Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to go through the second episode of Telltale Game’s second narrative adventure game: The Wolf Among Us. This title is a murder-mystery adventure game that revolves around the characters of Bill Willingham’s comic series Fables. Players control Bigby, Fabletown’s sheriff, as they try and discover the perpetrator of several grisly murders. Side characters range from a selfish (and often belligerent) Mr. Toad, to Fabletown’s Assistant Director of Operations: Snow White.
Quick note: I’m going to be going through this with no real spoilers, though if you insist on knowing absolutely NOTHING about the game…. Why are you reading a review in the first place?
Now for anyone that played through Episode 1, you’ll know that we were left on quite the cliffhanger. Having to deal with the second murder, in what is quickly appearing to be a trend; players find themselves doing more on-task investigative work in this episode. From some sleuthing to discover people of interest, to actual crime scene investigation, as well as analysis of “the body”, The Wolf Among Us Episode 2 felt more like a murder investigation than the first episode did. Players don’t have to deal with the daily duties of being a Sheriff for a crowd of fairy tale characters entails, and got to focus solely on the game’s most interesting story arc.
We also get to meet Bluebeard, The Little Mermaid and Georgie (a reference to the Georgie Porgie nursery rhyme, something I absolutely had to research before I got the reference) for the first time. As well as some more focus on Beauty and the Beast. All in all, I think the spotlight shift from some of the characters in the first episode (which heavily features Mr Toad and the Woodsman) is mark in this game’s favor. We’re getting to explore more of Fabletown, and interact with more of its residents. In the end this extension of the cast makes the story world seem larger and more interesting.
Nearly all of my praises from the first episode are still present. The narrative is still engaging, the characters are still well written. If you want to hear all about that, I’d suggest taking a read through that article. For these subsequent episode reviews, I’m going to cover what’s changed, and in the case of episode 2, it’s not quite as good as the first.
My main complaint off the bat was that Crane (the Director of Operations of Fabletown, aka, Snow White’s boss) made a drastic character shift. Not that characters don’t change (and that the ending of episode 1 wouldn’t incite some change), but in Crane’s case, it felt a little too sharp, a little too quickly. Not that he’s poorly written, but he’s different enough without a real narrative transition that my gut reaction was that his shift in character was a bit jarring.
Secondly, I feel like there were fewer meaningful choices in this episode. Without getting into spoilers… Episode 1 has clear forks in the narrative road. If the player chooses to pursue one lead, they lose the opportunity to pursue the other. There didn’t seem to be anything like this in episode 2. I merely had a list of things to get done, and I got everything done without missing any of them. This extends to a deeper level with the individual choices that the game tracks. You know what I mean, stuff like: “Did you buy so-and-so a drink?”. The choices in this chapter were less interesting. That’s the only way to put it.
When I played the first episode, I seemed to be in the majority half the time, the minority the other half, and when they had us postulate on who the killer was, all five culprits seemed to garner almost equal suspicion from the players (Prince Lawrence aside, who was only suspected by 4% of players, the other 4 suspects were in the 14-20% range). Seeing equal distribution of choices means that these choices were interesting and meaningful.
In episode 2 however, I was in the majority of –every- choice. Some were as unanimous as ~95% of players choosing the same thing. What that tells me is that the “right answer” was simply too obvious, and I have to agree. I sort of took the “nice guy” route through episode 2, and it just seemed pretty obvious that that’s what I should be doing.
In the end though, still an awesome story with great writing and character development. It’s absolutely something you should get your hands on if you like good narratives, especially if you have a tendency towards murder mysteries.
Oh yeah, and definitely expect another cliff hanger.