The Wolf Among Us
Being a fairytale isn't so glamorous... largely because glamor is expensive when the witches can set their own prices. Necessary, though, if you want to blend in with the mundies and avoid being sent off to the Farm. Forced out of their world and driven into hiding amoung humans in New York, the Fable community is a volatile one, but nobody is under more pressure than Sheriff Bigby Wolf, tasked with keeping the peace amidst its unique inhabitants even if most of them would rather never see him again. In Telltale Games' The Wolf Among Us, an episodic point-and-click action adventure (Mac version coming soon!) acting as a prequel to the hit comics series Fables, a long night gets longer for Bigby when one of the first murders in a long time rocks the Fable community, and this is no mere crime of passion, and finding the root of the problem is easier said than done with the shadows of his own misdeeds looming over his shoulders.
Like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is a blend of classic point-and-click gameplay and timed action sequences. Aside from using [WASD] to move around, you can click to explore the world, gather and use items, and select conversation choices. The choices aren't just cosmetic... they drastically influence everything from Bigby's overall attitude and the way people view him, to the way events will play out later in the game. Lie to a character, for instance, and it may come back to haunt you, or refuse to help someone and you might find them turning against you later on. During certain scenes, however, you'll have to move fast to hit the displayed key onscreen, and click on hotspots before they disappear to fight back. Saving happens periodically at points throughout the game.
Analysis: Though it plays essentially the same as The Walking Dead, apart from a greater focus on more dynamic action sequences, The Wolf Among Us offers a few tweaks that improve the format. Interactive zones are highlighted with a semi-transparent circle, for instance, allowing you to see at a glance what you can click on. The conversation options tend to offer a suitable range of emotions and responses, but the problem is that they can sometimes be muddy... less in terms of what they mean, and more in terms of not knowing how Bigby is going to choose to deliver a line, thus potentially turning an innocuous remark into a snide attack. It's not LA Noire levels of obfuscation, it's just occasionally frustrating, and the timer for responses means you often don't have long to think on what the potential meaning will be. In this first episode, The Wolf Among Us strikes a solid balance between some genuinely exciting action scenes and point-and-click investigating. It's not really what you'd call a difficult game, with little in the way of actual puzzles, but it feels like immersing yourself in a detective story, and a genuinely intriguing one at that.
The Wolf Among Us is, largely, a gorgeous game, and the neon-soaked noire feel to its design goes great with its comic book illustrations. Some characters animate better than others... or rather, the more human characters tend to express better than others, such as Colin, for whose porcine face emotions and speaking are a little weird to see in action. But while the story itself is interesting and you don't need to have read the books to understand things, well, as likable as the characters are, if you haven't read the books, that's all they are... likable. Many of them don't get the development they need to have you really care about them, and even Bigby himself offers little in the way of actual depth to be a compelling lead. You know he's struggling to change his image, and to fight against his baser impulses, but without the sort of long-form characterisation you get from the comic series, you don't connect with him as much as the game wants you to. Considering Bigby's character is a large part of the decisions you're making here, that's a disappointment, and few of the other characters get enough screen time to go beyond "interesting" and into "compelling".
I haven't read the comics, and while I enjoyed The Wolf Among Us a great deal, I can't help but feel I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had been familiar with the source material to establish the characters further. That said, I never felt lost in the lore, thanks in part to the encylopedia that updates as you play, but mainly because the game is great at feeding you just what you need to know to understand what's happening, and a little bit more to make you want to grab the comics to boot. There are still some wonderfully subtle bits, like Bigby wandering against the flow of a crowd that instinctively parts and avoids him, and the action sequences are both fun and wonderfully choreographed. If you already love the series, you'll probably love this, but even if this is your first brush with Fables, The Wolf Among Us is shaping up to be a great adventure for fans and newcomers alike, with more than a bit of bite.
Get the full version (Steam)
Mac OS X:
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.
The game is "L.A. Noire," but the genre is "noir" (no "e", second-to-last paragraph).
I enjoyed the game thoroughly but I think 80% of that is due to my love for the source material. Everything about it thus far is pretty much just how I picture it in my head when I read it, especially Bigby. And since this is a prequel, it's added quite a bit to it since the book has been going for over a decade and some of the characters that are featured in the game are either no longer with us or are brand new introductions. And there's one WTF moment in particular that will definitely make me come back for the rest of the episodes because it doesn't fit with the rest of the series and I am eager to find out how they spin it. I agree with your review, though I highly recommend reading the books. Whether you want to pick up the first couple of trade paperbacks from Amazon or read the digital copies from ComiXology, there are few comics that I recommend higher than Fables, especially to those that aren't in to comics. It was the "gateway drug" for getting my wife into comics and now she's the one that's pro-active about getting us to Comic-Con every year, largely to get face time with the Fables storytelling team of Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham. Check it out.