In the time between The Wolf Among Us episode 1 and 2 I managed to read 115 issues of Fables, the comic on which Telltale’s newest series is based. This fact can tell you three things: 1) that I enjoyed the first episode so much I was compelled to seek out the comic, 2) that Fables is both addictive and fantastic, and 3) that it took Telltale a bloody long time to release this second episode. They even snuck out another episode of The Walking Dead before they continued! Fortunately the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, Faith, was excellent, so I don’t mind waiting for quality. Read on to see if I waited in vain.
I’m not going to give any spoilers since I’m well aware that people may not have played Faith
, so I’ll only go into oblique plot points of the second episode Smoke & Mirrors
. It’s 1970s New York, and fairytale characters (“Fables”) live alongside normal humans (“Mundys”). There isn’t usually much crime, but a couple of gruesome beheadings point at something sinister in the works. Playing as detective Bigby Wolf (formerly the Big Bad Wolf), Smoke & Mirrors
has you investigating the murders... and then seeing the second murder turned completely upside down and investigating that too.
|The opening is brilliant. Try and count all the emotions that go through Bigby’s face
Any fan (or anyone who’s just read one single issue) of Fables
would have smelled a rat after the shocking climax of the first episode, and I’m pleased to say that this paradox is resolved quickly and neatly while still having plenty of time to revel in the drama. Bigby actually starts Episode 2 in a Mundy police station, which is not only something rarely seen in the comic it also excellently shows off the casual disregard the Fables have for the Mundys. After this the story gets quite poignant, tragic, dark, and very adult. There’s even an uncensored strip club scene, which combined with the occasional very graphic violence makes The Wolf Among Us
really a game (and comic) you don’t want to shrug off as a game for kids when you hear the “fairytale characters in our world” setup.
There are two main reasons to play The Wolf Among Us
: the great story, and how it diverges with your choices. Telltale managed both superbly in Faith
and thankfully continue the goodness here in Smoke & Mirrors
. The story continues to twist and turn in interesting ways, bringing in cool new characters as well as adding interesting facets to characters from the comics. Ichabod Crane for example has barely appeared in Fables
despite being the Deputy Mayor for a century, so Telltale had a big opportunity to expand his character and thankfully they haven’t wasted it. Popular swine Jack Horner (who got his own spin-off comic series) only makes a brief appearance this time however, and it’s new character Georgie Porgie who takes centre stage in this episode and he’s a delightfully sordid git.
|Georgie Porgie. Kissed the girls and opened up a strip club in New York
Potentially the biggest problem with Smoke & Mirrors
is the length of its story. It’s a little shorter than the first episode certainly and I finished that in one sitting (mostly because it gripped me so much), but after having to wait so long for Episode 2 it stings a little that it’s over so quickly. Still, that doesn’t take into account the other great thing about The Wolf Among Us
(and what is fast becoming Telltale’s modus operandi) which is how much the story changes depending on the choices you make. Without several replays and trying the following episodes first I can’t see how many differing paths Telltale have coded in, but I do
know that a minor early choice in Episode 2 was referenced by almost every character from that point onwards and even changed how they looked at me. I was happy with the decision at the time, but damn did the game not let me forget I’d done it!
If we’re being brutally honest with the game’s brief length however there is one other culprit, and that’s a lack of proper gameplay moments. In the first episode there were several superb “deduction” scenes where you had to explore an area, piece together clues and interrogate someone based on the evidence. I was hoping this would be a signature of The Wolf Among Us
, with Bigby being a detective an’ all. Instead there is only one deduction scene right at the end, which not only can you win without deducing anything but also you can accidentally miss some key evidence and end the game without seeing everything. Apart from a couple of cool interrogation scenes (which can differ wildly depending on choices made last episode) it’s just really a case of clicking on things until you win.
Regarding looks and sounds, The Wolf Among Us
continues to amaze. The opening illustrates perfectly the great strides Telltale are making in animation, with a dramatic slowed-down focus on Bigby’s face as he discovers the horrible scene left at the end of Faith
. The range of emotions clearly visible in this cel-shaded face is amazing, and equally so is the fact that Telltale are doing this stuff on a ten-year-old game engine with a fraction of the resources of studios lauded for their facial animation like Naughty Dog or Rockstar. Voice acting remains excellent too, even adding the voice of The Walking Dead
’s Lee Everett Dave Fennoy as the violent Bluebeard. Adam Harrington’s Bigby might sway me however as my favourite Telltale protagonist. Y’know, after Max.
Smoke & Mirrors
|Clue to this character’s identity: even while strip dancing she’s wearing more clothes than she does in her Disney movie
is in some ways the opposite of The Walking Dead: Season 2
’s first episode, as that one had fun gameplay moments but not many cool choices whereas this is a little lacking in gameplay but has a number of decisions that affect the entire story. They both however share the point that they seem too short after the long time they took to arrive. The Wolf Among Us
is currently winning in terms of replay value however with several devastatingly branching choices, and frankly both its setting and characters makes me prefer it to the slightly-overplayed zombie apocalypse, no matter how well done. Smoke & Mirrors isn’t quite as good as the superb Faith and is a little shorter, which is a kick in the flying monkey nuts after how long it took to turn up, but it’s still an excellent and enjoyable adventure full of intrigue, surprise and emotion. If Telltale keep this up they could well end up eclipsing The Walking Dead for me, and I nominated that for our Game of the Year. Just, er, could we have Episode 3 a little sooner please? Bigby’s attempts to get Georgie Porgie to spill the beans, complete with a bat to illustrate. Fun.
THE WOLF AMONG US EPISODE 2: SMOKE & MIRRORS VERDICT
Smoke & Mirrors isn’t quite as good as the superb Faith and is a little shorter, which is a kick in the flying monkey nuts after how long it took to turn up, but it’s still an excellent and enjoyable adventure full of intrigue, surprise and emotion. If Telltale keep this up they could well end up eclipsing The Walking Dead for me, and I nominated that for our Game of the Year. Just, er, could we have Episode 3 a little sooner please?
TOP GAME MOMENT
Bigby’s attempts to get Georgie Porgie to spill the beans, complete with a bat to illustrate. Fun.