End Of The Road
With episode five, Cry Wolf, Telltale Games brings their first Vertigo adaptation to an end, and it’s quite likely from the reception of this first season that this Fables-based game is just that; the first of more seasons. As to be expected from any concluding episode, there’s a fixed goal in mind for this installment and choices that have been made in past episodes play out to show you what kind of world you’ve made, and what kind of influence you’ve had on people. For anyone that’s a fan of adventure games, episode five of The Wolf Among Us delivers the goods in a satisfying way.
Not Black & White Fairy Tales
Although it’s been widely, repeatedly acknowledged that the PS3 version of the series is technically the worst performing, it bears mentioning that it’s gotten even worse for this last episode. Load times are noticeably longer, upwards of over a minute from some chapters to the next, and the audio occasionally goes out of sync with the visuals, leading to some awkward moments where the speaking is all wrapped, but the characters are still going through the dialog motions. It’s safe to assume that this will continue for the remainder of PS3 Telltale games, such as the wrap up to season two of The Walking Dead. It’s also quite likely that new games, such as the upcoming Borderlands adventure, will probably also be available on the Xbox One and PS4 and not prone to these hiccups.
Now, as for the game itself, this is all about the story, which should be no surprise at this point since we’re talking about a Telltale game. There will be the inevitable questions along the lines of “Is this ending as good as Season One of The Walking Dead?” The answer to that question is, “Yes, as long as you’re not expecting to cry.” The Wolf Among Us—and to be fair, the entire world of Bill Willingham’s Fables—is not the same as that of The Walking Dead. In a way, both worlds explore the human condition, but where The Walking Dead goes the route of the extreme—putting people in life or death situations that force hard choices—The Wolf Among Us tackles moral ambiguity head on, especially in this last episode. There’s a different kind of emotional turmoil that comes from trying to uphold a system of law versus trying to do the right thing. The Wolf Among Us has constantly wrestled with this. In nearly every episode, Bigby has been confronted with a rule of law that is corrupt, marginalizing the Fables without wealth or status, forcing the player into making choices that might be the legal thing to do, but might not necessarily be the right thing to do.
All those little choices add up and get some karmic payback in the final episode as Bigby gets a final confrontation with the “final boss” of the game and story. It culminates in the player finding a personal answer to the question, “What is more important, upholding the rules of society as an example to society, or doing whatever it takes, however illegal, to ensure justice is served?” It’s an enormously complicated question, and it’s sure to have players arguing back and forth over the decisions they made and what it says about their own value system. That’s not something 90% of games ever do to their players, and it’s amazing that Telltale managed to pull it off here.
The Wolf Among Us, like the world of Fables themselves, is ultimately a reflection of modern society. The only difference is, over the course of this five-episode murder mystery, it has repeatedly forced players to confront their own value system through scenarios that are anything but clear-cut “right choice/wrong choice.” There’s no chance that Cry Wolf is going to elicit tears from the player; it doesn’t want to. But what it will do, which is equally as important—perhaps more so—is make the player think about right, wrong, legal and illegal, and how these things don’t necessarily pair up with each other in the way you’d expect. Telltale has told a great tale here, living up to their studio name, and hopefully there will be more unusual, morally complex, offbeat adventures like this in their future.