Telltale Games has gotten off and running with The Wolf Among Us, an adventure game adaptation of Bill Willingham’s “Fables” comic series. With Episode 1 starting with a bang, and Episode 2 keeping much of that momentum moving, the third installment of the episodic series has arrived, in the form of ‘A Crooked Mile.’ With a prime suspect on the run, has Episode 3 managed to avoid the pitfalls of a middle chapter and keep up pace, or will fans need to temper their expectations before jumping in?
Those who have yet to start playing the series should avoid reviews for the sake of spoilers, but we’ll do our best to remain vague, since the plot twists and turns are the backbone of this detective story. Even if Episode 3 doesn’t end with as startling a cliffhanger as the previous two, ‘A Crooked Mile’ packs more than a few startling revelations. But there is no question it possesses different DNA than players have come to expect.
With Bigby Wolf hot on the trail of a serial killer in Fabletown, Episode 3 finds the detective with a suspect and damning evidence. But even if the case seems straightforward enough, it isn’t long before a far larger and more mysterious force (figure?) is seen to be operating behind the scenes. It is this twist which shapes the more startling concluding moments, but has little influence on those which precede it.
Episode 1, like any good detective story, started off with a hook and twist ending (read our review), with Episode 2 getting the actual detective work underway in as slow and thoughtful a pace as the films and novels acting as source material (again, read our review for further thoughts). But as the middle chapter, this dose of Bigby Wolf is responsible for neither heightening the action nor solving a mystery; meaning it may be more plot and less nuance than some will hope.
For lack of a better term, Bigby is forced to deal with public sentiment and outrage than actual detective work. The opportunity to uncover clues is still present (and required), and once again the decision of which parts of the investigation to tackle first will have players’ pulses pounding. But just as the middle portion of a detective novel or film upon which The Wolf Among Us is modeled, the episode isn’t concretely tied to either the case’s beginnings or its presumed ending.
That won’t be an issue for fans who crave nothing more than to encounter the foul-mouthed denizens of the Fable society, or let Bigby flex his muscles to squeeze information from them. But aside from an action sequence concluding the episode, that’s all that lies in store.
It would perhaps be best to assume that Telltale has given Episode 3 the responsibility of handing off the story from the two chapters which established it, to the two which will build to its conclusion. That might be a cause for serious concern in other episodic games, but thankfully, the level of writing and voice performance is as strong as ever. So even if the significance of these conversations and clues will only be glimpsed later in the story, they’re executed strongly enough to keep fans entertained in the meantime.
The portion of the episode that players will be most discussing online will of course be its closing moments, introducing a new character in the form of Bloody Mary, and pulling back at least part of the veil that lies over the game’s proceedings. Again, the meaning and justification will have to be judged once more of the story unfolds, but it’s a strong debut nonetheless, and leaves players with the sense that they have gotten in way, way over their heads.
And with a character possessing the kind of aggression and violent streak as The Big Bad Wolf, the developers make sure to remind players that they’re not embodying a run-of-the-mill ‘good guy.’
Unfortunately, there is no overlooking the fact that much of the disappointment or underwhelming reactions this torch-passing episode will be due to the extended time since the prior episode’s release. While the oppressive atmosphere, deaths and punishing consequences of The Walking Dead made the time between episodes more than welcome, the same elements are not in play here.
The mystery is what drives The Wolf Among Us, with the many colorful characters, suspects, and witnesses encountered along the way heightening the overall experience and imbuing it with undeniable style. But with a two-month layoff, the connections to Episode 2 will seem more tenuous than the storytellers would likely wish. So whether that means players should hold off to play the game through in one extended setting, or simply replay past chapters and refresh their memory, it shows just how distinct The Wolf Among Us is from its zombie colleague.
What did you think of ‘A Crooked Mile’? Do you see its focus on story over choice as a necessity for a series-long game, or was it not a problem in your playthrough? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3, ‘A Crooked Mile,’ is available now for PC and Mac, with Xbox 360, PS3 and iOS versions coming soon.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.