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Platform: PC
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

The Wolf Among Us Preview - PAX Prime 2013

Looks to not only hold its own, but possibly exceed The Walking Dead in a few aspects

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Dark and moody fairy tales are quite the hot item right now, from Hansel and Gretel to Little Red Riding Hood to Snow White, creatures from the collections of Grimm, Aesop, and other classic children's stories have seen a resurgence in pop culture, with a dark edge. Telltale’s follow up to New Game Network’s Game of the Year, The Walking Dead, is a prequel to the long-running Bill Willingham comic series Fables, called The Wolf Among Us. The game features a collection of fairy tale characters chased from their homeworlds and hiding in plain sight within a New York City neighborhood aptly named, Fabletown. Here they establish their own government, society, and law enforcement, which is where Bigby Wolf, the infamous terrorizer of Red Riding Hood, the three little pigs, and other stories, comes in. Bigby is the Sheriff of Fabletown, a gruff, no-nonsense, protagonist who would be right at home in a noir film, which is the kind of the world Fables and The Wolf Among Us is set in.

The Wolf Among Us

The demo starts with Bigby riding in the back of a taxi, at what a title card proclaims is “near midnight”. Stepping out of the taxi, Bigby lights a cigarette and enters a run down apartment building. It is easy to see that Telltale’s art for the The Wolf Among Us, while still very much riffing on what worked with The Walking Dead, has a different feel to it. Willingham’s comics have always been gorgeous works of art, and while Telltale is taking a more traditional comic look, the vibrant yellows juxtaposed against murky brown, royal blues, and midnight blacks creates a noir-esque feel that stands miles apart from the art of washed out color palette of The Walking Dead.

After entering the shabby building, Bigby runs into a very frog-like Mr. Toad, dressed in a baggy white shirt and ragged brown jacket. There are two key locations in the Fabeltown universe, the neighborhood in New York city where all of the human-looking fables can hide, and the farm up north where the non-human fables are kept. Mr. Toad is only allowed to stay in the New York location thanks to the same spell that keeps Bigby looking human. However the spell has now worn off, leaving Toad looking out of place. The gameplay is the same as it has always been with Telltale, dialogue options in which you can scold, sympathize, or threaten the talking amphibian for lapsing into his animal form, but all of it leads to the same, inevitable plot point. A noise comes from the floor above, grabbing Bigby’s attention and drawing him deeper into the building. As he walks away, Toad mutters his contempt for the lawman under his breath.

On the second floor the ambiguous noise becomes becomes the distinguishable screams of a woman being beaten. Now on the second floor of this shabby building, I have the option to either knock politely on the door leading to the noise or kick it down. I opt for the latter. Bigby enters the rundown apartment to find the Woodsman beating a prostitute, and comes to the battered woman’s aid. The Woodsman and Bigby have history (of course) dating back to the days of Little Red Riding Hood. The Woodsman recounts it like a star athlete whose best days are behind him, then the fight begins.

The Wolf Among Us

The Walking Dead was a brutally violent video game that forced players to make tough choices, but the violence was something very much at home in the post-apocalyptic zombie universe. The Wolf Among Us feels much more surprising in its brutality, animating the superhuman brawl of two legends in a way that had me flinching as I followed the quicktime prompts. By the end of the fight, both combatants are broken and cut, blood trickling from their faces. After a brief exchange, Bigby tosses the Woodsman out of a second story window, but the Woodsman makes sure that Bigby follows him down.

Bigby lands on top of Mr. Toad’s taxi, the anthropomorphic cabbie standing next to it on the sidewalk, mouth agape. Bigby apologizes, but it is short lived as he is grabbed by the Woodsman--who is surprisingly still alive--and pinned against a bus shelter. The Woodsman starts to choke Bigby to death, taunting him to show his wolf form. I can retaliate with a button prompt, but it is not looking good. That’s when the Woodsman’s beaten prostitute pays him back with an axe to the head.

Telltale has always been a company that finds a mature take on a wide berth of established material but--much like last year’s The Waking Dead--they seem to have been gifted Bill Willingham’s world of not-so-nice fairy tales and made it their own while remaining slavishly faithful to the spirit of the series. As Bigby Wolf finished his encounter with the Woodsman, in a grisly fashion, I let out a relieved sigh, happy that I was able to make it through without witnessing a painful “Game Over” screen in which Bigby is sliced, diced, or worse.

The Wolf Among Us

Following up an act as acclaimed as The Walking Dead is no easy task. However, it appears that the raised expectations for Telltale’s interactive storytelling has done nothing but inspire the team of The Wolf Among Us as the game looks to not only hold its own, but possibly exceed The Walking Dead in a few aspects. The world of Fables is not as fertile for emotional storytelling as Kirkman’s zombie-infested American Southeast, but it has plenty of depth to mine nonetheless. It is good to see that Telltale seems to have captured Willingham’s setting and given it their own flavor. The Wolf Among Us promises to be quite the experience.

The Wolf Among Us
The Wolf Among Us box art Platform:
Our Review of The Wolf Among Us
Reviewed on PlayStation 3
Game Ranking
The Wolf Among Us (PlayStation 3) is ranked #240 out of 1841 total reviewed games. It is ranked #29 out of 158 games reviewed in 2013.
240. The Wolf Among Us
241. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix
PlayStation 3
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