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The Wolf Among Us Episode 1: Faith Review
If you had told me two years ago that Telltale, peddler of middlingly amusing light adventure fare like Sam & Max and Back to the Future, would transform into the dramatic powerhouse that produced last year's high-caliber The Walking Dead series, I wouldn't have believed you. As a studio with next to no dramatic experience save a botched Jurassic Park adaption under their belts, Telltale was the last studio I expected to floor me with a grounded, gory and psychological masterpiece like last year's zombie adventure.
Even with the success of The Walking Dead under their belts, Telltale was still a relatively unknown quantity when they announced The Wolf Among Us earlier this year. Would lightning strike twice for the studio, or would the massive success of TWD prove a one-time deal? Well, it's too early to say whether or not The Wolf Among Us' name will be uttered with the same hallowed reverence that many adventure fans reserve for last year's effort, but if the series' first episode, 'Fath', is any indication, it'll be all that and then some.
80s noire and chunky synth seem to be all the rage these days, but The Wolf Among Us pulls it off with the best of them thanks to a superb soundtrack and a beautiful, comics-influenced art style. This year's effort takes the visuals even farther in the direction of the comics than The Walking Dead did, utilizing deep blacks and vivid purples, yellows and oranges to establish beautiful contrast. It's a striking look, and one that helps cover up Telltale's use of aging tech to boot. Textures and models have been updated slightly since The Walking Dead, but while the game looks a little sharper, the lip syncing still looks like a relic from the PS2 days.
Aside from some minor visual nags, the game looks and plays stunning. There was nary a hint of the slowdown that sometimes plagued Telltale's earlier works in their most busy moments, and the action sequences have been refined to a series of quick-time events mapped to the WASD keys. That action is brutal and satisfying thanks in large part to the durability of the characters; in the game's world, Fairy Tale creatures are stronger than regular humans, and can take a hell of a beating before they're shut down for good.
That doesn't stop a brutal serial killer from going to town on the game's cast of famous fairy tale folk, though. As Sheriff Bigby Wolf, a.k.a the Big Bad Wolf, it's your job to track a shadowy killer through dingy dive bars and dark alleys before he can claim another victim. It's a grim task, and the game doesn't shy away from blood and violence when necessary.
Still, there's a levity to The Wolf Among Us that simply wasn't possible in the bleak The Walking Dead. That's not to say the game's laugh-out-loud funny or anything, but little moments of humor or wink-and-nudge references to fairy tale stories of old give plenty of character to the world even in the brief hour or so it'll take to complete this first episode. The added charm is certainly appreciated, and goes a long way towards endearing players to a world that could otherwise border on too gritty and gruff.
Whether it's dealing in bloodshed or humor, The Wolf Among Us is deftly written and expertly paced. The choice and consequence system of The Walking Dead returns, allowing players to dictate how Bigby responds to a number of trying situations and conversations. Certain events will of course carry more weight in the story than others, and those decisions will prompt an onscreen notification that somehow, somewhere, your choice will come back around. These notifications can be switched off in the menus, but I personally enjoyed seeing which choices hit home for which characters.
'Faith' is a ferocious start to what promises to be another superb season of adventure gaming. With The Wolf Among Us, Telltale has honed their writing and artwork to a deadly point. This feels like a developer at the top of their game, and anyone interested in a gritty and wholly different kind of detective story should take note. If the rest of the season follows suit, we've got one beast of a mystery on our hands.
This game was reviewed for PC