This morning, Telltale Games made a slew of announcements for the summer. While the studio has a pair of episodic games that are currently unfolding (Guardians of the Galaxy and Minecraft Story Mode: Season 2), nobody there is slowing down in regards to bringing out more story-based games.
However, one announcement seems to have garnered more interest than the rest, even more than the final season of The Walking Dead, which arguably started Telltale's boom period. That announcement is for the second season of The Wolf Among Us, something demanded by Telltale's followers since the first season ended.
So what, in particular, about a second season of the Fables-based game is so exciting to players? This seems like as good a time as any for Shacknews to take a look back at the first game and break down where this anticipation stems from.
It's Gritty Noir
For those unfamiliar with the Fables comics from author Bill Willingham, The Wolf Among Us served as an introduction to one of DC Vertigo's baddest protagonists. This is a world where characters from fairy tales have been banished from their home world, exiled to live among humans (or "mundies," as they refer to them) in a city called Fabletown for their own safety. Everyone has taken up a day job, with more animalistic characters using Glamour spells to pass as humans.
Among those characters is a reformed Big Bad Wolf, simply going by the name Bigby. Bigby Wolf works for the mayor's office as its sheriff, setting the stage for The Wolf Among Us as a detective story. It wasn't Telltale's first dive into police stories and mysteries, but this story carried a far different tone than the Sam & Max series.
The Wolf Among Us was designed with heavy neon colors, darker cel shading, and a heavier atmosphere. It felt like something out of an early detective film, down to Bigby's interactions with suspects and witnesses. Some of them played nice, while others didn't care so much for Bigby playing lapdog for the mayor's administration.
This leads to something else that makes this game stand out.
How 'Big Bad' is Bigby?
More than most Telltale games, The Wolf Among Us allowed players to shape the protagonist the way they wanted him to be. The narrative speaks of a reformed Bigby that's looking to atone for his past as one of fairy tales' baddest villains. But what if Bigby still has that monster in him?
That plays out over the course of interactions with other characters, like Snow White, Colin the Pig (who Bigby took in as his roommate), and Beauty and the Beast. Players can banter with them or interact with them gently, or he could be a total jerk, snipe at them whenever possible, or play a total hardass. But this plays out even more over the course of the game's main investigation.
Bigby's methods, more than anything, have characters judge whether he's a monster or not. When he gets in a bar fight, he has the option to completely rip off his attacker's arm. When he's interrogating Tweedle Dee, he can play the good cop or he can start tightening his restraints or breaking bottles over his face. When he checks out Toad's apartment, there's the option to be a threatening beast right in front of his son.
The Wolf Among Us isn't just a detective story, but it's a test of Bigby's morals and character. How much has he changed? Telltale doesn't give the answer, but rather leaves it up to the players.
Consequences Felt Heavier
An excerpt from my original review here at Shacknews:
"The Wolf Among Us also managed to address a major criticism of this entire genre through this approach: that these types of games aren't necessarily games, because they don't offer a clear win/lose condition. That idea definitely does not apply, especially in the latter half of the game in which a player's series of on-the-spot dialogue choices can directly influence the main plot's outcome. It's as compelling as an interactive story of this type can get."
Without spoiling the final episode, one of the biggest things that made The Wolf Among Us feel like one of Telltale's best efforts is that consequences did mean something. Chickens came home to roost in that final episode in ways that weren't expected. Some of those earlier decisions were not only brought up, but they were used against Bigby and started to influence the outcome of his investigation.
As a sheriff, Bigby is ultimately bound to uphold the law and the will of the people. And in a situation where a main suspect's fate is left up a jury of peers, it was very possible to completely botch the investigation at the very end. I still remember that feeling of turning white as soon as one of my early mistakes was thrown in my face. That sense of the case slipping through my fingers as the townspeople murmured amongst themselves.
That's without even mentioning that certain scenes can play out differently, because it's very possible to kill certain supporting characters, due to actions or inactions. Opting to visit one crime scene over another could mean a person of interest meets their demise, because Bigby arrives too late. Choices mean much more here, as more and more lives are on the line.
And finally, there's the twist.
No spoilers, but the final twist was executed in a brilliantly clever manner. It was one that felt outrageous, yet made perfect sense in the end. And it turned everything on its head. It was a twist that showed the full potential of Telltale working a detective story. And it was the kind of twist that made people want more of this type of story.
More is indeed what people will get in 2018 when Bigby Wolf and The Wolf Among Us return for a second season.