Following the incredible success of its five-episode series based on The Walking Dead, Telltale Games isn't just taking it easy while it waits to release the second season. Instead, it's going in a different direction with its latest project, The Wolf Among Us, which we'll see in action later this week.
Based on Bill Willingham's Fables series, the game focuses on a sheriff named Bigby Wolf, who keeps tabs on the citizens of Fabletown. This is a place that looks like a typical metropolitan neighborhood, but it's filled with characters you'd find in a fantasy tale, including talking frogs, pigs and other familiar characters.
While Bigby isn't exactly the type of character you'd call a saint – he's based on the Big Bad Wolf, after all – his approach to solving situations is totally in the player's hands. Like The Walking Dead before it, you can decide how you want conversations and actions to go, depending on decisions and split-second button and controller taps.
For instance, in the opening of the demo we went hands-on with recently, we ran into Mr. Toad, a tenant of a ramshackle apartment building. He's not supposed to be in plain sight, since he's a "fairy tale" character. The player can decide to really rail against him for breaking the rules, or let him off easy with a stern warning. These decisions can play out at some point later in the game, as certain characters will remember something you said or did – and it could later affect your relationship with them.
There are no wrong answers, though. No matter which way you play through The Wolf Among Us, you'll find that your decisions open new doors. Be a pain in the neck and others will respond to you in kind. Be a little more caring, and you might find compassion from certain people when you need it the most. It's up to you how you want the game to play out, and your decisions will carry over into future episodes, which will release over the months ahead.
It's not just about the choices you make, though. Being a sheriff, you'll have to contend with people physically from time to time. For instance, in the demo, we come across the Woodsman from the Little Red Riding Hood series, who has become an abusive drunk. When Bigby runs into him, he's berating a hooker he's picked up on the streets.
Eventually, the situation will end with a head-on collision between Woodsman and Wolf, but your actions define how the encounter will go. If you take too many hits, you may end up on the losing end of the fight. On the other hand, if you hit the button prompts when they appear on the screen – similar to the style of Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain – then you'll get the upper hand, and eventually wear down the Woodsman long enough to get some answers. It's a matter of watching where the prompts are, and acting on them quickly enough that you don't get injured.
While it doesn't sound like an action-packed experience, The Wolf Among Us is presented in a stylish enough way that it'll hook you anyway. If the dialogue – which seems like it was put together by Willingham himself – doesn't hook you, then chances are the "what happens next" scenario will.
A good example of this is an event that occurs at the conclusion of the demo. The Woodsman, woozy from his battle with the Wolf, lets loose with one last gasp, ramming the both of them through a window onto the street below. As the Wolf tries to recover from his landing, the Woodsman tries to finish him off – only to be shot by the hooker he assaulted beforehand. This leads into the general story for the game, which we'll get to see more of when the game's first episode comes out.
If The Wolf Among Us works on the same level as The Walking Dead – and from what we've seen in the demo, it does – then we're in for a great tale, one that you can play multiple times just to see where your decisions come in. It also helps that Telltale has included a stylish presentation to go with the content, including cell-shaded characters and locations, as well as solid voice acting. The conversation between Bigby and Toad alone is worth the price of admission, if only to hear the froggy little tenant try and defend his revealing situation.
The Wolf Among Us should be a great treat for fans of the Fables books and Telltale Games alike. The first episode releases this Friday for Xbox Live and PC, and on October 15th for PlayStation Network. The following episodes should release in the months ahead.