Telltale Game’s The Wolf Among Us – an homage to the classic film noir genre – has finally released the final episode of season one with the release of Cry Wolf. We have been anticipating the conclusion of this dark detective story ever since the first episode was released back in December of last year, so we got our trench coats out for what was sure to be a dramatic finale.
For those who have been waiting for the season to finish before they picked up their own copy will be happy to know that we’ve kept our review spoiler free of any major plot reveals. But please remember to read at your own risk, and perhaps start off with our review of Episode One: Faith.
With the end of the first season, Cry Wolf is a convergence of the various plot lines and choices you’ve made over the past five episodes. Telltale has put your characters actions on trial before when they concluded season one of The Walking Dead. However, they have learned from their mistakes and the judgement of your actions by the Crooked Man feels more natural than Lee’s trial ever did.
In true noir fashion the answers you’ll find are never satisfying, often leaving a rotten taste in your mouth as character motivations are not always black and white. If you’ve kept up with the season thus far you’ll be aware that not everything is as it seems with the denizens of Fabletown. Many Fables have walked a thin line between right and wrong, and a gentle push from the Crooked Man is all it takes to fall. The answers you do find all point to a larger systemic problem, created by years of neglect from The Woodlands government.
Telltale has kicked the pacing of Cry Wolf into high gear in comparison to previous installments in the season. The events of this episode take place in three separate locations and helps create a three-act feeling, each having their own level of conflict resolution. Fast transitions take place between each location to wrap up the various loose ends, and this isn’t a bad thing. The entire episode feels more focused as a result, and the tension built throughout the season reaches its climax with the final confrontation between Bigby and Bloody Mary.
In Cry Wolf, Telltale gives us a glimpse to the depths that Bigby is willing to go as he attempts to do what you think right. True to the title, there is a wolf hidden among the sheep, and all the lambs turn on each other to avoid his wrath. Fear rules Fabletown, and in the eyes of the common Fable it is the wolf that enforces this fear through the threat and use of brutal violence. The Crooked Man and his allies have never failed to remind the player of Bigby’s penchant for violence, and they believe they are the ones best suited to serve the other Fables in their best interest.
Telltale’s writing has only gotten better with each episodic release, and through the narrative we learn that there are no heroes here in Fabletown. Throughout the entire season the option for violence has always been present, and in the moment it is often a justifiable. Only at the end, when two monsters stand next to each other will you learn who is more feared. How will your actions hold up in comparison to The Crooked Man and those who work for him?
Adam Harrington’s performance as the dark anti-hero Bigby Wolf over the course of this season should gain him much praise as one of the better character performances of the year. He’s believable and puts the right amount of emotion into the lines that have evolved Bigby from a comic book character to a fully-realized and emotional person. This is one of the rare occasions featuring one character carrying an entire game, standing out from the rest of the cast. And while David Fennoy’s Lee was the focal character in The Walking Dead, he shared the spot light with a host of other memorable characters – Kenny and Clementine.
Now we should point out that we have taken a few issues with the execution of this season, and many of these are not exactly new to a Telltale game. With so many branching plotlines and the cumulative impact of all of your choices converging in Cry Wolf, the writers have made many assumptions to account for the wide range of possible outcomes. Ultimately, you are questioned on how much of a violent monster you’ve chosen to play Bigby as. Depending on your choices this could lead to some forced lines of dialogue that don’t feel appropriate. It’s an age-old problem suffered by many developers attempting to reconcile player agency with the demands of the narrative, but it leads to some awkward moments that break the immersion.
Throughout our playthrough we were able to restrain ourselves and avoided as many unnecessary acts violence as we could. We treated the members of The Crooked Man’s conspiracy better than they would have treated us. This is where the breakdown occurs, when the bad guys would have had a better case on our Bigby if we had played into their notions. We didn’t feel that we were the monster that he was claiming us to be, since our Bigby had been such a nice guy. The accusations ended up falling on deaf ears, and with nothing substantial to back them up.
Furthermore, as the episode drew to a close one of the recurring characters was packing their bags, preparing to be shipped off to a farm in upstate New York. Yet, throughout the story we had made every decision we could to help this character avoid their fate. We even gave them money for Glamor spells. But this would appear to be another illusion of choice that Telltale has woven into the narrative, and the illusion is usually broken on a second play through.
However, The Wolf Among Us doesn’t stray from what it set out to accomplish, and that is a dark detective noir story set within the Fables universe and it hits on almost every level. Telltale has crafted a better story than that of the first season of The Walking Dead, but the various fable characters are less memorable than the survivors. It is hard to see anyone falling in love with these characters in the way that the world did with Lee and Clementine, who have since become videogame icons.
In a way, it’s completely understandable; the stakes are lowered in The Wolf Among Us, and your every action doesn’t carry as much weight as it did in The Walking Dead. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Telltale could ever again recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle fever pitch that accompanied The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us is hamstrung by having to conform to the canon established by the comics. The decision to make the game a prequel story has left the writers with little room to maneuver around making sweeping character changes that would end up impacting the larger story.
Taken as a whole, The Wolf Among us plays more like an interactive movie that can captivate those who are watching you play through the story, and that is an amazing feat to accomplish for videogames. The medium is changing and Telltale is on the forefront of interactive fiction, and we hope you are as excited as we are for what is in store for their new titles – Borderlands and Game of Thrones.
For those of you who have waited the last seven months for Telltale to finish the season – and we know there are quite a few of you – now is the best time to jump in, and you will get a better experience playing through the six or seven hours that it’ll take you to finish. There is enough mystery here to captivate you through the entire season with a few twist and turns thrown in to change-up the pace, and while there’s some awkward Quick Time Event sections and the narrative cracks are sometimes a bit too visible, overall it’s a fantastic experience.
Let’s start the petition now to get Sin City: A Telltale Game!