Review: The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 – Taking the Crooked Path
Three episodes in to The Wolf Among Us, a twist occurs that sets the series into some of the deepest, darkest places that even the seedy alleys of Fabletown haven’t brought us to yet. While The Wolf Among Us has already proven itself as a wonderful (and fresh) companion series to Telltale’s currently-running The Walking Dead: Season Two, the debut season of its Fablesadaptation has shown that with a compelling mix of noir and adventure gameplay, the third episode into the series is easily the most focused and exciting entry into the season yet.
When we last left off with Fabletown’s sheriff, Bigby, on the track of murders occurring in the confines of Fabletown — New York City’s exile for the various residents of classic fairy tale characters — a big twist left the ending of the second episode on a major cliffhanger. With Bigby now on the scent of a possible suspect for his investigations, Episode 3, titled “A Crooked Mile,” easily brings things back on track in the most driven and compelling episode of the season. While Episode 2 brought some slow-burning intensity to the story but little in the development of its characters or major story arc, “A Crooked Mile” simultaneously focuses the plot while also showing the the “crooked mile” may not be the easiest trail to follow.
Continuing in the investigation of a series of murders in Fabletown, Bigby and Snow follow the trail of the big reveal in the previous episode, in that Fabletown’s mayor Ichabod Crane may be more involved in the case than he initially let on. After tracking down a series of lewd photographs that place Ichabod in an incriminating position, Bigby and Snow hunt down Crane through the rabbit hole; however, the rest of “A Crooked Mile” proves that the dangers waiting are both revealing, haunting, and completely unexpected.
Episode 3‘s biggest strength comes from its determination throughout the entirety of the chapter — with Bigby and Snow now on Crane’s scent, the stakes have been raised and the case takes quite an unexpected turn. Likewise, “A Crooked Mile” also presents some of the strongest emotional content that the series has had so far, even with a series that has already proven itself as a pretty big risk-taker; with extreme violence, sexual assault, and deceit regularly a part of the story of Fabletown, The Wolf Among Us definitely earns its “Mature” rating, but not in a superfluous or exploitative way. It’s a rough world out in Fabletown, and The Wolf Among Us handedly, and maturely, addresses that in each new installment.
With addressing the fallout and consequences of the previous episodes in some incredibly poignant scenes with many of the familiar faces we’ve seen so far in the story (The Woodsman, Bluebeard, and Grendel) Episode 3 also takes great care to bring some new characters into the fold that bring equal doses of intrigue and enjoyment into the story, such as The Flycatcher (Fabletown’s Frog Prince), and the mysterious Auntie Greenleaf. Likewise, it also brings some of the most difficult decisions made yet in the story; while the immediate consequences may not be apparent, it’s still safe to say that many of the situations present in “A Crooked Mile” could, and most likely will, have long-lasting results for the remainder of the season.
While this episode is probably one of the strongest entries of the season yet (aside from the excellent debut episode, “Faith”), it’s not without its faults – the longstanding issues of Telltale’s games are definitely present here and there, such as stuttering/frame rate issues when key decisions are being made, along with other technical bugs. Voiceover animations not lining up with dialogue are common occurrences, but in the grand scheme of things, these are only minor notes, as the game again remains consistently strong both narratively and visually. The neon-infused world creates another eye-popping delight as the seedy underworld of Fabletown is brought to life.
However, on a decision-making level, Episode 3 does continue one of the grievances that the series has had (so far) in providing seemingly “big” choices, and ultimately providing little consequences/variation on what orders they play out in. In one scenario where Bigby is forced to choose between picking three locations to begin his investigation and is set against a ticking clock, the impulse that came across was that the player should feel a sense of urgency, pressure and importance to the proceedings. The reality set in that, regardless of where the player picks as the first location to investigate, the other two will be seen regardless. While it’s a considerate mechanic for Telltale to add in to not have players miss out on content in a case like this, it’s just one such example where the narrative and storytelling necessities do get in the way of the “decision-making” aspect that plays such an integral part of The Wolf Among Us.
Regardless of this, Episode 3‘s position as the climax of the season brings with it plenty of anticipation and build-up for the rest of the season, and Telltale Games delivers on all fronts in that case. After carefully building up the mystery and red herrings behind the “Fabletown killer” in the previous two episodes, “A Crooked Mile” takes players by the coat and shakes them ruthlessly for answers, providing many that will illuminate the remainder of the season, and others that will prove far more difficult to swallow. With only two episodes left until the case can (presumably) come to a close, the third episode of the series brings us back on the path to the killer and takes where we need to go for the bitter end of The Wolf Among Us — even if it’s to places we may not necessarily want to wind up.