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The Wolf Among Us – “Smoke & Mirrors” (PS3) Review

/ Feb 11th, 2014 No Comments

The Wolf Among Us

The Wolf Among Us – “Smoke & Mirrors” is an episodic adventure game for the PlayStation 3 (also on PC/Mac, Xbox 360 and iOS). “Smoke & Mirrors” is the second episode in The Wolf Among Us. The Wolf Among Us places players in the role of Bigby Wolf, sheriff of Fabletown, as he investigates a series of murders occurring in Fabletown. It follows up the shocking and insane cliff hanger set up in “Faith”.

Once again “Smoke & Mirrors” is adept at crafting compelling dialogue to give depth and complexity to the various Fables populating the less glamorous side of Fabletown. The level of detail and art style of The Wolf Among Us remains awe inspiring, but there are a few performance issues early on that can be annoying. The most important aspect of “Smoke & Mirrors” is that it continues on the impressive momentum created by “Faith.”

Story

“Smoke & Mirrors” picks up immediately where “Faith” left off. Bigby is still in shock over finding another Fable left dead on the Business Office’s doorstep. Stuck in an interrogation room of the NYPD, Bigby is extremely vulnerable. Before he talks too much though, the detective interrogating him falls ill and Ichabod rushes in to remove him from the dangerous situation. Once back in the Business Office, Bigby has to head down to the basement, where Bluebeard has the suspect Bigby caught at the end of “Faith” tied up for “interrogation.”

Bigby takes over, asserting his authority as the sheriff. Now in control of the situation, Bigby has a few options for obtaining valuable information from the suspect to help investigate the first murder. The information the suspect has is highly valuable and getting it reliably is hugely important, so it is up to Bigby to decide how to get it. Not only does he have to get that information, but he has to investigate the other murder victim’s body for leads. This takes him deeper into the seedier side of Fabletown, but is there more to it all than meets the eye?
 

The Wolf Among Us

Jack Horner plays his role perfectly by being a complete d***.

What The Wolf Among Us continues to do so well is sketch out the more impoverished side of Fabletown. It is a less explored section in the Fables comic, which focuses on larger Fable/Homeland concerns with sweeping plotlines. “Smoke & Mirrors” continues to explore the less fortunate Fables – the ones who escaped the Homelands with very little and who are forced to do unsavory acts to survive in the harsh Mundy world.

The Wolf Among Us has done a superb job populating this street side of Fabletown with a memorable cast of recurring characters and introducing new ones in this episode. The episode also does a great job introducing Jack Horner and Bluebeard, inserting them into situations that perfectly match their specific personalities and characterizations. Bluebeard is a ruthless, pretentious cutthroat who criticizes Bigby during his interrogation. Jack Horner acts as an instigator, an itch that cannot be scratches as Bigby heads back to the Trip Trap. These are two satisfying character moments in an episode full of them.

What stands out the most though is the tragic and poignant conversation between Bigby and Nerissa in the Pudding and Pie and interactions with Cinderella that are riveting. There are so many satisfying little moments as “Smoke & Mirrors” propels the fascinating plot forward with smart new plot points and complications that make episode better than “Faith.”

Gameplay

As the second episode in an episodic game, the gameplay mechanics remain unchanged. However, “Smoke & Mirrors” features less combat scenarios and emphasizes role-playing. At the beginning of the episode, Bigby has to decide how to interrogate the suspect he caught in the Trip Trap at the end of “Faith.” Depending on how players want to play out the scenario, they can choose to be brutal and barbaric in order to pry out information or try to get him talking by performing small humane gestures. The method players choose will have consequences on how the members of Fabletown view Bigby. Role-playing is about how you want the Fables to see you – are you truly just a Big Bad Wolf or something unexpected?
 

The Wolf Among Us

How are you going to play this one?

There is one major combat scuffle near the end of the episode, but it lacks the same visceral nature as the fight with Woody or chasing down Dee. However, the fight capitalizes on choices made in “Faith” and has more meaningful story weight. Controls for combat are still great so there is no issue of the controls making the fight feel enfeebled. Another gameplay aspect that takes more prominence in “Smoke & Mirrors” is Bigby’s investigative skills because there are a number of instances in which Bigby has to put together evidence to come to revelations in the case. It creates a more adventure feel to the proceedings that adds another layer to gameplay.

Graphics and Sound

Once again, The Wolf Among Us features impressive visuals full of rich details. The darker shades in the color palette do a great job evoking the noir feel of the game. “Smoke & Mirrors” also plays with shadows extremely well.
 

The Wolf Among Us

Everyone knew this was coming.

The episode revisits many of the environments from “Faith” to give greater appreciation of how detailed everything is while introducing new environments in the Pudding and Pie and the Love Motel. Both of the new environments have impeccable set design and create believable spaces. “Smoke & Mirrors” also continues to feature incredible music, voice work and sound design.

Overall

The Wolf Among Us – “Smoke & Mirrors” capitalizes on the phenomenal beginning of “Faith” by moving the story forward, adding interesting complications while focusing on compelling characters, interactions and moments. It remains a beautiful game with a great eye for detail and color. As the episode features moving and poignant character interactions between Bigby and other Fables, it highlights how important good voice acting is. The only real flaw is a bit of performance lag in the PS3 version. Telltale is crafting a fantastic episode adventure game that is well worth the Season Pass price.

  

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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THE WOLF AMONG US – “SMOKE & MIRRORS” (PS3) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall92%

GAMEPLAY9

The gameplay is no different from episode one, "Faith". Except "Smoke & Mirrors" places a larger emphasis on role-playing as Bigby Wolf as he has a number of ways to approach situations in the second episode. This heavy role-playing emphasis results in great immersion into the Fabletown murder investigation.

GRAPHICS9

"Smoke & Mirrors" retains the same intricate level of detail that "Faith" exhibited. The Wolf Among Us so far has been a gorgeous game with expressive characters and evocative environments. There are small issues with performance lag in the second episode that showed up early in the episode to watch out for, but smoothed out fairly quick.

SOUND9.5

There is an outstanding quality to the sound in "Smoke & Mirrors". From the moody, brooding soundtrack that sells the noir tones of the story to the brilliant voice work. "Smoke & Mirrors" nails the various emotions the story takes as Bigby continues his investigation.

STORY9.5

"Smoke & Mirrors" is a spectacular follow-up to "Faith". It plays with the established Fable continuity extremely well as it weaves its original narrative. The dialogue is excellent and some of the interactions in the episode are beautiful and poignant. "Smoke & Mirrors" asserts why The Wolf Among Us is such a perfect companion to the main Fable comic series by focusing on elements the comic is unable to detail in-depth.

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