The Wolf Among Us Bigby in Green

Ranking The Wolf Among Us

The Wolf Among Us was a series that started with enormous potential and promise. It introduced a whole new audience to the kind of dark noir fiction that excites me, not to mention introduced even more to the world of Fables. The series often chose to focus more on the world of Fables than it did on its clever reworking of crime tropes – sometimes for the better, other times for the worse – and everyone has their favorites. A bunch of us from Leviathyn got together to explain our favorite and least favorite episodes of The Wolf Among Us.

Be warned, here there be major spoilers for the entire season of The Wolf Among Us.

FergusHalliday-150x150Fergus Halliday

Favorite Episode: Episode 2 -Smoke & Mirrors

For many gamers, Smoke & Mirrors is probably the most contentious episode of The Wolf Among Us – but for me, it was probably my favorite episode of Telltale’s fairytale-noir series. Although it definitely lacked the impact of the series introductory episode, I felt that Smoke & Mirrors did a really good job of following on from the first episode’s big cliffhanger and expanding the scope of the story. It had a really nice thematic consistency that later episodes discarded and was arguably the episode most in touch with the series Noir sensibilities.

Smoke & Mirrors left plenty of room for speculation, and, much like the first episode, I loved how it felt more like an interactive cable TV show that it did ‘just another Telltale adventure game’. It was hardly the most mechanically innovative installment in the series but it was an irreplaceable part of the series overall narrative.

The Wolf Among Us Bigby and Nerissa

Least Favorite Episode: Episode 4 – In Sheep’s Clothing

Although I’ll concede that The Wolf Among Us did a great job of introducing and developing The Crooked Man in the limited space of its short final episode, I do feel like the series would have benefitted from properly introducing him earlier – and that’s the biggest thing that bothered me about In Sheep’s Clothing.

The reason I loved Smoke & Mirrors is the same reason I disliked In Sheep’s Clothing – the pacing. A slower pace made more sense for Smoke & Mirrors and it served the purpose of developing the series setting and cast but with In Sheep’s Clothing, the slow pacing served to spoil and stall the dramatic momentum that A Crooked Mile left players with. Bigby’s close encounter with Bloody Mary should have opened the gates for the series to go off the rails but for much the series’ fourth episode, it felt like business as usual and while the debut of The Crooked Man was definitely a strong note to end on – it hardly holds a candle to the series other cliffhangers and reeked of self-indulgence to me.

CameronWade-150x150Cameron Wade

Favorite Episode: Episode 1 – Faith

For me, the first season of The Wolf Among Us was a rocky ride. It alternated hits and misses until it capped off with a finale that was chock full of both great moments and frustrating duds. While I loved Episode 3 and liked Episode 5, none of the episodes came closing to matching the excitement and feeling of endless possibility that the introductory episode kicked off the season with.

Even better than The Walking Dead‘s inaugural episode, Faith ended with the feeling that The Wolf Among Us would capitalize on its intriguing fantasy/noir world while tackling interesting and important topics concerning wealth, law, and class disparity along the way. Faith introduced a colorful cast of characters each with desires, secrets, hidden motivations, and and more, who clashed against each other and the rules of the society they had built. Finding a severed head on Bigby’s doorstep was a stellar way to begin a murder mystery where any of the magical people and creatures you met could be a suspect. Not to mention it was the first time we got to see the game’s incredible art in all its glory and hear the fantastic 80s synth soundtrack. No matter how much the story or characterization struggled throughout the season, since the very first episode the aesthetics and music have been some of the best I think the game industry has ever had. Faith was the best possible introduction to The Wolf Among Us that we could have hoped for. Too bad it was followed up by…

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Least Favorite Episode: Episode 2 – Smoke & Mirrors

If Episode 1 left me amazed, wondering where The Wolf Among Us could go, Episode 2 made me worry about where it wouldn’t. Where Episode 1 introduced a world of possibilities, Episode 2 did nothing but spin in place, moving nowhere with the core mystery or with the characters. It was the first “nothing” episode, where it felt like nothing happened, nothing was accomplished, nothing was learned, and no major decisions were made. It couldn’t even make up for its standstill story with any exciting or meaningful action scenes, the only one being a short and meaningless scuffle with Beast.

When the season began, Telltale promised an episode every one to two months. By the time Episode 2 was released it had been four months since the premiere. Though Telltale never exactly specified what caused such a substantial delay (they said “several things” conspired against them including the delay from the winter holidays), I suspect there were massive season-wide story restructurings made after fans too quickly pieced together certain clues left in the first episode. I suspect its those story changes that affected the rest of the season’s pacing and story development. Whether that’s true or not, Smoke & Mirrors was the first episode that failed to do anything with the game’s premise and characters. For me it represents the worst this season had to offer: too much padding and too few sequences that felt like you really had an impact on the world of The Wolf Among Us.

attachmentTiff Macdonald

Favorite Episode: Episode 1 – Faith

Firstly I would like to begin by saying that I am a huge fan of Telltale’s work. Beginning with one of my favorite titles, well ever, Sam and Max: Save The World, I have followed the studio quite religiously. After creating the smash hit The Walking Dead and being brought into the public eye by most, I was very excited to see what their follow up project The Wolf Among Us would be like now that they had hit it big. I was not disappointed. The Wolf Among Us was a very enjoyable ride, and some of Telltale’s greatest work. Although the season had some ups and downs narratively, overall I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience worthy of the Telltale brand.

