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The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf Review

Platform: Windows PC
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 7/8/14

 

It’s been a long, and sometimes rocky road but the final episode of The Wolf Among Us has finally been set loose. Cry Wolf is an episode that ultimately tops off the series with a high note, though for some it may fall short of the high expectations that the series premiere set last October.

Although the hunt for the murderer who killed Faith and Lilly was the driving force of early episodes in the season, later episodes have seen it become less of a plot-thread and more of a vehicle to bring Bigby – and the player’s own moral compass – into contact with the criminal underbelly of Fabletown. In any case, Cry Wolf picks up right where the previous episode, In Sheep’s Clothing, left off with the debut of the series’ much-teased archvillain – The Crooked Man – and the revelation of the killer’s identity. I thought this reveal was handled rather well and did a bringing the series most compelling plot-line back into play.

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The biggest that stuck with my through Cry Wolf was the way that Telltale shifted The Wolf Among Us from a game that lets players decide how Bigby reacts to things to one that lets players decide what the things Bigby experiences mean. It’s a stark contrast to the grim, albeit occasionally melodramatic (in my opinion), antics of The Walking Dead’s finale. After spending four episodes drawing players into the world of Fables, Cry Wolf asks players which is more important – the murder mystery that drew them into the story or the greater struggles of Fabletown that became more evident as the series went on?

Slanting these decisions away from being personal or moral choices was another smart move – The Wolf Among Us often found itself criticized for not being as nail-bitingly emotional in its choices as The Walking Dead often is. Shifting the decisions players make as Bigby from emotional to ideological ones also functioned well when it came to bringing the much-teased Crooked Man into the fold.

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Previous episode have alluded to The Crooked Man’s involvement in the background but Cry Wolf was the first to bring him right into the thick of the action. While there are plenty of worrying precedents when it comes to introducing a major villain into the mix so late, I felt Telltale did a great job of making him feel like a seamless addition to the cast. Rather than cast him as a sadistic psychopath or twisted scientist, Telltale opted to play him as a more intellectually sound villain who constantly throws the mistakes and choices that players have made back against them. The Crooked Man is always pointing out the hypocrisy of Bigby’s actions as sheriff and as the episode goes on, does a great job of challenging and engaging the player to defend their actions.

Despite opening with the debut of its major villain and the revelation of the series biggest mystery, Cry Wolf still manages to throw surprise after surprise at players all the way to the end. That said, Cry Wolf is probably the shortest episode in the series and, alongside Smoke & Mirrors, one of its most linear – although it does balance this structure with a very strong pace that lends itself well to players aiming to finish the finale in a single sitting. Cry Wolf is a roller-coaster ride of an episode and almost everyone in the series expansive cast drops in for a moment or two. In particular, the denouement and the inevitable rematch between Bigby and Bloody Mary and were my highlights – even if the latter does go a bit off the rails (even for The Wolf Among Us) towards the end.

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Cry Wolf definitely leaves players satisfied but I think it could have done a better job of leaving them empowered. The episode did a great job of calling players out on their decisions and forcing players to defend them but I feel like its ending dropped the ball when it came to making players feel resolved in their decisions.The moral ambiguity wasn’t necessarily bad here – it just leaves the series in a cloudy ethical place, rather than take the series final scenes as a chance for narrative resonance.

Niggles aside, Cry Wolf is still a solid capstone for the series. It ticks all the necessary boxes and ties up all the loose ends – possibly too many – whilst also losing itself in the Noir undertones that made the series debut so compelling. It’s not impossible that The Wolf Among Us could up only getting a single season (especially given the rest of Telltale’s lineup) but even so, Cry Wolf is still the closest thing to a ‘happily ever after’ that fans could hope for.

 



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