Review: The Wolf Among Us Episode 3 – A Crooked Mile (PC)

e3coverThe Wolf Among Us – Episode 3: A Crooked Mile
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 04/08/2014

A lot has been made of Telltale’s surge in success with episodic titles. They’re a solid and entertaining two hours per episode, deliver an ongoing story while usually telling a decent enough short tale on their own while advancing the over-arcing story, and are a nice mix-up for the genre and the market at large. The Walking Dead is obviously one of their bigger successes when it comes to spinning a narrative based on another property having gone into a full blown second season, but I’d have to say that The Wolf Among Us is just as effective at telling those same stories and delivering the punch in the emotional gut as The Walking Dead but is obviously telling a very different kind of story for a very different property. Where The Walking Dead is about post-apocalyptic survival, The Wolf Among Us is a crime noir set in The Fables universe that shakes things up in a way that brings a fresh face to the crime noir and another take on fairy tales which are a hot commodity right now. Where the first two episodes gave us murder investigations to focus on, the third is all about tracking down a suspect who already knows you’re after them and forces you to go the detective route to track them down.

2014-04-27_00058While I’ll try to keep some of the spoilers to a minimum, expect past episodes to get talked about in length, so if you haven’t played episodes 1 and 2, you may want to turn back. You’re still playing Bigby in this chapter and I doubt that’s going to change, but that’s not a bad thing. We pick up right where we left off after the end of the second episode with Bigby clutching the compromising photo of Ichabod and the glamored up Troll hooker so she looked like Snow White. Bigby kind of flies into a rage depending on how you respond to things and goes looking for Snow who’s attending Lily’s funeral. Things go south pretty quickly depending on how you handle things, but can get even worse when the Tweedle twins show up and unload into the funeral crowd hitting Grendel, Lily’s sister and Bigby in the process before they high tail it. That’s when we cut back to Ichabod’s office where Bigby is getting taken care of and we find out about the magic mirror that Crane smashed so he couldn’t be tailed easily. Unfortunately, the flying monkey got wasted so he’s a bit unreliable and Bluebeard has decided that just Bigby looking for Crane isn’t enough and he wants to get his hands on the administrator, convinced he’s the murderer. While what Crane has done obviously warrants a further investigation and his arrest, Bigby and Snow aren’t quite sure that Crane is the murderer but they are sure that something rotten is up and Crane’s involved.

This episode definitely focuses a bit more on the investigation even though there’s a damn good sequence towards the end that plays out beautifully. You have to pick where you’re going for clues as to where you’ll track down Crane and talk to different people to get the right information. It’s not always helpful, but there’s a ticking clock involved so speed is of the essence. As the turning point of both the murder investigations and the third and decidedly middle part of the story, Episode 3 definitely delivers and continues the trend of previous episodes of letting you play Bigby as a complete asshole or simply as the misunderstood Big Bad Wolf. In fact if you want all the unlocks and achievements you’re going to have to play through twice to get both and things do change up a bit depending on how you play it. I definitely felt even more involved in what’s going on this episode as decisions had to be made on where to go and what to look for to find Crane and it was a fantastic lead up to the final part of the episode which I’m not going to ruin.

2014-04-27_00105Visually this is very comparable to the previous episodes in terms of quality and the use of color and lighting along with the textures to give it the proper comic book feel is still equally amazing and refreshing. It’s something the video game medium could use more of. There’s color in the real world and seeing it smeared all over a game is a change of pace and I’m hoping it catches on. As far as audio goes, the music is pretty decent but as usual with a character driven tale, it’s the voice actors that really drive the game along and sell what’s going on and they are just as good as ever in this. My only complaint is that a few characters lines get cut short when you’re not making choices and move into the next line of dialogue without finishing the first and that’s really the only thing that feels rushed about this episode.

Controls are responsive and they give you a decent amount of time to respond to everything so it’s not all twitch based. They haven’t really introduced any new mechanics into the gameplay at all although I was amused that it popped up to let me know one of the characters that was passing out at a bar wouldn’t remember the conversation instead of the opposite. If you want a more in-depth look at controls and gameplay check out the reviews for Episode 1 and Episode 2.

2014-04-27_00131As I mentioned, just through story means as well as getting all the achievements and unlocks for your Book of Fables, you’re going to end up playing this episode at least twice, and that’s something that’s held up through the other two episodes as well. The way things are handled can go a number of ways and especially the way Bigby reacts to people and the way people react to the way he’s treated them. On top of that there are three locations to investigate in this and a limited amount of time to do it in and I only could get to two of the three in that timeframe so that changes what you find as well, but I’m guessing the different clues can lead you to the same path. So if you’re looking for replayability there’s at least 4 hours worth of play time packed in to just this episode when usually your mileage runs about 2 for a Telltale episodic release.

The side effect of the replayability and virtually doubling your time with this and not just to see slightly different outcomes is that Wolf Among Us is essentially doubling the value you get out of it, meaning for the same price as the pass for The Walking Dead you’re getting twice as much out of it if you’re willing to put a little more time in to unlock and get all the achievements for each episode. Even without doing that, I really do think that for roughly 10 to 20 hours of play time you’re getting your money’s worth as a new release with arguably questionable character and story quality and the same play time can and often does run up to $60 and this is only $24.99 for the season which is more than worth that.

2014-04-27_00220I will say that being based off a property, especially in this case, means a little less originality but they’ve gotten around that by setting this in a different time frame than the comics and stories that the characters pull from. They also tweaked up the formula a bit from The Walking Dead‘s first season which I’ve mentioned before and added that little side benefit of playing through with a darker or lighter attitude depending on how you played. I do have to say that when I sit down to play an episode, I definitely make sure that I have the full time to play as I hate getting up in the middle, even if it’s just to pause it for a bit. When the episode is over is the only time I regret having to review these as they come out as I’d love to be able to jump right into the next one, but that’s why I end up replaying them again later and much sooner than my other games. The Wolf Among Us is definitely on par with what Telltale has been doing with The Walking Dead and in some ways surpasses some of what they did with the first season of that game and definitely fulfills its own genre role. The Wolf Among Us is a very different animal and set of story-telling despite using very similar game mechanics to tell that story.

Other than my audio and conversation issue I mentioned earlier, I had no issues playing this episode. The quality was otherwise good and it loaded and played smoothly. The quickness with which the game realizes you’ve swapped over to controller from the keyboard and mouse controls is to be commended as well. This is a breeze to play in either mode and I love how easy it is to just lose myself in one of their games, this one included.

Short Attention Span Summary
The Wolf Among Us Episode 3 is another great addition to the series. Serving as the turning point and the middle part of the over-arcing Fables crime noir story, it does its job of not only advancing everything but turning what the player and the main characters know on their heads and making things even more difficult for things moving forward. It’s fun to play, the dialogue, characters and world are rich and easy to get lost in for a few hours, and it has some amazing colors and lighting effects that other games have somehow forgotten in their bid to make everything gritty and dirty which this game pulls off with all those colors intact. Telltale have nailed it again and you should definitely be getting that season pass for the game as it is very much worth the price of admission.

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