I think I’ve established that I’m a gamer of a very specific kind – I don’t have the hand-eye coordination to play any game that requires move “combos” on a moments notice (so fighting games are out), and I am not good at first person shooters mainly for the reason that I am constantly afraid of dying, so end up in a position of hiding/weakness much of the time. I don’t have the patience for massive strategy games, and even with games like Civilization, I tend to be hesitant and not take a power position early on, leaving me playing catch-up lots of the time. So I get stuck with the more gentle games – things about birds, or farming, or stories. And that’s where we meet up with today’s topic.
As I mentioned a few weeks back, I started playing a game based on a comic book series that I loved long ago. The comic series is called Fables, and tells the story of fairy tale characters, myths, legends, and cultural stories living among us in New York City due to…a very long and complicated backstory. In any case, this game – titled The Wolf Among Us – is set 20 years before the beginning of the comic series, and uses some familiar characters, along with some new ones (to me, at least) and puts you in the center of a film noir detective story. You play Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf of the stories, who is now the Sheriff of Fabletown. When there are problems, he’s the one that they send to take care of things because he has a keen nose to sniff out problems, and the ability to change into his terrifying wolf form to protect himself and take down the bad guys.
The story is this – Fable characters seem to be in trouble, and it’s all vaguely pointing in the same direction, but we’re not sure how. An encounter with a young woman in a desperate situation tips things off, and then it all begins to come to a head in a sort of fast and furious way. Throughout the game we are introduced to characters that are familiar, but trapped in a bad situation somehow or another. And things come to a head with a big final fight, and then a more malevolent and fast-talking boss baddie who almost finds a way to get away with things.
The game itself is pretty terrific – especially for a scaredy cat like me. Movement is either already built into the story, or during the player-control periods is controlled through the WASD directions. There are a few other interactive features that require you to click the mouse or press the Q button, but it’s all very straightforward. I love the ability to actually search for evidence at various points, and to make choices in conversations. That feature – the conversational choices – is what makes this game different for everyone, because characters you interact with will remember how you respond, and interact with you in the future based on your past relationship. Just like real life! But often there is also the element of choice in where you go to move your investigation forward. Sometimes this has consequences that will play out badly, and sometimes it means you find a piece of evidence that wouldn’t have been there later.
There are some fight scenes, and those are fairly easy to partake in – I’m not sure how much of an impact you can really have, or if it’s just shades of a binary position of survive or die. I do know that for the first “chapter” of the game, in my first fight, I managed to die. Thank goodness I was immediately given a chance to replay, and I figured out the controls a little better. But I don’t know if there is more of a gradient in how badly you can be injured as Bigby, or if you either make it out bloodied, or fall in battle.
As a warning – some of the fights are pretty graphic and can get super intense. In fact, the whole game is not one you should play when there are children around. The story is not-quite-safe-for-work, and there are definitely some female bodies on display. Additionally, characters swear, and the number of times you have to be a viewer of gruesome violence is somewhat shocking. I usually played this one while the Boy was playing PUBG, or else some space game, and despite the fact that we were both wearing headphones while playing, he could hear me shriek, gasp or groan when something particularly brutal occurred. I don’t consider myself a particularly sensitive person when it comes to violence (thanks, popular culture’s watering down of our societal reaction!), but some of the visuals and experiences here were just horrific.
But guys – it’s a really good game. Played out over five “chapters” it’s a good long story that took me a few weeks to complete (just based on when I had time). It also feels like the kind of game that despite knowing “whodunnit” and how, I could go back and try to get a different set of outcomes. The game does a good job of letting you know what your choices were, and how common those choices are, so you can make different ones in the future and see how that shakes out. Additionally, I was excited to learn recently that a sequel is being made for this game, and will be released sometime next year in 2018. Woohoo! So the takeaway here – The Wolf Among Us is a terrific game. It’s especially good if you like detective stories, narrative games, or just aren’t very good at the whole quickdraw game culture that requires lightning fast impulse reflexes. It is worth every penny and hour you will put into it.