Also On: XBLA, PSN, iOS
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
It’s taken a bit longer than any of us would have liked for the second episode to Telltale Games The Wolf Among Us, but thankfully this week the wait is over for patient fans. This episode is dubbed “Smoke and Mirrors”, for reasons that’ll become evident after the first 10 to 15 minutes of playing have passed.
This review will contain spoilery stuff for the first episode, so if you’re waiting to tackle the game after the full release, I’d suggest you stop reading here.
Still there? Here we go.
Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us ended on a fantastic, gut-punch of a cliffhanger, with the unveiling that the mysterious murderer driving the story forward had claimed none other than Snow White as his latest victim. This was a bit of a shocker for both those familiar with the Fables universe created by Bill Willingham and for those of us just jumping in with the game. It had been thought, up to that point, that Snow White was another piece of the puzzle to unravel, a compatriot to protagonist Bigby Wolf, and someone that we’d be seeing a lot more of as the series progressed. So to see her decapitated and essentially laid at Bigby’s doorstep was a shocker to say the least.
Episode 2 picks up shortly after, beginning with a minor chat between Bigby and Ichabod Crane, which provides a little bit of human insight into Crane’s otherwise pompous and arrogant demeanor. This small opening moment becomes a bit more meaningful and twisted as the episode progresses and then culminates, so it’s worth paying attention to. I’ll give Telltale credit for a lot of unassuming foreshadowing provided in this episode and the previous episode that comes to some fruition here.
One of those threads is unveiled really early, providing a surprise to equal the one that ended Episode 1. I’ll freely admit to not being happy with it though, as I felt like it was a bit of a disappointment and allows for a whole lot of second-guessing knowing that a particular type of magic is available as a plot mechanic. Thinking back on it though, and referencing the aforementioned foreshadowing, Telltale did lay the groundwork for this component in Episode 1 through a conversation between Bigby and Mr. Toad. So again, I have to give them credit for slyly building this up.
Once I was past that disappointing reveal, I really enjoyed this second trip to the Fables universe. One thing that continues to stand out to me here is how Bigby’s character, and my impression of who that character is, dictates the way I play this game. I tend to go the good-guy hero route when given morality choices or dialogue decisions for games, but with The Wolf Among Us I find myself straddling the fence. Bigby doesn’t strike me as a particularly agreeable guy/wolf, and I make sure that shows through the choices I make. Granted, some of the options given by Telltale can be pretty rough, but I found myself more than willing to damage Bigby’s reputation with certain characters in this episode because I believed these were the actions he would take without my guidance.
The cast of characters used here continue to shine as well. We get a bit more of Beauty and the Beast’s place in this world, we get introduced to Georgie Porgie in a way that makes absolute sense, and we get to hear Dave Fennoy voicing another Telltale character again through Bluebeard. There are a number of great moments throughout this episode that might not be as ferocious as the showdown between Bigby and Grendel in Episode 1, but still allow Bigby to make waves in this small, out-of-place fairyland community.
There is one sequence towards the tail end of the “Smoke and Mirrors” that falls a little flat. This sees Bigby investigating a crime scene with Beauty looking on in the background. Every time Bigby uncovers a clue Beauty offers up a statement of amazement telling Bigby how great he is at what he does. Her first comment is sort of a backhanded compliment, but from there she just seems to go into full on praise. The problem here is that the clues being uncovered are largely in plain sight, and how they tie into the crime scene is painstakingly obvious. This entire sequence really took me out of the game, and felt sort of at odds with Beauty’s general attitude in the scenes leading up to this.
That said I’m still pretty intrigued by the overall mystery being presented. This episode doesn’t really offer up anything new from a gameplay perspective when compared to the past. You’ll still cycle through dialogue choices on a timer, and you’ll have a limited action sequence with on-screen prompts to follow.
The Wolf Among Us continues to impress visually, echoing its comic book roots without sacrificing animation. I’ve been playing the series on PC, and with all options turned to the highest setting, the game looks absolutely beautiful. I’m certainly ready and willing to jump into Episode 3, and from what I understand, the wait won’t be nearly as long.