Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Wolf Among Us Episode 2 - Smoke and Mirrors review

There will be SPOILERS for the first episode in this review, so if you haven't played yet, stop reading! 

Telltale Games are on fire right now. The Walking Dead Season 2 launched a couple of months ago, to praise from critics and gamers alike, and they have at least two huge new series planned for the near future. But aside from those, there is The Wolf Among Us. Based on the comic book series, "Fables", it contains a whole host of fairytale characters, who have been forced out of their homeland, into the New York district of Fabletown. Using magic to conceal their true identities, they try to lead normal lives, but Fabletown is a dark place. Drugs, prostitutes and murder are as rife for the Fables (fairytale characters) as they are for the humans, or "mundies". So the Sheriff of Fabletown, Bigby Wolf, has to step in. The first episode was a fantastic introduction to the world and characters of The Wolf Among Us, and episode two picks up exactly where the first ended. Will the second episode, "Smoke and Mirrors", live up to the high standards set by the phenomenal first one? Read on to find out...

A lot happened in episode one. There were murders, old enemies and a lot of violence. Episode two deals with the aftermath of the shocking events. It's less about brute force this time around, instead tasking you more with interrogations and finding answers. Almost instantly, your major choice from the end of the first episode comes into play, and there are two very different ways you can deal with him. Either make him feel comfortable and coax the truth out of him, or go for the bad cop approach, and use violence. By now, you'll have a way of playing, whether you're the good or evil Bigby, and each way plays out very differently and equally awesome. 

Bigby is back! He's looking for answers, and will do anything to get them

The individual speech options seem to carry more weight than they did in The Walking Dead series, which was more affected by the bigger events in general. In The Wolf Among Us, your game feels like it's changing on the fly, depending on how you act. It's a testament to the writers, that they have been able to create two distinct Bigby's, that both feel real. And you do really feel Bigby growing as a character too. He already seems less violent, and more forgiving. You just know that somebody will push Bigby over the edge soon though, and the Big Bad Wolf will take over.

You'll definitely be able to notice that there are less action sequences this time around. You do still get a hint of violence now and then, and they're a great reminder of just how powerful Bigby is. When interrogating the despicable Georgie Porgie, proud owner of a dirty stripclub, you get so many chances to destroy the place. And you'll want to, as he talks smack with his smug little face. But you don't have to, and taking this option creates so much tension, it's almost unbearable. It's a really memorable scene, and proves that the game doesn't have to rely on brutal action to bring the excitement.

Meet the charming Georgie Porgie, owner of The Pudding and Pie stripclub

Just as in the first episode, the neo-noire visuals and music create an amazing atmosphere. It really does look like a graphic novel in motion, and it's definitely the best looking Telltale game to date. It is marred by the usual glitches and issues that are in most of Telltale's games. There are regular stutters and pauses, usually at the start of a new scene, which can be immersion-breaking and very distracting, but they aren't game breaking. It's sort of something you expect now, which is clearly not a good thing, but Telltale have such a fantastic way with story-driven games, that these issues can be overlooked. If it were a more gameplay-driven game, they would definitely cause a bigger problem.

Smoke and Mirrors is a fantastic follow up to Faith. It's a much calmer episode in terms of physical violence, but Bigby is pushed to his mental limits by various characters. The story is progressing steadily, there are numerous side-stories to keep track of, and a lot of recognisable characters to get to know, and I can't wait to return to Fabletown. The story of Bigby "The Big Bad" Wolf is Telltale Games' best yet, and episode three can't come quick enough.


by Louis Gardner

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