When I heard that familiar theme playing and witnessed the silhouettes of two familiar characters, my heart stopped and the hairs on the back of my neck rose. The Game Awards 2019 revealed that The Wolf Among Us 2 will be coming after all. This game was supposed to be dead and the studio that made it supposed to be gone. As you can imagine, my excitement reached the roof and I was brought back to the best moments of the original Telltale classic. Some of those moments were hazy, so I decided to play it again after initially playing it five years ago. Getting wrapped up in this murder mystery and falling into the world of Fabletown once again was an ethereal experience. 

They say that the first time you consume a piece of media you are immersed in its events and surprises. It’s not until your second run-through that you truly connect with the characters emotionally and pick out the details that eluded you. Well, it took that second time playing the game to show how The Wolf Among Us is Telltale’s greatest narrative masterpiece. By the end of this, I hope to prove to you exactly why.

Bigby’s character is intentionally malleable. Telltale allows us to take control of an already fleshed out character but still gives us the opportunity to make him our own. He is the ferocious and feared Big Bad Wolf at heart, that is no lie, but the player has the choice to lean into that part of him or prove he is more than folklore says he is. Telltale utilizes the source material “Fables” and perfectly adapts it to the narrative-driven games they are known for.

Bigby genuinely cares for the community of Fables but The Wolf Among Us shows how life is full of sacrifices and concessions. Tough choices might help win the favour of certain Fables but further ostracize others. You quickly realize that your actions can’t win the hearts of all the people you meet in the game. Right to the bitter end, you will see that you can never make the correct decisions without another character in the story disagreeing with your methods. You can try to be the most moral, but you will be scrutinized later by people for what you thought was the right decision in the heat of the moment. 

It doesn’t help that Bigby is the authority over Fabletown which polarizes his character further. As the sheriff, he is the guy everyone goes to when they need help, but the person everyone avoids when he shows up unexpectedly. He’s the guy who takes beatings and bullets for people to get the job done but receives little to no appreciation for doing his job. Even the people in the precinct, like Snow White, feel like they don’t appreciate the job that Bigby does. 

It’s tragic being the duality of Bigby and The Big Bad Wolf. Duality is a persistent theme that Telltale hits on in many different ways. The studio does an excellent job of blurring the lines of what justice looks like. The duality of lawfulness versus anarchy haunts you as you pick what to do next. Being ruthless can get you what you want quicker but takes away the agency of the people around you. Being compassionate and fair to people can gather their favour but also set you up to be betrayed and taken advantage of. When Bigby loses control of himself, the line between both of these becomes blurred. Telltale knows how to share Bigby’s burden with the player and the game will test your resolve.

Another important duality is how Fables have been portrayed in the storybooks versus what they have become. Telltale took the gritty setting and well-developed characters from the source material and shown us how in this world, these are the hard times that have fallen upon them. Beloved heroes have turned to crime, villains have adapted and flourished in their new environment, and good people have fallen victim to the underbelly of the Fabletown world just to stay alive.

Like a good detective noir story, Telltale takes you deeper and deeper into its world. Telltale doesn’t hold back when showing the secretive society’s true colors. Through Bigby’s investigation, you will see what this town situated in Manhattan has done to its residents. Some Fables struggle to keep their human form and the price of the transformative magic called “Glamour” continues to become more scarce and expensive. Citizens falling under the cost of living run the risk of being sent to the farm or must find alternative ways to make ends meet. Each new character you meet gives you a new opportunity to understand how this town has disadvantaged them. Folks struggle with who they were in the Homelands and who they have become adapting to their new environment. 

Telltale delves into the dynamism of the story’s more shadier characters and their motivations as well. Blood Mary is a Fable who has fully embraced her true nature and runs The Crooked Man’s black market operations. For others like Georgie Porgie, Fabletown became an opportunity to live out their desires. Then for others like the Jersey Devil, there’s the opportunity to further his own financial interests at the expense of the good-natured. Power is always an attractive thing and many people align themselves with The Crooked Man’s operations for that reason.

The most complex character has to be The Crooked Man who gives you the opportunity to see Fabletown from a completely opposite perspective. He is a crime lord who has no doubt taken advantage of people in need. He has also given Fables paid work, partnerships and a chance to survive in the town. The fear of falling under and being sent to the farm is ever-present so the opportunity The Crooked Man offers is attractive. The Crooked Man’s character shows that everything is not inherently good or evil. Many people balance their desires with their ideals. While in pursuit of the things that people want to achieve, some effort is put into changing people’s lives for the better and punishing the people deemed undeserving. The Crooked Man has simultaneously embraced and rejected what he was known as in the Homeworlds.

This only scratches the surface of the brilliance found in The Wolf Among Us. There are many layers to this story that is further storied in its source material and will be continued in the sequel. But out of all my experiences with Telltale’s games, The Wolf Among Us stands as their magnum opus. 

The story is raw and gritty, exposing the sheer strife many people have to endure to avoid being sent to the farm. Bigby is a relatable protagonist who will solve the mystery one way or another. The game shatters the idea of being good and evil, showing that when your back is pit against the wall you have to go against what you thought was the correct decision. The characters are all dynamic and easy to emotionally invest in. The way you remember each glamourous Fable from your childhood is not the way they really are in this world. Lastly, the excellent world-building makes the setting atmospheric because of the strength of the source material and the way Telltale was able to create their own interpretation of it. 

The Wolf Among Us 2 is going to continue this story in 2020 thanks to Adhoc Studios (which features many former Telltale employees). I personally can’t wait to dig my claws into its wonderfully written world again. Only time can tell if the sequel will shine as bright but colour me optimistic. The original was created in between the roaring success of The Walking Dead and the cracks in the foundation of what would tear the studio apart. If this team can find the same dedication, excitement, and respect for the source material? Then maybe they can make a sequel that’s almost as good as the original masterpiece that is The Wolf Among Us.

What are your thoughts on The Wolf Among Us? Did you enjoy the dark and gritty story told? Are you excited about the revival of its sequel? Any and all thoughts, leave them down below.

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