The Wolf Among Us full series review
“It’s like I told you before, Bigby. Sometimes all your options are shit.” It might not be the most elegant of ways to look back on The Wolf Among Us, but there’s an unspoken clarity to Georgie Porgie’s words. The Wolf Among Us never gave us a chance to fully succeed, not really. The series’ final episode, Cry Wolf, re-affirmed what we’ve come to suspect all along: there is no right or wrong, it’s all a matter of perspective.
There was a time when we truly believed that The Wolf Among Us could maybe deliver a happily ever after. It was pitched as a carefully paced whodunit from the get go – five episodes tracing the reformed Bigby ‘The Big Bad’ Wolf through his most arduous task yet as sheriff of New York’s secret suburb. But it became clear that Bigby has more to contend with than a handful of citizens going missing or worse, turning up dead, in Fabletown.
You’re presented with the freedom to choose between succumbing to your true nature – to let the animal out of its cage, so to speak – or to take a more considered approach to the problems in front of you. Both options place you on a path to misery; The Wolf Among Us cleverly subverts expectation that way. You’ll lose just as many friends and make just as many enemies by breaking arms as you will offering kindness and compassion.
Playing by the law inevitably splits a community that’s already on the brink of ruin, while turning to violence cements the popular opinion that you’re a monster, and trying to find a happy medium leaves Bigby in a similar state of despair. It becomes quickly apparent that there is no ‘good’ way to approach Fabletown or its problems. You’ll feel like dirt playing as Bigby, and you’ll love every minute of it. Still, despite the enjoyment of playing as the kind-of-good bad guy, along the way, it’s sometimes felt like The Wolf Among Us wasn’t addressing our decisions.
Our actions didn’t seem to have consequence to the overall plot, but the way Cry Wolf addresses this is smart. The final episode picks up straight after the last – with Bigby cornered and outnumbered. You’ll have the opportunity to go out on a rampage or opt to try your hand at a final act of diplomacy. Basically, do you want the season to end with its most action-packed episode to date, or do you want to see the consequences of your actions unfold? Both lead to a satisfying pay-off, though trying to talk your way out of the situation reveals The Wolf Among Us was paying attention all along. Cry Wolf references almost every decision you’ve had to make, and the consequences of those will come to haunt you.
Telltale Games could have struggled to follow up on the monumental success of The Walking Dead. Instead, the studio flourished under pressure. Cry Wolf’s ending might not be as poignant as the one that capped Clementine and Lee’s adventures through zombie-filled America, but it leaves just enough room to keep you second-guessing. X-ONE isn’t interested in giving you a bunch of spoilers, so you’ll have to take our word on this one: the closing moments will have you untangling plot possibilities in a similar vein to BioShock Infinite’s now infamous ending. Telltale set out to adapt Bill Willingham’s wildly popular Vertigo series Fables, and innovated just enough with The Wolf Among Us to bring us something that, while familiar, is entirely impressive.
That isn’t to say Telltale doesn’t still have plenty of room to improve however. The technical flaws that plagued The Walking Dead were largely overlooked at the time, due in part to how much the episodic model and strength of pacing impressed. We made the assumption that slowdown, QTE prompts not syncing with action, and numerous other flaws were the result of the studio getting to grips with its engine. Yet as every single problem creeps back into The Wolf Among Us, it’s clear that the studio still hasn’t figured out how to properly balance development and QA testing on its short turn-over cycle. The glitches and flaws are never enough to detract from the fun entirely, but they are distractions in an experience that is otherwise sublime.
Perhaps it’s more frustrating in The Wolf Among Us because they take something away from the incredible world Telltale has forged. The game’s unique visual style and presentation is one of its biggest assets, as is its use of sound, music and fantastic voice acting. Anything that disrupts that synergy is something we can’t help but frown upon. The Wolf Among Us is a success. Its subject matter was far darker, violent and adult than any of us expected – even as devout fans of the series it has been adapted from. But that’s one of its strengths, it constantly surprises. Cry Wolf doesn’t disappoint in that regard, it’s a wonderful ending to what has been a very divisive season of content. All of Bigby’s options throughout this story might have resulted in shit, but we would leap back into Fabletown in a heartbeat.
Check out our full reviews of the previous episodes in the series in X-ONE 105, 109, 111 and 114 all available from GreatDigitalMags.com