Game: The Wolf Among Us v1.21
Developer: Telltale Games
Category: Action / Arcade
IAP: $4.99 per episode / $14.99 season pass
Before my proper review begins, a little ranting about Telltale Games is in order to clarify some points of my critique here, as well as possibly for future Telltale reviews. A major positive for Telltale first, I love adventure games, and quite frankly from 1999 to roughly 2009, adventure was a relatively dead genre as far as video games go. That is not to say that good adventure games did not come out during that stretch, but while the genre was very strong and plentiful in adventure games from the late 80's to the mid-90's, from 1999 to 2009 there just wasn't a lot of quality stuff available in the genre. It was not a profitable venture to make an adventure game anymore with the industry dominated by the advent of 3D action games so what adventure games that were made were generally on a shoestring budget by comparison. In 2010, the revival of the genre started in my view with Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain for PS3, which was a surprising hit. The next year brought L.A. Noire from Rockstar Games, which was not a surprise due to the Rockstar name value, and finally in 2012, we come to where Telltale enters the story. Telltale had already gotten several major licensed properties in Back to the Future (which was a good series) and Jurassic Park (not so good) and were a solid success as far as adventure games go to that point, but in 2012 they hit the jackpot of the right license at the right time in The Walking Dead. The TV adaptation of The Walking Dead was insanely popular (and still is) and Telltale to their great credit took the license and made an excellent episodic adventure game, with a story unique to both the comic and the TV show that managed to give fans the zombie action they craved along with a heartwrenching, intense story. The game was a smash hit and I believe these factors as well as the coming of tablets and smartphones opened the floodgates for adventure games again, to where now it is again a very strong genre in video games. So...my heartfelt thanks Telltale.
The negative of Telltale's work is that with The Walking Dead they fully transitioned from making adventure games to making "interactive experiences" with very limited gameplay provided, utilizing Quicktime events as the primary base. Unlike classic adventure games, there's not much in the way of puzzle or problem solving, the experience is the key. This isn't such a bad thing, Telltale has proven to be very good at crafting good stories and compelling characters. That being said, there isn't much interactivity at all, and within that package of goodness Telltale has a degree of laziness and false advertising. A big focus in Telltale's efforts is that the choices the player makes throughout the experience matter immensely to the story, when unfortunately the reality is that Telltale has mastered the fine art of giving the player the illusion of choice. Your choices matter only in a very minor sense to how the story proceeds, their model does not allow for dramatic story branching based on the choices you make. Often the choices you make will even have the exact same result, just a small variation in the conversation getting to that point. In short, I wish Telltale was more inclined to push things and provide a story that goes a totally different direction based on what you do, but thus far they have not attempted it. So...stop being lazy Telltale, if you're going to make games that are not very interactive, at least make them with drastically different options depending on the choices you make.
All that being said, I do encourage people to play Telltale's efforts because they make well-crafted efforts with great atmosphere and characters, and so we get to the review of The Wolf Among Us at last. The Wolf Among Us is based on the Fables comic series license, but like The Walking Dead it tells a stand-alone tale from the comics. The short of the Fables series is that it is about fantastical characters (like the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, etc) living in a 1980's type normal world for a variety of reasons the game doesn't harp on. The Wolf Among Us is set in Fabletown, NY, and you are the Sheriff Bigby Wolf (take a guess as to who that might be) and Bigby's job is to police the Fables living in Fabletown. Mystery, murder, and other hijinks ensue from there. It is a very good story with well-developed characters. Unlike The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us doesn't go for the heartstrings so much as it focuses on building its world and delivering a good mystery, which it manages to do very well.
The Wolf Among Us has an excellent art style that uses the cel-shading style Telltale is known for from The Walking Dead, but though The Wolf Among Us is set in a gritty noir manner, the fantastical elements allow it a much greater use of color, giving it an 80's Miami Vice type look. I can't oversell how well Telltale does atmosphere within their games. They have improved their animation quality since The Walking Dead as well, as the fight scenes in particular are very animated and for the most part everything is smooth. There are however, a few frame skipping issues that seem to be programming based as they are universal across various devices and consoles. For myself, the most annoying skipping comes during the opening credits, which is a shame since it also affects the awesome intro music. I've also heard reports of bugs on different Android devices but I can't attest to them.
Sound-wise, The Wolf Among Us is spectacular, making great use of a Kavinsky-esque music style which works perfectly with the noir atmosphere and visuals. The voice acting is universally excellent, with Bigby and a certain villain I won't spoil as the standouts of the cast. The sound effects in general are done well also with punches landing and claw ripping given appropriate weight among other effects.
Gameplay-wise, as mentioned before The Wolf Among Us mostly uses QTEs and conversation trees (both under time limits typically) as the primary forms of interactivity. There are some sporadic exploration elements and inventory puzzles, but not many. Primarily Telltale wants to tell a story that anyone can experience and for better and worse, they make their games accordingly. Fortunately this is a style that is very suited for Android devices, as it is easy to swipe in a direction or tap the screen in a highlighted area. I just wish that your choices allowed for more branching possibilities and I also wish Telltale would lose the "Person X will remember that" notes when you do make choices and just let the story flow onward without letting the player know that a certain choice is purported to be critical. However, despite the flaws, the time limit on your decisions does make the story and action more intense.
Despite my issues with Telltale's work, they do make well-crated experiences and I do emphasize that anyone with an interest in story based stuff will love their work. I'll also mention that they've acquired the Batman license, and if you want a preview of what that series might be like, The Wolf Among Us is probably the best reference point to look at there. A good policy they've applied to the Android market is that you can download the first episode of their series for free to try it out and then you can buy the rest of the episodes in-app for $4.99 an episode or $14.99 for the season pass in the case of The Wolf Among Us. So if you're curious, there's nothing holding you back from trying the game out other than perhaps disk space, as the game is 600-700 MBs per episode. If you prefer a more interactive game, then this might not be your bag, but if the lesser interactivity doesn't bother you, The Wolf Among Us is a very good, atmospheric story-based game.
- Excellent story.
- Great soundtrack.
- Amazing art style.
- Impressive animation.
- Lack of interactivity.
- Very large download for the full series.
- The story lacks dramatic branching paths.
Device/OS used: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 / Lollipop 5.1.1, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 / Kitkat 4.4.2
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Mobilism: The Wolf Among Us v1.21 (Unlocked)