Telltale's Fables series comes to a close on a high wolf whistle
After winning all the awards with The Walking Dead it was clear that Telltale had finally found mainstream acceptance rather than just their usual crowd of ex-LucasArts fans (Sam & Max Lives). Their follow-up effort had to be equally incredible if they were going to keep their winning streak, and while not all the episodes have been amazing The Wolf Among Us has told an engaging, mature, and above all excellent story that only works as well as it does by being a videogame. Now at last the final episode is here, and Telltale's difficult second album (well, technically twenty-second, but I'm speaking "post Jurassic Park" here) can at last be judged as a whole. And like Bigby Wolf I'm going to have to look at the big picture if I'm going to make the right call.
Episode 5 gives a detailed and thorough recap of the events so far and all your major decisions, and if you're reading this review instead of playing the episode I can only imagine you haven't got the series yet and are waiting for the whole thing so I'll only touch on the plot. After following the trail of two brutal murders in fairytale character hideaway Fabletown, Sheriff Bigby Wolf has finally arrived at the door of the individual responsible for the whole mess: the mysterious figure known only as The Crooked Man. In this final episode of Telltale's Fables prequel everything will be revealed and the whole shocking, sordid truth will be laid bare.
Nothing's cooler than lighting up a cigarette in a villain's face
While The Wolf Among Us has had its highs and lows one thing that has remained compelling is the story, with Bigby's continued pursuit of the elusive murderers and seeing how deep the corruption in Fabletown goes. It's really tricky to make a compelling ending to a good story but Telltale have nailed it: Cry Wolf is utterly enthralling and ensures the series goes out with a bang. No spoilers, but man there are some killer twists and turns here, including a glorious moment for fans of the comic where we're reminded just how powerful Bigby really is. The whole episode consists of superb scene after superb scene, has some really powerful moments, and even takes time to dig into some social commentary on the nature of crime, culpability, forgiveness and punishment.
And the best moments all feel like you, the player, are the one calling the shots. While I don't doubt that a lot of the choices you seem to make are a facade, Telltale still manage to make it feel like the story is moving according to your will. While episodes 2 and 4 didn't always manage this Episode 5 calls back everything you've done and gives you some brand new and epic decisions to make that truly seem to have stunning consequences. I can't spoil any of them but I'm already wondering what would've happened if I'd let a couple of characters live or die - the last half of the game must play out completely differently as choices you made in just the first episode are thrown in your face. While you'll always save the day I guess, will everyone be happy and will you be able to live with yourself afterwards? I'm already eager to play the whole thing again to find out.
Contrariwise, I'm going to give you an ass-kicking
You probably know by now how the usual Telltale "action" moments go: something happens like a zombie breaks in or a monster that used to be a barman swings a pool table at you, you press a few keys in a couple of quick-time events and bingo, end. Cry Wolf on the other hand goes "f*** that, this is the finale, let's make things epic". Consequently there are plenty of action moments, including two absolutely thrilling fights and a wonderful chase sequence. Half the episode feels like a great action movie, and beats anything Telltale has done up to this point in terms of cinematic (yet interactive) spectacle. It's a bit of a shame that the "detective" moments from the first few episodes dropped off completely, but when it's replaced with an endless parade of awesome scenes like Episode 5 then I really can't complain too much.
Once again though it's the characters and dialogue that truly makes The Wolf Among Us stand tall, it's like an excellent TV show and really does the Fables license proud (which also has similarly great writing). Every character has wants and fears, and you sympathise with all the bad guys. Except for Bloody Mary of course, who's allowed to be the straight-up terrifying monster of nightmares. The voice acting keeps the high standard of Telltale's games, with Adam Harrington getting Bigby spot-on whether he's being nice or Big Bad, and particularly cool marks must be given to the Tywin Lannister-like Crooked Man and his hypnotic way with words. Oh, and the music's awesome as always too, nicely understated and noirish. Good ol' Jared Emerson-Johnson.
One of the best, if not the best, scenes Telltale's ever done
As this is the last episode of the season, I have to talk again about the art style. Once more the cel-shaded graphics work for the comic book style like with Walking Dead, but I love here how Telltale evoke the late 70s-early 80s time period with all the garish colours and mix it with a dark noir feel to match the lone detective story they cook up. It's not only lovely, but it's well thought out too. It doesn't perfectly match the comic, but it often looks like a comic come to life and that's equally cool.
It is sad to think that with the Fables comics ending, the game presumably not being the runaway critical and commercial hit The Walking Dead was and Telltale having so much on their plate right now that The Wolf Among Us could be the last we see of Bigby Wolf. The season may have had down moments but it was never bad and certainly the story was never less than gripping - often the worst moments was just when there wasn't enough of it. Overall I'd give the season around an 8.5, but this last episode was an utterly superb way to finish it off. If you've been holding off on The Wolf Among Us to see how the whole thing turned out well hold out no more - it's great, and the negatives will seem inconsequential without the waiting in-between shorter episodes. If you're a fan of Fables there's no question that you should buy it, and if you've never read the comics before playing then this game will probably make you a fan. I'd barely heard of the series before Episode 1, and now by Episode 5 I've read every single issue. The Wolf Among Us is superb, and Cry Wolf is probably the best episode. ArrrrrrroooOOOOOOO.