I never thought I’d see the day where I would really appreciate an interactive visual novel, but that’s exactly what happened with The Walking Dead, which immersed me from the moment I started playing it. When I learned that Telltale Games would be bringing The Wolf Among Us to the Vita, there was no chance that I was not going to be playing it too.
Serving as a prequel to the Fables series of comic books written by Bill Willingham, you are Bigby Wolf; better known as the Big Bad Wolf, albeit in a more natural human form. As the Sheriff in Fabletown, it’s your job to keep the peace and protect all of the inhabitants, which is easier said than done – many are very wary of you because of your previous exploits and even more doubt your actual ability to keep them safe. With many characters from legend, myth or lore all living in the town, it’s easily described as an interactive Shrek, but with a much more adult orientated flavour. I cannot stress that enough as the themes in play here really aren’t suited to bedtime reading or watching for the little ones! This is immediately evident as you begin the story with an encounter with an anthropomorphic amphibian and subsequently intervening in a fight culminating in you finding your way out of a window and followed up with an extreme demonstration of violence. You soon realise that not only is keeping Bigby’s emotions in check during the story going to be difficult, it’s also all pretty graphic.
Presented as if it were an episodic television series, the game is split into five parts, which are themselves split into six giving you a total of 30 chapters and around eight to ten hours of gameplay. Following a gruesome murder on your doorstep, it’s down to you to explore the city and find the answer but before long it seems that your are caught up in something far more sinister. With various characters getting involved and making it far more complicated than you hoped it would be, the quest to find the killer and bring justice and order to Fabletown is going to be difficult. Upon successful completion of the chapter you will get a sneak preview of what to expect in the next, as you would during a TV show. Each chapter also opens with a playable section before the titles roll. Telltale Games have really nailed the format.
The Wolf Among Us has a very distinctive comic book look, which really suits it. Fans of the developers games will feel right at home with the presentation, and it all looks very good, for the most part. Some scenes do have a few jaggies here and there too but then environments certainly are a lot more vibrant than the Walking Dead. The voice work and music really set the tone for the atmosphere and complement the experience nicely. Loading times can be a bit annoying, they are very obvious and occasionally the transition from the scenes can be disjointed, with a bit of a delay between the cut scenes and sections requiring your input. It’s not just an infrequent occurrence either, you will notice this at points through the whole experience. It’s not enough to completely spoil it but these issues otherwise mar what would be perfect presentation, which is a shame because the effort than has gone into this is quite brilliant.
Gameplay itself may seem limited, but you are very much part of a living and evolving story. Although the narrative is quite linear, how you engage and interact with the other characters and the choices you make will open different results in the dialogue. Your interactions can vary between choosing the narrative, exploring your environment or getting really stuck in with the action with some button mashing quick time events. An early example of this is present towards the end of the first episode and the culmination of this early altercation with the opposition will give you the chance to leave a lasting message to those that would oppose you. I took it, and didn’t regret it. These choices will have ramifications throughout the whole episode, which means you’ll definitely have to put some thought into it. There were some sections where you can be quite forceful when needed or you can take a softer approach and you really feel the emotion and connection, especially if you start getting aggressive to get results, whether that is smashing up a sleazy strip joint, burning a cigar into someone or simply tearing a troll’s arm off. It’s all recapped at the end of the chapter, outlining how your actions played out against others in the Telltale Community.
The game comes with an unlockable series of entries called the Book of Fables, and events and actions you undertake within the game will unlock these. Some of these are linked to choices, which means that to obtain the lot you will need to replay some sections of the game after completion. It offers a good incentive for replaying the entire title, although it’s worth noting that replaying specific chapters can also have the same effect. With trophies linked to the collectables it deters from a very easy platinum, but not by much. It also adds a lot to the story and explains a lot of the reasoning for how the characters end up how they are.
If you are looking for negatives, outside of the performance issues the game is quite expensive at it’s default price of £19.99 which for the amount of play time you can expect seems a little heavy. It’s also digital only in Europe as well as a genre that is for everyone, seeing as it’s ultimately a whole game built on an interactive story and quick time events. It’s also not particularly difficult. However for those that love a good visual novel and certainly those that love the Fables stories its certainly worth giving a go, especially if you find it on sale.