The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 – Cry Wolf
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 07/08/2014
I really wasn’t expecting this to come out so quickly. Telltale has been pretty good about keeping up a pattern of alternating releases of The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead. I was sure episode four of the latter would be out before we got the finale for the former.
Anyway, the finale is out! We’ve spent four episodes building up to this. We’ve made life and death decisions, got in more than one scrape, and had to decide who to send up to The Farm. It’s time to find out if all of that time and effort will pay off!
The last episode ended with a bang. Finally, after hours of searching, Bigby tracked down the Crooked Man. Not only was the bastard just sitting there without a care in the world, he had all of his goons/accomplices there to back him up! Even still, there were plenty of mysteries left unsolved and more than a few issues to resolve in the finale.
If you’re new to how we review episodic games, I’ll explain it. You see, most of the game elements don’t change from episode to episode. The visuals, audios, and basic controls all pretty much stay the same. To save time, I’m just going to copy and paste certain parts of this review from the others. The old stuff will be in italics, to help you sort it out from the new stuff. Also, make sure you check out my reviews for Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4 if you want the whole story.
In the world of Fables, the characters from your favorite fairy tales are all real. While this concept might seem cliché at this point, I assure you that Fables was doing it long before shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Anyway, those characters are known as Fables, and they’ve moved into a section of New York City known as Fabletown. The key is to keep a low profile so they can live out their lives in peace. Magic spells known as glamours keep the more obvious mystical creatures looking human, while talking animals and such reside in a place known as “The Farm”. The Wolf Among Us focuses on one particular Fable. That would be Bigby Wolf. You’ll know him better as the Big Bad Wolf, from stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs. Now in human form, Bigby works as Fabletown’s sheriff. You see, he’s trying to turn his life around, and keeping the peace between other Fables is a way to show his fellows that he’s not the bloodthirsty monster he was before.
If the last episode was the build up, than this one is the climax. While it’s by far the shortest episode in the season, every scene is a show-stopper. The chase scene is incredible, the fight scene is easily the best in the game, and the tough choices keep on coming. Best of all, I really feel like my decisions made a sizable impact on the outcome of the story. I played through the game twice, back to back, and there was a massive difference between how one pivotal scene played out. Either way things went, the whole thing was very interesting. I felt that pretty much everything got resolved. The few things that didn’t were build-ins to the comic, so it made sense.
I must say I was quite shocked by how much I enjoyed the proceedings. The last episode really left a sour taste in my mouth, but this saved it. It brought to a head not just the murder mystery aspect of the game, but also the social aspects. It’s hard to remain too happy about things when you’re shipping off your friends to go live on The Farm after all. It keeps things in perspective, which I liked very much.
Aesthetically, the game is a hit. Neon pastels and dirty streets create a fun version of a late 80′s NYC. Telltale uses a similar style to that of The Walking Dead to create the appearance of a three-dimensional comic book. The look works, and it is benefited by excellent facial animations that sell the characters in ways that many games wish they could do. The style may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I must say I’m impressed. If you can use cartoon visuals yet create something that’s still so gritty, you deserve some praise.
On the technical side of things, the game fares a little worse. Telltale has still not figured out how to get their games running properly. The framerate is atrocious, and it dips constantly. Even worse, the game skips and pauses with alarming frequency. While this can be somewhat understandable when the game is loading up different scenes depending on your choices, it makes no sense for one of the many scripted scenes that don’t change no matter what you do. However, the skips and pauses happen in both cases. I also had the game completely freeze up on me a couple of times. Seriously. It’s like a running gag with Telltale games. They really need to get around to fixing it.
Aurally, the game works on all levels. The voice actors do great work for even the smallest of parts (of course, some of these parts may grow in future episodes). Bigby has as gruff a voice as you’d expect, even though they didn’t go the obvious route with Steve Blum. The accents, for those who have them, feel natural. The music is heavy on the synthesizers and is delightful. It’s kind of like a classic noir story jazzed up for the eighties. If TT could get the same level of quality with their graphics as they do their audio, there would be few games that could match them.
If you’ve played one of TT’s adventure games before, you’ll be able to jump right in here. In fact, I can’t think of a single difference between this and TWD, except that so far I haven’t had to shoot any guns in third person.
When you’re at a location, you’ll need to walk around to find points to interact with. If you use the right stick to move a cursor over such an area, various actions will become available. Each action is displayed on a wheel that corresponds with the face buttons on the controller, so the bottom action is the X button, for example. It’s also color coded to make things easier. Thankfully, similar actions are usually kept to the same buttons. You’ll press X to open doors, Triangle to glance over something, etc. Some items can be picked up and used elsewhere, though this mechanic is streamlined. Basically, holding the correct item opens up a prompt somewhere, where such a prompt would be missing otherwise.
Perhaps the most important mechanic is conversations. You’ll get to talking with one of the other Fables, and you’ll often have several choices on how to respond. You have a short time to pick an answer, otherwise Bigby will just stay silent. Interestingly enough, silence is as valid an option as any other. While picking certain options can slightly change how things play out, you’re usually just along for the ride here. Big, game changing decisions don’t have a timer, and there only tends to be a couple of options. At the very least, you’ll be able to tell when a choice is such a decision.
As the sheriff, you’re bound to get in a few scrapes here and there. Fight scenes are usually intense and quite lengthy. For the most part, they’re quick time events. However, you’re allowed to fail a few of these prompts without stopping the flow of a story. For example, you might not dodge a punch in time, so you’ll take the hit. While many games would have you restart from there, this game will just let you roll with the punch and keep going. Of course, certain events must be cleared or you’ll have to restart, and even when they give you multiple chances, you can only lose so much before you’re roadkill. Still, this leniency allows for some flexibility in fight scenes.
In many ways, this is the most straightforward episode yet. Only at one time can you really switch how things play out in the time line. Even then, the order of events still plays out the same. You just take longer if you go a certain route. That’s OK though. The game has a story it needs to tell, and it lets you guide the really important stuff.
I mentioned the fight and chase scenes in this episode. They really feel like the game is finally letting loose. The art direction and animations are hands down the best in the season. It’s like the fights before were just warm ups to this.
There is one big problem though. The increase in action correlates to an equal increase in slowdown. The game pauses often to catch up with itself, save, and even load up the trophy notification. It can get a bit frustrating during a charged scene to say the least.
I’ve given Telltale a lot of grief about how they continue to call their games “adventures”. Honestly, these games have quickly become interactive dramas. However, the quality of this story proves that the genre can work, and the high action scenes had me invested as much as any action game. For that, I will give the developers props. I have no issue with them continuing things in this direction if the quality keeps up.
Short Attention Span Summary
For those of us who’ve played each episode as it came out, Cry Wolf is the perfect send off. The action, writing, and decision making are at their absolute best in this sendoff. While it may only be an hour long, this episode is almost worth the price of admission alone. If you haven’t started playing the series yet, there’s honestly no better time. Just make sure you have several hours in order to play through the whole thing.