In exile, the Fables live in New York on Bullfinch Street, they elude the eyes of the Mundies (regular folk) through the use of magic and strict rules to prevent revealing their real nature. As part of the compact for founding Fabletown every Fable’s past sins are forgiven and they start fresh under General Amnesty, so long as they follow the rules of the compact. This is how all these disparate Fables are able to live together without having Mundies discovering their secret. Also, how someone like the Big Bad Wolf can go from villain to the Sheriff of Fabletown.
At PAX, TellTale Games’ booth had several demo stations set up to give attendees an opportunity to play the first 20 minutes of The Wolf Among Us’s season premier. Thanks to Laura Perusco of TellTale Games for allowing myself and Chance Asue to bypass the packed line to check out The Wolf Among Us.
The demo begins with Bigby answering a call about a domestic disturbance at an apartment building in Fabletown. When he arrives in the apartment lobby there is a 3 foot tall toad standing in plain sight. This causes Bigby to dig into Mr. Toad about his appearance because all non-human Fables need to have a glamour (a spell that makes them look human). This is to prevent the Mundies from discovering the secret that a bunch of magical fairy tale creatures are living among them in New York. Any non-human Fable caught outside without a glamour or who cannot afford one are sent to live on The Farm in upstate New York. This is not something any non-human Fable wants because once on The Farm, they cannot leave.
So, the tone of the conversation between Bigby and Mr. Toad is standoffish and acrimonious with Toad asking Bigby to cut him some slack because the price of glamours keeps going up but the spells get weaker. Toad claims it is extortion keeping him and his family in glamours. However, Bigby is not hearing it because he has to protect the Fables’ secret, but he gives Toad until morning before he will do anything. Much like in The Walking Dead, the player controls the tone of the conversation through subtle variations of dialogue or by keeping silent. Whatever Bigby says or does is going to be noted and remembered by characters in the game meaning dialogue choices will have long term affects.
After telling Toad to get glamours for him and his family, Bigby heads upstairs to deal with the disturbance. In the hallway, Bigby notices an outplace matchbook that the player can pick up. Considering Bigby is the Sheriff picking up potential evidence is likely important moving forward. Also, there is a payphone off the hook, which the player can put back on the ringer or ignore. When the player is ready they can enter the apartment where the argument is happening. At the door, Bigby has the option to knock or to kick the door open. Since it is a demo, going in more aggressively seemed the better route to ensure a scuffle might occur and test out the game’s combat.
Once Bigby kicks the door to kindling, he finds the Woodsman (Woody) arguing with a call girl. Before Bigby can figure out what happened, Woody starts roughing up the girl. This will not stand, so Bigby rushes to intervene and starts a fight between Woody and him. Bigby and he start rampaging through the apartment destroying furniture. Bigby throws him into a book shelf allowing Woody to pick up his trusty axe. Now the fight is more dangerous and Bigby has to avoid the axe that caused him so much trouble in the past. Avoiding a few chops with the axe, he disarms the Woodsman. Then he throws Woody into a sink breaking it. At the remnants of the sink, Woody picks up a straight razor sitting on a counter and tries to cut up Bigby requiring the player to dodge the blade. After successfully avoiding it, Bigby shoves the Woodsman onto his barren bed frame and slams his leg against Woody’s neck.
The combat in The Wolf Among Us is not hugely different from combat in The Walking Dead. A reticule appears that must be lined up to perform an action and button prompts appear on screen, which require the player to press in order to perform the action (QTEs). Except in The Wolf Among Us, whether it is because the tone of the game is different or because the combat has been refined, the fight between Woody and Bigby seems much more immediate, visceral and involved. It feels like the fight between Shelby and that one dude in the motel room in Heavy Rain (except not boring). As well at certain points through the fight, dialogue options come up keeping the player aware the choices when it comes to dealing with other characters.
After a tough fight, Bigby breaks Woody’s jaw putting him down for a moment so he and the girl can talk. She tells Bigby what happened, the Woodsman called her up and when she showed up he was already drunk. Woody asked her if she knew who he was, but she didn’t recognize him. So he goes crazy due to his ego and the drink, he roughs her up a bit and then Bigby kicked in the door. During her story Woody chastises her through his broken jaw. Eventually, the Woodsman recovers and pops his jaw back in place. Yelling about Bigby’s new status in Fabletown, Woody tackles him knocking Bigby out a window causing them both to crash to the street below.
Bigby lands on Toad’s taxi while Woody lands in the street. Mr. Toad runs outside to horror as he sees Bigby lying on his destroyed taxi. They have a short conversation where Toad tells him that he can’t be mad because he called him, but he regrets it. As Bigby shambles off the taxi, he finds the Woodsman isn’t out and they continue to fight. Woody gets Bigby in a choke hold up against a bus stop. As Woody strangles Bigby, he tells him that he wants to see his true self. For Bigby to become the Wolf, but the player has to hold out against the transformation. It is difficult and Bigby comes close to transforming denoted by the yellow hue of his eyes. Before Bigby does something terrible (transforming breaks the Fabeltown compact), Woody’s axe finds its way into the back of his skull. After falling to the ground dead, Bigby sees the call girl looking at him. This is where the demo ends.
The Wolf Among Us is not a huge departure from what TellTale Games does exceedingly well, but there is a world of difference between The Walking Dead Season One and this. What is immediately obvious is how much better looking The Wolf Among Us is from The Walking Dead. The game looks vividly gorgeous with its noir overtones and lighter color palette. As noted, the combat feels different and more visceral even if the mechanics are similar. After watching two play throughs of the demo, the dialogue doesn’t seem to branch as much as The Walking Dead, at least not in this first 20 minutes (which is probably why it makes for a good demo). The characters are all well drawn and distinct with Bigby feeling true to the comic. Dialogue in the game is great and it will be interesting to see where the first episode leads after the end of demo.
The Wolf Among Us Episode One releases sometime this September on PSN, XBLA and Steam.