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Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: The Wolf Among Us Episodes 1 & 2

If you're an old fogey, you'll remember the old point and click adventure games: you know, you click on a graphical environment and you have dialog, picking up items in your inventory, etc. Well, Telltale games have brought them back on modern machines, including tablets, PS3, PCs, Macs, etc. The twist they have on them is that they release episodes on a regular schedule, and they're more like interactive comic books than they are like adventure games. For one thing, you can't actually affect the outcome of the episodes (unless you die and then you get a game over screen and restart). Secondly, adventure games were long, taking hours and hours to finish, while each Telltale episode's designed to last at most 1-2 hours, about the length of a movie.

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the Telltale approach to games. I tried The Walking Dead on my Vita for about an episode and a half, but it's quite obvious that the Telltale games doesn't employ any Silicon Valley engineers (they're in San Rafael). The game loads every 10-15 minutes, and the loading time is pretty long, considering how little content is in each segment of a game. Unlike a video, you can't actually play these games at double speed, which is annoying because in a very slowly paced game like The Walking Dead you get pretty annoyed at having to slowly point and click at everything. I got bored to tears and switched to playing more interesting games.

Well, Sony had The Wolf Among Us for sale at $9 this week, and I decided that this was about the same price as the Fables comic, so if it had about as much content it was a reasonable price. Prior to this sale, I wasn't even aware that there was going to be a Fables game being worked on. This is probably how Telltale's business model works: they don't really sell to people want to play games, as much as they sell to people who are already fans of the licensed property and want more of the comic book or the TV series. I wasn't a fan of the Walking Dead comic or TV series (I actually did read several issues of the comics, and they were so lackluster and filled with cliches about the Zombie apocalypse that I didn't bother reviewing them for this blog), so I couldn't get invested in the game, but Fables? Count me in! I was also hopeful that the PS3 wouldn't suffer the loading time issues involved in the Vita version.

Set prior to the events of the comic book series, you take the viewpoint of Bigby Wolf, who's easily one of the best characters in the series. As sheriff of fable-town, he has to investigate all crimes involving the Fables in New York, and while this case starts innocuously enough, it soon degenerates into a murder mystery. The characters are well depicted, and you do get to meet almost all the characters you've met earlier in the comics. Unlike The Walking Dead on the Vita, The Wolf Among Us on the PS3 with a hybrid 7200rpm SSD actually loads pretty fast. I don't really know whether it's because I'm more invested in the story, or that the game actually has less content, but I went through each episode fairly quickly, and it didn't feel like a burden. Furthermore, "playing" the game at 1080p on a big screen TV is a better way to experience this than on a small screen.

The game does have more action sequences than The Walking Dead, and they come on fast, so you do need some reflexes to be able to "play" this interactive story. The mystery is fair, and I figured out who the murderer was before the reveal, which felt pretty good. The downside is that the game is still fairly glitchy, and froze up once, forcing me to replay a section I'd already played. For $9 for 5 episodes, this is money well spent. I'm not sure I'd pay much more. Nevertheless, if you're a PC or Mac owner, a Steam sale is bound to come up sooner or later and you can snag it at $5 or less than. Recommended, but not at full price. And if you've read this far and haven't read the comics, go buy and read them right now!

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