Defining the New Adventure Game
Telltale Games is quickly becoming an industry leader in the creation of interactive fiction. With last year's critically acclaimed The Walking Dead, they demonstrated that they could transcend the boundaries of video games as we know them and The Wolf Among Us: Faith continues that trend, this time using Bill Willingham's Fables series as the setting for their character drama. It works, seamlessly bounding narrative and emotional planes, shifting from gritty noir mystery to melancholy character portrait, all without losing its sense of humor. It works on nearly every level. This delightfully unique tale of fairy tale characters forced into an urban sprawl is one not to be missed.
Crafting Your Own Character
If you have played a Telltale game before, you probably know what to expect here. You play the role of Bigby Wolf, sheriff of Fabletown. Over the course of the adventure, you will talk to many of the neighborhood's inhabitants, choosing dialogue options and retrieving items from the environment. These are then used to progress the story and solve puzzles – by the loosest definition possible.
Like The Walking Dead before it, The Wolf Among Us stakes a claim to a new type of adventure game that eschews complex and sometimes frustrating puzzles for rapid plot progression and real roleplaying. There is less solving here and more experiencing. That isn't to say there are no puzzles, because there are, but Telltale has wisely chosen to emphasize becoming Bigby Wolf rather than using him. The Wolf Among Us: Faith is not a game of artificial stops to enhance gameplay.
Rather, the crux of the adventure lies in deciding just how Bigby will react to any given situation. This is accomplished through an excellent dialogue system where each response is timed and non-player characters remember your words and actions. Depending on your choices, they may even interact with you differently and offer you different conversation paths as a result. In the heat of the moment you are often given mere seconds to decide whether to be forceful, respectful, or even coercive. At any point, you may also choose to not respond which can change the course of the game as well. More often than not, there is little time to think, only react as you would in Bigby's shoes.
In this way, the game draws you in. Before long, you are Bigby and Bigby is you. The game does a superb job of crafting his surroundings and his past. “People are afraid of you, Bigby” says Colin, the pig who built his house of straw and the one most deserving of all to fear the Big Bad Wolf. But from that point Bigby remains a relatively blank canvas. The dialogue options allow you to decide whether he truly is someone to be feared or, like me, a man trying to prove that he is no longer the villain of so many stories and only wants to be accepted. His violent history is hard for the other citizens to ignore, however.
A Fairy Tale in New York
The backdrop of the game's central arc is as creative as I have seen in years. Our treasured fairy tale and folk lore characters, once citizens of the magical lands of storybooks, have been forced from their lands by the Adversary. They now reside in New York City, hidden from Mundies – Fable parlance for mundane, regular people – by witch-cast charms called Glamours. Non-human characters unable to afford these spells, such as the three blind mice, are made to live on a farm outside of the city.
Perhaps the biggest failing of The Wolf Among Us is that it doesn't explain how all of this came to be. The Adversary, whatever this foe might be is left largely to mystery. Most of what we know is that he conquered the fable's lands and that they bound together, friend and foe alike, to forge a new home in our world.
The world is darker for the escaped fables and their roles are far different. Many of them, with the exception of the once-hated-now-suspected Bluebeard, were forced to leave their fortunes behind and their lots in life are far different. To survive, friend and foe have banded together. So it is that the Big Bad Wolf, now in human form, can receive a second chance as the Fabletown sheriff. Snow White, now free of Prince Charming and the Seven Dwarves, is the assistant mayor to King Cole. Beauty and the Beast remain deeply in love but without their lands and riches, they struggle to make ends meet. And one lone working girl, Donkeyskin, also called Faith, finds herself murdered with only Bigby and Snow to unlace the mystery.
Telltale has done an exceptional job of building up the mystery and allowing you, the player, to pull at its threads. Following up on leads and interviewing suspects is a self-motivating experience as each interaction further entrenches you in the role of detective. Do you play good cop or bad cop? Head to the apartment or follow up on a phone call first? The branching paths provide a degree of ownership that truly make the experience feel your own and the quality of the voice work is excellent throughout. Key choices are often highlighted between two points of divergence. These possibility splits are obvious but work well to encourage multiple play-throughs.
Great story, excellent voice acting, good sense of humor
Too much depth to deliver in-game