Coming off their successful Walking Dead series, Telltale Games is back with a new interactive episodic adventure based on the graphic novel Fables by Bill Willingham. You play Bigby “the big bad” Wolf, a major character/anti-hero of the books out to solve a murder mystery in The Wolf Among Us: Faith. If you haven’t read Fables, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Once Upon A Time. The concept is very similar but the book takes a much more adult theme (also much more interesting and less corny). The irony of Bigby is that he was the “bad guy” in the olden days but now finds himself in charge of keeping others safe in the the new world. The game looks good, has plenty of good source material to draw from, but ultimately didn’t wow me quite as much as The Walking Dead. Let’s take a look at why:
If you aren’t familiar with Telltale’s recent games, the gameplay is basically a choose-your-own-adventure where you get to decide how your character acts or talks, with limited movement in the environment as you investigate clues and pick up items. The story takes precedence and there may or may not be combat involved, but complicated button pressing is kept to a minimum. It’s a much different take from the big blockbuster games out there, but it’s a very refreshing experience and I hope video games like these continue to be made long into the future.
Quick-time events (QTEs) have a love/hate relationship with video game players. The Walking Dead utilized these as well but not to the degree that this game does since Bigby has superhuman abilities and gets into quite a few fistfights. You will be confused the first time these pop up on screen, which is very early on, as all you’ll be presented with are red circles on multiple objects, where you’ll need to navigate the right control stick over, read which button needs to be pressed (either LT or RT usually) and then hit it in time. Adding difficulty to this is that you will be moving during a lot of these scenes so the target will be moving as well. There will also be button mashing, single button presses, and directions to move the control stick. I got used to them eventually and don’t mind QTEs as long as they’re not used in excess, and these aren’t incredibly difficult, but if you hate them you might get annoyed during a few sections.
There is also a lack of problem-solving. The main draw of these games is the story, but this episode requires only scanning an area for objects and investigating. You pick up objects but there is never a moment where you have to figure out how to get from one area to another, or how to utilize something in the environment combined with your inventory to an advantage. Or need to combine objects. It’s just walk, click, talk, repeat. You will never get stuck and instead will automatically progress through the game. Again, this isn’t a major con but it was a slight disappointment. The game plays more like a truly interactive comic where you get to make decisions, which is still a very fun thing to do.
With that out of the way, I did really enjoy this game. The art style is definitely based on the graphic novels but the game adds a neon-noir type look that makes colors pop out of the shadows, mixed in with Telltale’s distinct style. There is a lot more detail to the environments, and there are also nice touches like when I was standing on a street corner and random cars drove by the intersection. It’s a very good-looking game. Facial expressions on characters are extremely clear, and voice acting is excellent for the most part. Because I’m familiar with the graphic novels, I had a certain expectation for Bigby and I imagined his voice a lot lower and more gritty, so it didn’t quite fit for me along with his depicted “werewolf rage” mode, but overall those are small complaints.
I’m not sure where this game fits in story-wise with the novels; it seemed like it was a prequel but by the time the game ends there is a major change that conflicts with the book. Unless there’s a twist later on, which I hope there isn’t, the game seems to be forging its own path. If you’ve read the novels you will enjoy the cameos; if you’re not familiar then the whole setup might be a little confusing. There are a lot of characters introduced, and if you’re not familiar the game provides much-needed bios on each of them as you progress through the story.
The most enjoyable part of the gameplay is still getting to decide what you want your character to say and making decisions. The game states that it’s “tailored” to your decisions, meaning don’t expect huge plot differences but characters will respond to you differently based on what you say. That aspect thankfully remains intact from Walking Dead and might even be more custom depending on how the episodes pan out. There are points where you will have to decide which path to take, and after playing two playthroughs and choosing different decisions I can happily say that there are differences between the different choices. Even the preview trailer for the next episode was different between my playthroughs.
And what would a Telltale game be without some glitches? There are thankfully very few that I experienced. There were some moments of slow load times, and the the action buttons when you hover over something appear to be active when they are actually not, but this didn’t detract from the game for me.
To Play or Not to Play: If you’re a fan of the previous Telltale game The Walking Dead and/or a fan of Fables, then definitely get this game. It took me around 3 hours to play through my first time, and that’s for a $5 game so consider how much you’re willing to play for that much gameplay. The episode is not self-contained, so you will most likely need to play through all 5 to finish the whole story. Bigby has some nice one-liners and moments of snarky humor; the story is definitely a different dark emotional feel from the heartbreaking Walking Dead, but still ultimately satisfying and intriguing enough for me to anticipate episode 2.