Based on the award-winning Fables comic books by Bill Willingham, The Wolf Among Us is a point-and-click episodic series from developer Telltale games. This dark and twisted take on fairy tale lore, stars Sheriff Bigby Wolf (formerly the Big Bad Wolf) whose job is to keep the citizens of Fabletown safe. When a fable (fairy tale character) is brutally murdered, it is up to Bigby found out who is responsible and why. The story of this prequel to the comic series will be told across 5 episodes. The first episode titled “Faith”, started things off with a bang, and while there are a few missteps in episode two, it continues this trend. Note*: You must own episode one in order for you to be able to play this episode, as it counts as DLC.
Immediately picking up after the shocking events of the previous episode, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ finds a reasonably distraught Bigby now dealing with the murder of a second fable. The story continues to impress as the Sheriff attempts to solve the murders. It benefits from having the game tailored to how you play. Your actions as Bigby have an effect on key moments in the plot as well as his relationships with other characters.
The ramifications of your actions will also carry over across episodes and it shows in ‘Smoke and Mirrors’; from the little things such as keeping your money instead of giving it to Faith, to who you chose to arrest at the end of episode one. The level of influence players have on the game is impressive and it also ensures that everyone will have a unique experience. Familiar faces return as the game continues to develop their relationships with Bigby. New characters are introduced, such as the fast talking Jack (of beanstalk fame) and Gorgie Porgie the pimp. Both are great additions to the cast thanks to great dialogue and voice acting, especially Gorgie who delivers some of the episode’s funniest lines. Honestly not single character in this game is uninteresting, they all have their own unique personalities, are well written and wonderfully acted. Some could have used a little more screen time, like Jack for instance but I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him in the coming episodes.
Bigby with Gorgie Porgie.
Bigby himself continues to be a great protagonist. He may look tough as nails (he is) and very serious but he also happens to have a sense of humor as well a vulnerable side. Unfortunately the stigma of his dark past involving the terrorizing of other fables still hangs over him. Many don’t trust or respect him and others just afraid because of it. He clearly wants to put the past behind him, to be forgiven and viewed in a different light. That is ultimately up to the player as they choose to have Bigby play the caring hero or the scary uncaring bad***.
Regardless of the choices, the development of his character is handled well and makes him a protagonist you care for. I felt bad when I chose to have Bigby torture his suspect, due to the backlash he received from his fellow fables and I remembered his plight. It wasn’t the violence or the act of torture that made me feel bad but the fact that others became disgusted with and afraid of his actions. I quickly focused on getting him back in their good graces. That right there says a lot about a character, so kudos to Telltale. All of these elements combine to make an engaging story. Each new discovery in the investigation only leads to more questions, as the mystery grows ever darker and features some interesting twists and turns.
Bigby isn’t too fond of Jack
The point-and-click gameplay remains unchanged from the previous episode which is good. Controlling Bigby and interacting with the world around him and characters he meets is intuitive and responsive. There is a little less emphasis on the action this time around, in fact one of the fight sequences can be missed entirely depending on your actions and even that is more of a scuffle really. If you wished for more action after playing episode one then you’ll probably be tad bit disappointed. Personally I found no issue with this, as the combat is still as tense and brutally satisfying. The main emphasis in all of Telltale’s games will always be storytelling.
How Bigby responds, is up to you.
The Wolf Among Us continues to impress visually thanks to its comic book art style, and the dynamic lighting effects really gives it that noir look and feel. Unfortunately the game continues to suffer from frame rate issues much like the past episode. This time around they’re more frequent and don’t just occur during the game’s loading sequences; cut scenes have fallen prey to it as well. It is starting to become a real annoyance that this sort of issue has yet to be ironed out. The Walking Dead season one had the same problems as well as the first episode of season two. The fact that we had to wait four months (longer than planned due to issues TtG have not explained) after the release of episode one before we could get our hands on this, only for it to feature worse frame rate problems is… baffling to say the least.
There were the occasional audio hiccups throughout this episode. The music would sometimes skip for a few seconds and before the game would finish loading the next chapter you could hear dialogue from the characters. Lip syncing was off on two separate occasions but never lasted more than a few seconds. Overall the audio issues only took me out of the experience for a little while but were not major distractions. This music is still impressive and helps capture the dark noir tone of the game.
Replay Value: High – Smoke and Mirrors is shorter than the previous episode, clocking in at a hour and a half but there is still an incentive to replay since each new play through can be a different experience based on your actions, especially if you’ve played through the first episode multiple times as I have.
While it suffers from a few more technical issues this time around and is shorter than I would have liked, episode two is still a strong edition to The Wolf Among Us series. The story and characters continue to engage thanks to excellent writing and voice acting. Bigby Wolf continues to be one of the coolest protagonist in gaming and his story is one I’m looking forward to experiencing until the end. The Wolf Among Us Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors is a dark, twisted and often funny experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Official Score: 8.5/10
RGN Rating: Silver Game
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games
Available On: Xbox 360′s XBLA, Windows PC, Mac OS X, & PS3′s PSN. Episode 1 for $4.99 and $14.99 for a Season Pass which includes the episodes 2-5*.
Played on: Xbox 360
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was purchased by RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this review.
Editor’s Note: RealGamerNewZ has moved web servers, some older posts can no longer be commented on and have been preserved without their images. Thank you for your understanding in this matter. This article was written by Jermain Jackson on 20140211 and was last modified on 20140419 .