Review completed. Scroll down to see individual episode thoughts and a final conclusion.
After Telltale’s breakout success with The Walking Dead, my expectations for whatever they chose to do next were understandably extremely high. Yet in the span of only the first episode, The Wolf Among Us has completely met and surpassed them leaving me stunned and impressed, feverishly awaiting the next installment (of which five are planned).
Based on the graphic novel series Fables, The Wolf Among Us is set in a world populated by fairy tale creatures, from Snow White to Red Riding Hood and others I won’t spoil for you. Don’t think for a second that this in any way makes for a childish or overtly fantastical narrative; TWAU is a shockingly gritty, mature, and gripping piece of fiction, held together by exceptional writing and voice work. Also, fear not if you haven’t read the source material (as I haven’t); Telltale did an excellent job of establishing the rich world and lore, and you don’t need any prior knowledge to get a lot out of it.
No character falls flat, and the performances that bring them to life are simply remarkable. Not least of them is our lead, Bigsby Wolf (you can probably guess his origin), that shows one of the key areas Telltale has improved upon from previous games. The Walking Dead was Telltale’s first real attempt at providing player choice to shape the narrative, but often it didn’t feel that way, largely relegating you to an onlooker “picking the right answer” than an active participant in what was happening.
WHETHER I WANTED TO PLAY THE BENEVOLENT SHERIFF OF A COMPLETE JERK, I WAS ALWAYS GIVEN THE OPTION
TWAU changes that by letting you be the character you want to be. Whether I wanted to play the benevolent sheriff or a complete jerk I was always given the option, and it never felt as if I was being pushed toward either path, letting the story unfolded organically as I shaped Wolf to the person I wanted him to be, which makes the thought of what could unfold all the more exciting.
Telltale has again gone with a stylized, cel-shaded graphics style which comes even closer to a moving comic than TWD, and the result is stunning. With excellent use of shadows and framing, this is a gorgeous homage to classic film noir (which proves a perfect match for the dark, mystery ridden narrative). The controls are largely unchanged from TWD but have been tightened up considerably and the bugs and glitches that plagued previous games all but eradicated, making this the developer’s most technically sound production yet.
The Wolf Among Us is something you absolutely need to play. The first episode is an outstanding display of just what Telltale is capable in terms of storytelling, and if future episodes follow suit this could easily be in the running for my game of the year. The only reason I would recommend waiting is because the wait for more is going to prove unbearable. In the end all I can say is they’ve left me hungry…hungry like the wolf.
Episode 2 Update
It’s difficult to say much about EP2 without spoiling both it and the previous episode, so I will simply say it takes the story in even darker and more controversial areas than before. Telltale has further confirmed my original impression from EP1 that they have a bold vision for where they are taking the season, with numerous shocking and unrestrained moments fleshing out the characters and leaving me breathless in anticipation of EP3. I can only hope it doesn’t take another four months to get here.
Episode 3 Update
Where the first two episodes were used to introduce us to the characters, build the world, and set the plot rolling, EP3 acts as something of a midway point both literally and figuratively. There are few if any reveals or twists on the level of prior episodes, but with how invested I am with the characters and story at this point it didn’t matter that I wasn’t stunned when the credits began. Each moment to moment, no matter how mundane, held my rapt attention as I eagerly ate up every line of dialog and the innumerable subtleties found in character faces and the environments that bring such depth to the narrative. While it’s too early to say with certainty, if the level of quality with the final two episodes continues to increase as rapidly as it has thus far, this may very well be my game of 2014.
Episode 4 Update
At this point I’m so tightly wound up in what is easily Telltale’s biggest masterpiece to date, that it’s difficult for me to say anything more about TWAU without sounding like the rabid fanboy I’ve become. As the season nears its end and all the lose threads begin to come together, the scope of Telltale’s ambition and their ever-expanding skill at directing that vision into an astounding experience is showing itself like never before. Even if the final episode falls completely flat, it won’t change the fact that TWAU is easily one of the most amazing games to be released this year, and something that you shouldn’t be ignoring. I’m going to be sad when it’s over, but that doesn’t diminish my irrepressible excitement to see how it ends.
Episode 5 Update And Conclusion
Well, it’s finally come to this. After months of pushed back release dates, missed timelines, and what seemed like endless waiting, The Wolf Among Us has finally seen its last episode and cemented itself as not only the most ambitious and fully realized experience Telltale has ever made, but one of the most brilliant games of the year! EP5 incarnates everything that has been built up during past episodes, with a captivating conclusion that provides a fitting end to all that came before, while leaving room for the series to go in any number of directions with future installments.
As a complete season, The Wolf Among Us is an enthralling breakthrough for Telltale and videogame storytelling as a whole. The pacing is sublime, the plot thrilling and riddled with intrigue, and the characters among the most well written and voiced I have yet to see in a game. It’s shockingly brilliant in every regard and I am truly saddened that it has come to an end, for the sole reason that the wait for season 2 will feel like an eternity.
Telltale has created a fairy tale for a modern age, one that pulls no punches and surprises with each passing moment with the lines they are willing to cross to tell the story they want, and the means they have at their disposal to do so. It’s dark, violent, ugly, occasionally appalling, but more than anything an absolutely astounding achievement that should not be overlooked.