Telltale Games attracted the attention of the gaming world in 2012 when it released The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead was a huge success and garnered several game of the year awards. Following up on one of the year’s biggest games is no easy task, and improving on it is even more difficult. Despite these apparent challenges, Telltale managed to make a fantastic game in The Wolf Among Us. Unfortunately, The Wolf Among Us has not received anything close to the praise or attention that it deserves. The critical reception of the game has been good, but not great, and while it’s hard to know how a game that is mostly digital performed commercially, most people have the impression that the game’s sales figures have not been as high as Telltale would like. To put it simply, one of the year’s best games has gone largely unnoticed and unappreciated.
The Wolf Among Us is a prequel to Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series. The game takes place in Fabletown, a secret section of New York City where characters from fairy tales reside. Players take control of Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown who can’t escape his dark past (as the big bad wolf). Throughout the game, characters from many other stories have major roles in the story, including Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Woodsman, and many others. The entire game has the tone of a classic noir film. The world and the characters in it are gritty and few things are black and white. The Wolf Among Us spends a lot of time in morally gray areas. As with The Walking Dead, players will make countless decisions throughout the story that affect the way the story plays out. Bigby can either be a ruthless antihero or a reformed hero depending on what players choose to say in conversations and especially in what players choose to do in dramatic moments that take place throughout the game.
The Wolf Among Us tells an engrossing story which greatly involves the player. The story has many twists and turns that keep the plot interesting throughout the entire experience. The vast majority of characters are well-developed and surprisingly human. Even though the game itself can be beaten in several hours, the characters are very well fleshed out. The impact and involvement that the player has on the events in the story make the game very immersive. It’s hard not to be hooked onto the story until the very end. The Wolf Among Us has what is arguably the best narrative of the year. Is it perfect? No, of course it’s not. There are some issues with the story, but the blemishes are outshined by what the story does so well. The plot is engrossing, the dialogue is well-written, and the level of player choice can draw anyone deep into the world of Fabletown.
While I prefer not to make too many direct comparisons between games, I think it helps to understand what makes The Wolf Among Us great by comparing it to The Walking Dead (specifically Season One). The first season of The Walking Dead is certainly a good game, but the forced adventure game elements (like finding tools) and the slow pace (in places) kept some players (including this one) to really get behind what Telltale was doing. The Wolf Among Us solves both of these problems by eliminating pointless adventure game tropes and only focusing on three things: the choices that must be made in dialogue and throughout the game, investigating areas to look for clues, and some quick-time events. Focusing solely on these three gameplay elements improved the overall game dramatically. Without unnecessary gameplay elements (and with a story that doesn’t waste any time) the pacing is much faster and more enjoyable. These small changes made a big difference in a positive way.
If you have not played The Wolf Among Us I highly recommend that you change that. In a year where many games have forsaken story, The Wolf Among Us bases its entire game off of its story, and it is a great story at that. The narrative meshes wonderfully with all of the other aspects of the game to create an experience that should not be missed.
The Wolf Among Us has got to be the most underrated game of 2014.
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