This being a review, it will contain spoilers. That being said, I’ll try not to spoil anything I found to be an interesting surprise or that I feel is vital to the plot. But still, consider yourself warned.
Still here? Ok then, here we go. The recent outings from Tell-tale games have been fantastic and I hate them for that. I hate it in the same way you hate great TV shows for being a once a week affair, but with these its one episode a month. Damn it Tell-tale, if you’re going to make me wait that long at least make it crappy or average at best so I don’t die waiting.
Anyway, on to the matter at hand: The wolf among us. The wolf among us is Tell-tales latest outing into the world of gritty, episodic, point and click adventure games. You take the role of Sheriff Bigby Wolf (I see what you did there) who is charged with protecting the citizens of Fabletown, a community of fairytale characters who have escaped into real world New York. Based on the “Fables” series of comics by Bill Willingham, it takes classic fairy tales such as little red riding hood, beauty and the beast, snow white and so on and puts its own dark twists on them. Now these stories being taken back to their much more adult roots isn’t a new concept, but it’s always nice to see a new twist on the archetype. In the first episode of this series, you find yourself at odds with an old foe, the woodsman, and trying to discover more about what has happened to the mysterious girl, Faith, whom the episode is named after. The characters we are introduced to are, for the most part, immediately interesting and engage your curiosity. Be it Bigby himself trying to turn over a new leaf, Mr Toad saving or making money in whatever way he can, what has brought the woodsman so low from his lofty status of hero or any other of the briefly introduced characters throughout this two or so hour part of the story.
Of course, that is the inherent issue with episodic games. Some characters are merely touched on, piquing your interest into their actions or motivations, but then quickly ushered off to be introduced more thoroughly in another episode. And with a month between episodes that’s a lot of waiting to see why Ichabod Crane is such a prick, for example. One mechanic that may keep you interested until the next outing however, is the ever present “your choices effect the outcome” decision making during vital parts of the gameplay. The idea being that you can play the episode with certain choices having certain consequences, then go back and replay making different decisions to see how the outcome changes. Of course these carry over to the next episode also, making the replay value of the entire series tremendous.
What Tell-tale have shown us here, again, is that you don’t necessarily need huge amounts of user interaction via “gameplay” to make an engaging game. Good, solid story writing, characters and a plot that intrigue and leave you wanting more is often enough. Add in the lasting consequences that will affect your story throughout, whether subtle or dramatic and you have more than enough to contend with the triple A mainstream titles and their millions of pounds budgets. Now if we could only persuade all the Call of Duty players that there is more to gaming than “pwning n00bs” maybe gaming will get a better reputation among the media. And of course – less dicks. (No offence pleasant COD and the like gamers, I’m sure some of you are lovely people).