Disclaimer: I’ll try to avoid as many spoilers as I can, but a few things may slip in.
Let me just say that when I heard about this game and it involving fairy tale characters, I immediately thought that it would be quite childish, a far cry from Telltale’s uber mature The Walking Dead. (The setting of the game did manage to pique my interest though and I gave it a spin.) However, within the opening ten minutes of the game I was proven wrong, so wrong. It’s just as mature, its characters are just as diverse and fleshed out and the story is captivating. These “fairy tale characters” have been adapted for adults and throw out swears and curses as often as Kim Kardashian gets plastic surgery (by that I mean, very frequently. She went from looking like an Oompa Loompa to whatever the hell she looks like now). However, it never feels out-of-place to see that because of the perfect setting. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll just say that the fables, as they’re called here, are in a bad way. Bigby Wolf is just as likable a protagonist as good old Lee Everett and the supporting cast here may even be better than that from The Walking Dead. I can’t call The Wolf Among Us better than The Walking Dead because the two are so different, but they’re definitely on the same level, if one were to compare.
Bigby Wolf is such a badass it’s not even funny. He reminds me so much of John Constantine with his incessant smoking and his perpetual foul mood. His habit of wearing the same clothes (I’m sure he has different sets of the same clothes and I’m sure he washes them. After the crap he goes through everyday, how can he not?) makes me recall John McClane and his vest. He has the best of both these characters and this results in the Big Bad Wolf being awesome, trust me. He’s the sheriff of Fabletown, the setting of the game and you can maintain law and order by being an absolute prick or you can be a nice guy and try the peaceful way, at least at first. He’s looked at by everyone as the “bad guy” and understandably so – he was actually quite a bad guy before – but he wants to shed that image of himself and just get accepted by the society. Now through your choices, you can rehabilitate yourself or you can cement your place as a villain. Speaking of choices, they actually matter and they drastically alter the eventual outcome.
The supporting cast is really strong here and I was amazed by how well fleshed out it was. The chemistry between Bigby and Snow White is sizzling, Toad’s a real prick but you can’t help but sympathize with him and his son and the Crooked Man is as devious and sinister as Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. The feeling of recognizing a character that you grew up reading and listening about never grows old and I found myself shouting “Oh I know him, I know him!” excitedly many times. The visuals are classic Telltale with their signature cell-shading, but it just feels so much more vibrant here. The colour palette is so diverse ranging from neon to dull, always suiting the current scene and the mood. The theme music is so good that I found myself humming it months after I finished the game.
The story plays out like a murder mystery much like L.A. Noir but stretching over five episodes. What you think is the main storyline slowly transcends to this overarching conspiracy that’s much bigger than you could have anticipated, affecting everyone around you. The choices you make not only affect the story but also the other characters causing the story to unfold in various different ways. There are plenty of shocking and jaw-dropping moments, there are those which cause your adrenal gland to produce so much noradrenaline that you’ll feel like you’ve drunk a tank-full of Red Bull, and then there are man-tear inducing scenes.
The opening scene of the first episode perfectly encapsulates Bigby’s character. In fact, the entire episode is one of the best of any of the games I’ve played. It has so much packed into such a short period of time and has everything you want. It introduces most of the characters and sets the tone of the game brilliantly. The second episode is a lot slower and understandably so. It provides a lot of exposition and really gets you invested in the game if the first didn’t already. It’s a lot less action-packed than the first but packs just as much of a punch. The third episode is The Empire Strikes Back, the Dark Knight of the series. It’s so exhilarating and the intrigue is at its height. It has everything you love about the series and dials it up 10 notches. It’s seriously good. The fourth episode was, I feel the weakest of the lot and except for a memorable sequence in the beginning, the rest of it is frankly, quite unmemorable. It just nudges the story along with a few revelations, nothing earth-shattering; it’s more of a filler episode. Episode five comes close to the third episode but misses it just by a bit. It has some excellent sequences and the opening fight is amazing, to say the least. Don’t think that it slacks off after that. Not at all. The finale is an absolute thriller and I really don’t want to give away anything, but just know that every decision you’ve made up till that point will come back to bite you in the ass (or not) and you’ll be left regretting (or celebrating) your past choices, depending on how you played the game.
The gameplay is classic Telltale which means that it involves clicking and quite a few quick time events which are really smartly used. The main point of this minimal gameplay is that this allows more focus on the narrative and it works out really well. Watching fairy tale characters function in the modern world is such a delight to watch; it never gets old.
In the end, this is definitely worth buying and is worth your time. Seriously, go and play it now. Think of it as the adult version of fairy tales, but involving the same characters and who doesn’t like that?