So this morning I played the third episode of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, and I’m still recovering. It is by far the best episode of the series yet. Proceed with caution, though — it’s hard to talk about this series without giving away spoilers!
The first episode, “Faith,” has Fabletown Sheriff Bigby Wolf (a.k.a. The Big Bad Wolf of fairytales) joining up with Snow White to investigate the murder of a call girl. It’s a point-and-click mystery adventure, which I reviewed on my blog here. The first episode leaves you with a cliffhanger, and I couldn’t wait for the second episode to begin.
However, after playing the second episode, “Smoke and Mirrors,” I just couldn’t find the inspiration to write a review of it. After how much the first episode sparks, “Smoke and Mirrors” just felt lacklustre to me. The story in episode two progresses at a slowed pace, with a little too much time spent throwing things around the local strip club just for the hell of it.
I also felt like I had less agency in the second episode. In “Faith,” your decisions result in a main character either living or dying, and you decide which suspect to arrest while letting another go free — for the time being. However, in “Smoke and Mirrors,” decisions are more along the lines of how-mean-do-you-want-to-be-to-this-character, and it feels like things will work out similarly no matter what you do. I suppose the big difference is in what information you get. This is a series where it pays to pay attention to every little bit of data you glean from suspects and witnesses.
In any case, episode three, “A Crooked Mile,” empowers the player with major decisions, just as it did in episode one. Some of the choices are how Bigby responds to the people around him, but these moments feel much more important than before. With more murders happening and Bigby hot on the heels of someone directly involved in them — possibly the killer himself — both Fabletown and our protagonist are at their breaking points. That means confrontations, and every dialogue option has the potential to piss somebody off. I personally loved an argument between Bigby and Holly — the latter grieving for her murdered sister — because it played on how Bigby interacted with Holly in past episodes. (Basically, Holly hates my Bigby.)
The episode also clips along at breakneck speed. There’s a meeting happening between the prime murder suspect and a mysterious witch at exactly 2 AM, giving Bigby and Snow just a few short hours to track down who this witch is — and where she is. I usually get stressed out when there’s a timer on missions, but in this case, it works for the suspense.
You have three places to investigate, but there’s only time to visit two of them before 2 AM. There are also unexpected turns of events when you arrive. For instance, you might show up somewhere to look through someone’s things, but you can’t anticipate who is going to be there or what information they are going to give you if you handle them right.
Best of all, the scenes get a little emotional. The beginning of the episode has Bigby crashing a funeral. Later, while investigating a murder suspect’s belongings, he has to sneak around the grieving Holly who is subdued and half-asleep from pain medication. Though I could have had Bigby announce himself to her, I kept him quiet while Holly (who hates him, remember?) rambled on about him. There was a touching moment toward the end of that. And during the last fight scene, Bigby morphs into his wolf form, is shot several times, and has to fight just to stand up and keep going.
It gets intense. The series seems to be heating up, and I can’t wait to see how the story wraps in the next couple of episodes…