable one and not one from the comics. What set the Huntsman off is that this girl didn’t know who he was. This actually made me stop to think about the entirety of the fables existence. Part of the Huntsman’s whole character is being a savior to a poor little girl and being the hero of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Now in Fabletown, no one even remembers who he is. He hires prostitutes and has no real authority. To top it off, he is being looked down upon by the big bad wolf and everyone else. This duality is what makes the comics great, because the characters themselves are only as important as their stories and the folklore surrounding them. If you take that part of them away and they become equals, then they lose the parts of themselves that made them distinguishable in the first place.
In the comic, Bigby comes across as one of the only characters with purpose and he seems to have the whole investigation figured out from the get-go. He is strong, brutal, unforgiving and tough. However, playing as Bigby, I constantly make stupid decisions. The path I chose made Bigby appear subdued and less likely to make a scene. Other options were available, so I’m wondering now if I just avoided making the tough decisions and created this other personality for Bigby or whether it was part of the game.
Snow White is basically the second in command of Fabletown and a buffer between the citizens and the mayor. She is the counterpart to Bigby in both the comics and game. There are definitely differences between the comic and game versions of Snow. The first comic begins with her in a meeting with Beauty and Beast. During this exchange, she is upfront and callous, as she has to do what needs to be done. As second in command, she can’t coddle anyone. She appears angry and bitter towards her work, but she also knows that the small underground government of Fabletown has to work if the fables are going to continue to exist there. In game, however, Snow has a completely different voice from
what I imagined. When I read her dialogue in the comics, I imagined a sultry and sassy voice, but in game, she is overly sweet, like a fairy tale princess. This change in her character allows me to believe that she is nicer, less callous, more of the Snow White we picture cleaning and singing to birds. In the comics, she holds a masculine demeanor which allows her to appear merciless and less like the fairy tale she once was. I’ve always thought of her as the no-nonsense tough girl, and in game she is more agreeable but still manages to hold her own against Bigby.
Telltale games rely on story-telling and dialogue more than action based survival like typical shoot ‘em ups. This game style allows you to enjoy a unique experience (but it still has its action and finger-pressing moments). I had more fun finding out what a split-second decision of mine would be in a critical moment than I did randomly shooting CP’s. At times, the game forced me to make a decision in less than ten seconds. But it became more stressful when I was faced with a long amount of time to decide because that meant it would be a tough one. For instance, I had two suspects and only had enough time to capture one which caused me to stress out and doubt whether I made the right decision. AHHHH! Even now I wish I could go back.
“The Wolf Among Us” is a lot like Telltale’s previous “Walking Dead” games. Both follow the same schema and sometimes you have to decide who to rescue and ultimately, someone may turn up dead. If I felt that I made the wrong decision in either game, then I felt that I really did allow someone to die and that I was responsible for all the pitfalls during the story. I was continually doubting myself and wondering whether things would have turned out different or even better if I just made a different decision. The game follows the path that I have chosen and even now I feel the need to replay the first two episodes for nothing else than just to see what would have happened in a different scenario.
So far, I think the game is well done and allows the tone of the comics to seep through. It’s interesting how the game incorporates characters that were never involved in the comics or has characters that were mentioned but never seen, and you get a new back story for them. It keeps me invested even though I know what’s going to happen in the long run. Before I played the game, I figured it would either be for the die-hard fans of the comics or it would be a boring replay of what’s already happened, however it is a good median: exposition is there for newcomers, and there are still enough surprises to keep the experience fresh. My goal in the game is to be the perfect Sheriff, unfortunately it seems all of my decisions have tough consequences. Sometimes, you can’t know the outcome, however this makes “The Wolf Among Us” that much more enjoyable to play.