The Wolf Among Us: Faith
- Street Date:
- October 11th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- October 14th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Telltale Games
- Telltale Games
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
360 version performance issues experienced while playing have resulted in a half star subtraction from the Video, Audio, and Final Thoughts grades. Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the PC version of 'The Wolf Among Us: Faith.'
Telltale Games has been keeping the adventure game candle burning for years, but last year's breakthrough hit 'The Walking Dead' proved decidedly that an episodic, story-laden, point-and-click-esque game could be a mainstream success if done right. Now, with second season of 'The Walking Dead' under production, Telltale brings us the first episode 'The Wolf Among Us,' based off of the world built within the DC Comics/Vertigo 'Fables' line of comics. Thus, the mystery is formed, can the big bad sheriff and the gritty world of Fabletown compel players the way that Clementine and hordes of southern zombie's once did?
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
One thing that is quickly apparent in the first episode of 'The Wolf Among Us' is the fundamental difference between 'The Wolf Among Us' and 'The Walking Dead.' The latter is built on the horrific, instantly accessible struggle against zombies and zombie-crazed humans, while the former is meant to be a slow-burning noir, a detective tale set amidst the scrounging fairytale figures of Fabletown with the player in the role of Bigby, the reformed Big Bad Wolf and current sheriff.
Fortunately, this distinction must have been obvious to the team at Telltale as well, since the game exudes an expectation that most players won't really know anything about the comics. A brief text intro gives the player the basics while much of the story is spent informing and establishing the characters, which are not carbon copies from the source material. Unfortunately, before the noir elements can begin to set in, the game forces the player into a lengthy quick time fight.
The best thing about the combat system is that it is robust enough to branch and branch in a way that delivers variety based on performance. A poor performance with the on-screen swiping and targeting can feel different even if the result of the fight is the same. Only once did I hit a game over screen, but that one time was enough encouragement to step up my concentration.
Later fights come with a tempo better suited for building a detective tale. Unfortunately, the investigative aspects between fights can feel stilted, with random clicking in very confined environments supplementing informal questioning. Old adventure game warts, such as looping dialog trees and vague text choices don't always convey the sensation of control. While clues can be hard to miss in the game's narrow little scenes, the lack of investigative skill required means more time spent enjoying the game's atmosphere.
In contrast, games like Rockstar's 'L.A. Noire' and Westwood Studios much older 'Blade Runner' place a greater degree of responsibility on the player to move the investigation and the game as whole forward.
Adding a level of transparency to the game's many conversations are notifications such as 'Mr. Toad will remember that.' Even so, the results can feel incongruent. In one such example, Bigby is a at a bar as a contentious suspect drunkenly shares some information. After one semi-revelation and with a few seconds to read the choices and select, I picked "Glass him," meaning to touch beer glasses, but instead smashing my glass into the subject's head, which instantly prompted the game to declare I "chose violence."
Sadly, what really hurt my experience with the game are some persistent performance issues. Playing off the hard drive of my 360 Elite, the game exhibited a host of problems. The game is packed with twenty second load screens, which consist of a black screen and spinning load icon. Entering small areas like an apartment carried with it the knowledge that the next tiny area was one or two load screens away. (More on other related problems later)
Overall though, once you accept that the gameplay boils down to choices made during conversations and fights and set the performance issues aside, the game's style and 'Fables' prequel story easily stand proud. In some ways, this first episode is just teasing the player, and the expectation has to be that the series and the weight of said choices will continue to build episode by episode and make for a stellar entry from Telltale.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The game's visual style is even better in action than in preview. The color palette and character designs leave 'The Walking Dead' in the dust. Some lighting issues persist, such as the hard fall-off on Colin's pig pink skin, and some decals ignore lighting information and occlusion in a distracting manner. I think they missed with the Snow White design, but most of the characters come alive with or without glamour.
Painfully though, performance problems and seemingly poor animation interpolation were standard in my playthrough. Some Branching conversations tended to hitch at each important decision, and often made character animations during conversations jarring.
Combat was generally better, but one chase scene loaded so unevenly,that the first dodge (a door) did not come into proper view until after it was time for the next.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The game's soundtrack does a great job of selling the mood. The voice acting is good to great, but can feel disjointed when the player activates the same clip, a classic adventure game flaw. Small, quiet environments don't offer much surround wise.
While the audio was not as troubling as the video in terms of hitching performance, there was at least one load screen that began playing the audio several seconds ahead of loading in a cutscene. Such issues left me wondering if the long load screens were going to ruin each next scene.
At about two and half hours, the first episode is a good candidate to play or replay with a group of people, and the frequent fights should keep everyone engaged while hopefully enjoying the dinginess of Fabetown. Beyond that, further episodes will help to make the series one worth repeat visits.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
While the achievements and collecting of fables are rudimentary and hard to miss, reading about the fables is a nice way to learn about or to recall the various characters. Like 'The Walking Dead,' being able to see global percentage's on player choices give the game a connected feel that seems distant from its adventure game roots.
Telltale has got something with 'The Wolf Among Us,' a fresh property and stylized noir trappings that should grab a lot of fans despite the lack of zombies. Even so, this first episode feels like a prologue that just gets some characters set up before touching on a mystery. Hopefully, Telltale can do something to address the long load times and hitching performance so that more people can properly experience 'The Wolf Among Us.'
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