Wednesday
Sep042013

PAX Prime 2013: Experiencing The Wolf Among Us

he flicker of a single neon light cuts into the darkness in front of me. We are moments away from the end of the show floor hours for PAX Prime 2013, and I am hurried into a darkened room without much explanation of what will be inside. As I struggle to find my bearings through the tight corridor, I am greeted by a welcomed sight, something I have been waiting to see the entire convention. We were lucky enough to play through the first public demo of The Wolf Among Us, the next episodic series from Telltale Games. The anticipated follow-up to the developer’s last title has been the topic of many discussions in the enthusiast press for months, and from our first look it is easy to say that it will be a worthy successor.

The demo begins with an explanation of the world of Fables, the comic series published by Vertigo that The Wolf Among Us is based on. I was thankful for this, because sadly I am not familiar with this story about characters from the fairy tales we grew up with as they leave their world, The Homelands for what is known as the Mundane world. After the play through of this demo, however, I am certainly going to rectify that with reading through the back catalog of titles.

Moving on, our main protagonist, Sheriff Bigby Wolf, is the law and enforcer of all of the immigrants from the Homelands as they attempt to live amongst the residents of the Mundane. We follow Bigby as he responds to an altercation at a tenement building in the South Bronx, which in the cel shaded art style seems to pop right off of the pages of a comic strip. The Sheriff is greeted by Mr. Toad, which by his name really leaves little to the imagination. The toad in human clothing is instantly scolded by Wolf, who informs him that he needs to obtain Glamour, which in the world of Mundane allows for their melding into normal society. Toad does not comply with this, due to the high cost asked for by the witches who distribute Glamour. At this point, the iconic radial wheel appears outlining the different responses that Wolf is able to declare, along with a timer in order to make the responses more impactful. I chose to play Wolf as more of a sympathetic authority figure, and reasoned with Mr. Toad about the importance of blending in. The game states that silence is a valid option in conversations, but also gives the player the opportunity to pursue many different ways of handling the situation. I would explore these points further as I approached the location of the distress call.

Listening at the echoed screams throughout the hallway as I climbed up the stairs, I could also make out the dull sound of a ringtone from an unattended payphone.  After I politely hung up the dangling receiver, I then proceeded to kick the door in on the potential assailant. I launched into the room just as a large bearded man struck down a woman as they were arguing. The man introduced himself as The Woodsman, and at recognizing the Sheriff declared that he had saved Little Red Riding Hood before cutting him down the middle. It was obviously that these two had a past. Little could be said to the lumberjack of a man, and so the two battled in a vicious fight.

The combat was contextual, similar to the mechanics of The Walking Dead as prompts were shown to attack as well as use environments in the fight. However where The Walking Dead would fall somewhat short in combat, The Wolf Among Us embraced the mechanics, making the fight seem more natural and dynamic. After driving the Woodsman’s head through a porcelain sink, he reached for his axe, a mystical weapon that looked from another world.

He attempts at repeating past encounters failed, as Bigby then launched at his attacker, driving himself and his opponent through the third story window to the outside below. Mr. Toad was waiting outside, informing Wolf that the car that had broken their fall was his. I was happy that I was compassionate to Toad beforehand, or else the situation may have been worse for the Sheriff. Unfortunately the fight is not quite over, and The Woodsman begins to choke Bigby attempting to bring out the big bad wolf that he knows lies within the protagonist. Just as Bigby begins to lose consciousness and his fading eyes begin to turn yellow and feral, the woman who was under attack drives the axe into the cranium of the enemy, ending our play through of the demo.

The Wolf Among Us combines the story telling and player interaction of one of the best games of last year with a fantastical setting and story that seems perfect for the video game medium. The demo was able to fully engage me throughout the various interactions and battle prompts, helping me shape my version of what Bigby Wolf is supposed to be. The title also sparked my interest in the property of Fables, which I imagine will be a similar experience for other players new to the lore of the universe. I am very excited to explore this new tale and all of its inhabitants and I implore you all to join me when the first episode of The Wolf Among Us releases later this fall. 

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