Review: The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 – Of Monsters and Men
The Wolf Among Us focuses heavily on “what lies beneath”: the darkness, the anger, and the ugly things that lurk beneath our facades; whether they be our actual ones or the ones provided for us by magic, a glamour, or deception.
After a four-month absence following the debut of Episode 1 (“Faith”) back in October 2013, things have been awfully quiet in Fabletown: notably, it’s been due to Telltale Games having a pretty full plate on their table in the last few months.
With the debut of The Walking Dead: Season Two and the announcement of two upcoming series in 2014, Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones, things were left hanging after a particularly shocking closer for The Wolf Among Us’s debut episode. Where were things left off for Bigby? What was the next step in the stylish crime saga of Fabletown?
Luckily, fans that have been patiently waiting to see what comes next for The Wolf Among Us can rest easy – Episode 2: “Smoke & Mirrors,” brings back more of the magic that made the series’ debut so intoxicating and thrilling in the first place.
Picking up directly where things left off at the end of Episode 1, the next chapter sees Bigby in states of fury, determination, and with plenty of conviction as he seeks to solve the ongoing murders and mysteries in NYC’s seedy Fabletown district. After being introduced to some of Fabletown’s notable denizens like The Woodsman, Ichabod Crane, and more, Bigby gets drawn further into Fabletown’s rabbit hole by encountering and questioning even more of the seedy underworld’s big names like Bluebeard and Georgie, owner of Fabletown’s strip club Pudding and Pie.
Where much of the delight of The Wolf Among Us (and its original inspiration, Bill Willingham’s long-running comic series, Fables) was seeing some of the most beloved fairy tale characters in their various states and occupations within Fabletown, the expanding of the universe and characters in Episode 2 draws players further into Bigby’s story, and provides even more suspects and questions with unknown possibilities and answers.
Graphically and gameplay-wise, the game continues to show off incredibly well with the series’ strong and stylish visual flair, and performs admirably with the trademark Telltale adventure formula. Notably though, Episode 2 does a great job in particular at establishing itself as its own beast, separate from Telltale’s other series like The Walking Dead.
While obviously Telltale’s games all feature their renowned refinements on the adventure game formula, Episode 2 continues to up the ante and conforms perfectly to the Telltale canon, but distinct in its own brand of adventuring (and most of all, violence).
Where The Walking Dead focused heavily on survival and the costs of the external pressures of a world in ruin, The Wolf Among Us, especially in Episode 2 with its questions of morality and our own decisions, is more introspective and reflective.
At what cost do we fight for the truth? How far do we have to go for answers? And most of all, how much can we be pushed before revealing the monsters within us? Story-wise, visually, and gameplay-wise, it continues the stride to make the title transparently like its predecessor, but unique and refreshing in a neon-lit and blood-soaked noir-ish world.
Taking things further into Bigby’s sleuthing and work as Fabletown’s resident sheriff, Episode 2 is certainly very expository compared to the lightning-quick pace of the first episode, “Faith.” While things take a noticeably slower turn than the first episode, like the opening encounter with The Woodsman or the Tweedle Dee chase sequence, the detective work and uncovering of clues in “Smoke & Mirrors” heightens up the intrigue while tightening the screws at the same time.
Fables have been murdered, trails need to be followed, and yet the answers don’t come easily: take it from the trials that Bigby has had to endure so far. While we’re still early into the story of The Wolf Among Us and have three more episodes to go before the season’s conclusion, not knowing where Bigby and the rest of Fabletown’s citizens will be heading is as captivating and unnerving as it is exciting and involving, thanks to the continued and layered mysteries.
Figuring things out and uncovering the truth in Fabletown surely isn’t easy, but with Episode 2 continuing to prove The Wolf Among Us as another excellent addition to Telltale’s roster, playing through the latest chapter of the noir crime saga is not nearly difficult at all.