My favorite episode of the season was definitely the very first one, Faith. It balanced all of the important adventure game elements perfectly, providing us with interactive action sequences, important and game changing choices, intriguing characters and an overall mystery which kept me on the edge of my seat. I absolutely loved the choice system in this episode, as certain choices could lead to an entirely different outcome at different locations. This episode also felt the most “detective-y” to me, as searching for clues, talking to suspects and trying to piece together the mystery took the drivers seat here. Faith was a great introduction to The Wolf Among Us and as soon as I had completed the episode I was so excited to see what else Telltale would deliver us in this game.

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Least Favorite Episode: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf

My least favorite episode would have to be the finale, Cry Wolf. Unfortunately I felt that this episode did not deliver the quality of game play that I had come to expect from the series. The episode was mostly on rails, without any variation in locales depending on your choices. It was also very action heavy, and contained none of the investigative elements of the prior episodes.

In fact this episode did not even have you interacting with any items or using your inventory, a standard for most adventure games. I also felt that the conclusion was not quite satisfactory, and there were many questions left unanswered or unresolved. You get no closure with Snow White for instance, whom I became very fond of during my play through. No sense of appreciation or even an advance towards their (obvious) romance was something I was disappointed to find was not included. Also, the very ending sequence with Nerissa raised more questions than it answered and even now, a week after the final episodes release, the internet is still arguing about its meaning. While Cry Wolf ended off what was a very good series in The Wolf Among Us, I feel that it definitely could have been better.

attachment (2)Sam Hale

Favorite Episode: Episode 2 -Smoke & Mirrors

When I think of what I want from an episodic series, it’s not always about variety, replay value or action sequences. Smoke & Mirrors does a superb job at showing the emotions of the characters in Fabletown. From Ichabod Crane lamenting over Snow White’s supposed murder to Holly’s reaction to her sister’s death, there’s genuine human emotion all throughout this episode.

I recently played through every episode of The Wolf Among Us from start to finish and the scene with Holly in the Trip Trap Bar stood out to me as one of the better moments in the season. For one, it puts the player in the uncomfortable position of having to tell someone that they’ve lost a family member. It’s a remarkable scene that demonstrates the power of the medium. The truth is that video games are embarrassingly bad at taking death seriously. It’s almost always glossed over or hand-waved in some sort of silly fashion. Whenever someone remotely important dies, it’s always in front of the people they care about. In the real world, it doesn’t really happen that way, at least for most of us. The Wolf Among Us is set in the real world and this episode tackles the issue of dealing with death head-on. It shows multiple characters reacting in unique ways to hearing about someone dying. Holly herself runs the gamut of emotions. At first she’s quiet, then angry and then sad all in the span of a few minutes. The rest of episode is great, but never quite reaches this level of quality.

The interrogation that opens the episode is incredibly entertaining and it concludes with Telltale Games pulling the proverbial rug out from under our feet with Snow White suddenly entering the room just hours after she was “killed.” It’s a stunning twist and during the four months between the first and second episode, I doubt anyone saw it coming. Smoke & Mirrors doesn’t hesitate to question the player’s actions. In fact, the first major choice in this episode is how to carry out the interrogation and unbeknownst to the player, their actions are being observed by Mr. Toad. In Faith, Colin made a point that how Bigby needs to pay attention to how he treats people but this episode really drives that point home early on.

The fight scene with Beast towards the end of the episode is often criticized for not being connected to the plot and while this is true, the scene on its own is perfectly executed. Beast shows up at the worst possible moment and the sense of escalation is awesome. There are many fight scenes in The Wolf Among Us, but this one in particular has one of the best buildups. As for the ending of this episode, while I never truly believed that Crane was the killer, the decision to end the episode at this moment left me with an immediate sense of wanting to know what would happen next. For an episodic series, it’s difficult to ask for much more than that.

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Least Favorite Episode: Episode 4 – In Sheep’s Clothing

Unlike choosing my favorite episode of the season, I had no hesitation choosing my least favorite. In Sheep’s Clothing is easily the worst of the five episodes of The Wolf Among Us. That doesn’t mean the episode is terrible, but it doesn’t have anything to offer in comparison to the other episodes. Much of this episode feels empty or under-delivers on it’s potential. For example, Bigby is given a stern warning by Dr. Swineheart to take it easy and watch his injuries. I was expecting that this episode might force the player to choose between progress and safety but no such choice is ever forced upon the player. It’s a shallow warning that exists only to address the seriousness of Bigby’s wounds and it feels like a missed opportunity to add tension to an episode that doesn’t have a lot of urgency.

It’s also disappointing that the two leads the Bigby gets in this episode don’t vary too much regardless of what order you experience them in. It feels odd that this episode runs into this problem after the previous episode altered it’s scenes so masterfully. A big problem with this episode is that Bigby spends the majority of this episode on his own, meaning that he has effectively no one to react to this decisions. If this episode were clever, it would exploit this characteristic and force harder decisions on the player with no one to ask for advice. There’s a moment in this episode where Bigby can either shut up Jersey, let him talk or leave and while I comfortably picked the first option, I immediately asked myself afterwards whether it mattered. Most of In Sheep’s Clothing is about setting the stage for the finale and while it helped to deliver a satisfying conclusion, it doesn’t do much for this penultimate episode.

 

Agree with some of our rankings? Disagree with everyone vehemently? Let us know in the comments!



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