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Somewhere in 1980s New York lives a hidden community of fairy-tale refugees, called Fables, who fled their homes centuries ago when they were invaded by the monstrous armies of a being called The Adversary. They've been living in the Big Apple since it was New Amsterdam, and in that time their old rivalries and grudges (as well as the stresses of day-to-day city life) have made them more than a little dysfunctional. The only creature tough enough to keep everyone in line (and safe from detection) is the Big Bad Wolf, who walks the streets in human form as Fabletown's sheriff, Bigby Wolf.
That's the premise behind The Wolf Among Us, an episodic noir crime drama that tasks Bigby with keeping the peace and solving a series of gruesome murders. Like Telltale Games' previous effort, 2012's excellent The Walking Dead, this involves a mix of point-and-click investigation, often-bloody action sequences driven by simple keyboard and mouse prompts, and conversations that (depending on your choices) can alter the course of the story and determine what kind of a peacekeeper Bigby actually is. He can be polite, abrasive, compassionate, or needlessly violent, and other characters will respond to him according to his actions — which, as the series continues, could have unexpectedly big repercussions down the road.
For the time being, however, Wolf is off to a promising start. Beginning with an apparent domestic disturbance (which rapidly escalates into a brawl with Bigby's drunken nemesis, The Woodsman), the story takes a darker turn with a grisly scene on the front steps of the Woodlands, the apartment complex where the city's more well-off Fables live. Accompanied by Fabletown official Snow White, Bigby begins poking around crime scenes, uncovering lies, dealing with hostile Fables, and trying to figure out exactly what happened — which is likely to remain murky until the series is at least a couple more episodes in.
Like Walking Dead, Wolf is rendered in a striking, pencil-shaded graphic-novel style that's made even more striking through the use of bright colors and pretty light-and-shadow effects. Also like Walking Dead, Wolf's gameplay isn't exactly rife with challenge; its crime-scene investigations consist of little more than clicking on highlighted parts of the scenery and drawing the right conclusions about them, for example, and its action sequences are forgiving enough that anyone with reasonably quick reflexes should be able to get through them on the first try. Simplicity doesn't make that stuff any less satisfying, however, and being thorough (or especially quick on the draw) can yield incidental tidbits you'd miss otherwise.
The similarities between Wolf and Walking Dead largely end there, however; in spite of its homicide theme, Wolf's tone is lighter than Walking Dead's, and you shouldn't expect to form the same level of emotional attachment with the fantastical-around-the-edges Bigby and Snow as you did with Lee and Clementine. To be fair, Walking Dead is a tough act to follow, we're only in the first installment of Wolf, and a game doesn't have to draw players in as deeply as Walking Dead did to be good — but if you go in expecting the same experience, you'll be a little disappointed.
One other caveat: we ran into some technical issues on our test machines, which included unusually long load times and a tendency to abruptly quit during certain scenes on a 2013 MacBook Air; and flickering black boxes over certain particle effects on a 2010 MacBook Pro. The game otherwise runs smoothly, however, and hopefully those issues will get patched out of existence in time for the next episode. Small comfort for those who just want to play through the short episode (which lasts around two hours, depending on how quickly you play) now, though.
The bottom line. It doesn't quite have The Walking Dead's emotional weight or instantly relatable characters, but Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us is a fun, intriguing opener for what promises to be a macabre supernatural noir thriller.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 1: Faith
Mac OS 10.6 or later, 2.3 Ghz processor, 4GB RAM, 512MB VRAM.
Beautiful comic-noir art style. Compelling plot with interesting characters, and choices that could potentially change the direction of the story.
A few technical issues mar an otherwise involving experience. Not up to the same storytelling standards of The Walking Dead.