I love film noir. Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler. The streets steam while cloaked figures with hidden agendas prowl along the edges of the muted lamps. Beautiful women with large eyes and tight dresses stand framed in doorways, aloof yet inviting. Rugged wolf-men take drags from cigarettes to prevent the emergence of their lupine glory – wait, what?
Yes, that was my reaction verbatim. Meet The Wolf Among Us . . . not your typical mystery game!
If you’re looking for a good noir-ish video game, and you've already finished L.A. Noire, then The Wolf Among Us is just what you’re looking for. It’s one of Telltale Games’ episodic series. I’m sure I've mentioned this game, and its parent series the Fables comics before. I just got around to playing the third episode, released earlier this month.
You play as Bigby Wolf, and I’ll give you one guess which story he’s from. Wolf is the Sheriff of Fabletown, a neighborhood in New York City inhabited by hard-bitten, jaded versions of our favorite fairy tale characters. The game begins with Bigby meeting a mysterious young woman hours before her brutal murder, the first murder that’s happened in Fabletown in years. In the most recently released episode, as of this writing, he’s discovered that this is the tip of the corruption iceberg that is Fabletown.
This entire article could be solely about the game’s story, without touching the gameplay. That’s because there’s precious little of it. It’s not a puzzle game or an adventure game. I would call it one or the other, except for the fact that you’ll be surprised by quick-time events that appear now and then. You could be controlling Bigby through a tame investigation scene, and then you’ll suddenly have to participate in a speedy chase. It’s schizophrenic, at best.
I know I said this already in my article on the Dark Parables, but there is something very strange about this tendency to turn classic European fairy tales into grim bloodbaths. They were already that in their original form, but at least they tried to provide a cautionary tale. My first thought is that it’s a backlash against childhood naiveté as personified by Disney films. But these characters seem to be their own people, rather than elaborate caricatures.
Perhaps this is some kind of elaborate satire, a commentary on how the cautionary tales of yesteryear have become subsumed by the modern predilection for senseless violence for its’ own sake. Whatever else I can say about this game, it’s a beautiful thing to look at. For a game so lean that it borders on the casual, it’s certainly a rich experience.