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After The Walking Dead: Telltale’s Wolf Among Us Is A Much-Needed Prequel
Anyone who has read Bill Willingham’s seminal comics series Fables will know that what came before the series’ plot began is one compelling mystery.
Anyone who has not read Bill Willingham’s seminal comics series Fables will have no idea what’s going on.
Allow me to elaborate.
We’ve all played Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. And we all know what an incredible achievement the five-part series is. We all know how it blended dialogue choices with powerfully written characters, peaks of tension with emotional choices, the aesthetic of a point ‘n’ click game with the heart of a Bioware player-driven adventure. (If none of these ‘we’ statements apply to you: then you’re crazy, man, crazy in the head, and you better go download The Walking Dead now).
The series concluded in the latter quarter of last year, and left us with absolutely no hint of what would come next from Telltale. Until now.
Fables is a series of comics about the people in fairy tales, who have fled their magical fictional universe to hide in present-day, ‘Mundane’ New York City. Note how I say ‘people’, rather than ‘characters’. That’s because these individuals- from Bigby (Big Bad) Wolf the sheriff, to the beaurocratic Snow White, to the librarian Bufkin (a munchkin from Oz), to Boy Blue the office clerk- are all literalized, real-world versions of mythological characters, who, after international war strikes their homeland, have to flee into our world, into New York City.
Fables is notoriously one of the most compelling and addictive graphic novels out there. It has some fantastic core mysteries (for example who is the “Adversary” who drove them all out of their home worlds?), it is well written, and of course just seeing legendary characters get a modern-day treatment is exciting. The series’ introductory character, Bigby, is our stereotypical noirish detective, in a trenchcoat with a cigar, being enigmatic and suave.
And in Telltale’s next game, The Wolf Among Us, it is Bigby that we will be stepping into the shoes of. The Walking Dead’s iconic genuine-guy lead, Lee, couldn’t have a better successor- Bigby is clever, level, physically capable, and cool as heck. His story is also unique and engaging, like all of Fables’ updated legends. A small snippet of Bigby’s backstory in the comics: since an encounter with a certain magic knife, Bigby is now a were-human. His natural form is a giant, dangerous, raucous wolf, but he can change to human form at will and remains in this mode whenever in our ‘Mundane’ world, to stay incognito with the NYC public.
Telltale’s new game is a prequel to the comics. So we shall be playing through a part of the series’ history which isn’t charted on paper: we shall be playing through how the characters of legend escaped their mythological dimension into ours. Specifically, we’ll be playing the capable Bigby in his endeavour to protect characters like the Three Little Pigs and Mr. Toad of Wind in the Willows fame.
Considering how effectively Telletale managed to place a sense of impending danger and threat onto scenarios as players tried to survive the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse in The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us may allow Telltale to explore a different kind of threat- the threat of espionage and captivity in war, to the backdrop of fairy tale characters on the run. Even the game’s title, “The Wolf Among Us,” suggests themes of betrayal and espionage.
Considering that the comics represent a massive catalogue of artwork and design, Telltale may have a stronger aesthetic pool to draw from for The Wolf Among Us. I can’t deny that one of my only issues with The Walking Dead was occasionally uninspired or basic designs for the locales we traversed.
In the same way that Telltale added a fresh perspective on The Walking Dead universe- one that I consistently argue is more essential than either the TV series or the comics series (controversial, I know)- it appears that Telltale are giving an equally fresh perspective on the Fables universe. But seeing as, let’s be honest, Fables has a better story than the generic zombie-tale that is The Walking Dead, we could be in for a real treat with The Wolf Among Us. (Not to mention- on the website cover image, and in the comics, Bigby Wolf looks a whole lot like a noir Solid Snake. Sure would be good to play that character.)
The game’s due this summer, via the same method as The Walking Dead- digital download on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac.