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The Wolf Among Us - Episode Two: Smoke & Mirrors

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By MrJenssen07-02-2014
Toast (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

Developer:
Telltale Games
Publisher:
Telltale Games
Genre:
Adventure
Release Date:
04-02-2014

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.3 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
2 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

So here we are again. Well overdue, the second episode of The Wolf Among Us is finally out. The first episode left off with a pretty big cliffhanger, and though we were all dying to see what would happen next, it took a ridiculous four months before we finally got to know. The question is, was it worth the wait?

The Trial

It’s a bit tricky to talk about the story of episode 2 without spoiling events happening within it, and indeed also spoiling the first episode, as they are tightly bound to each other. Needless to say, the story starts exactly where episode 1 ended. A severed body part found on Bigby’s doorstep, and no suspect in sight. Bigby now has to find out who is behind this murder, but not everything is as it first seems. In fact very little is at it first seems.

Don't expect your decisions to matter all that much in the short run.

Don't expect your decisions to matter all that much in the short run.

That’s really about as much as I can tell you about the story of episode 2. But it’s not only due to the twisty nature of the game’s story - this episode also ends on yet another head-wrecking plot twist - but it’s also in part due to the fact that the episode is extremely short. While the first episode would last you over two hours plus the time it takes you to replay the episode and make different choices to get different results, episode 2 is significantly lighter in playtime and content. When you’re going from one place to another, you’ll never be asked to choose one or the other anymore, and even the basic interaction you have with other characters seems to ignore your choices. At one point, you’re discussing a certain event with Ichabod in his car, and regardless of whether you choose to sympathize with him or be more aggressive, Bigby still ends up slamming the door so hard that the window breaks when he leaves it, in a clear act of aggression.

When it comes to gameplay, nothing has changed, as you should expect. It’s the same timed dialogue system, the same scenarios where you walk around and investigate crime scenes, and the same unavoidable fights. Don’t expect to ever be able to smooth-talk your way out of a situation here. Even in that one fight with Beast, what you say to Beast here and indeed what you said to him and his girlfriend in episode 1 is of no consequence. The fight must happen regardless.

This episode is more of a build-up than a pay-off, but the door of opportunities is wide open.

This episode is more of a build-up than a pay-off, but the door of opportunities is wide open.

That’s not to say it’s bad. Not by any means. The characters - old and new - still have depth to them, the gameplay is still enticing, and you’re still dying to know what will happen next in the story. It’s also a relatively bug-free experience, with only a few flickery, jittery animations and scene transitions here and there worth mentioning. The graphics are still pretty much impeccable, with the same amazing art style as you’ve come to expect from the series. When combined with a layer of strong voice acting and a gloomy soundtrack kicking in at opportune moments to thicken the overall atmosphere, you know you’re in for a good time. It won’t do more for you than you’d expect from playing Episode 1, but it certainly doesn’t do less either.

The Verdict

Don’t get me wrong, Episode 2 is certainly worth experiencing. But is it really fair that we had to wait four months? And when we’re forced to wait that long, is it fair that the content provided feels a bit shallow and is awfully short in addition, compared to the first episode? If you’re currently sniffing at this series and want to see where things go before you jump in, you might want to hold off a little longer. I’m sure big things are planned, but the tedium of having to wait so long between each episode when they might potentially feel insufficient each on their own, can potentially sour the overall experience. Episode 2 is by no means bad but it leaves you wanting more in both good and bad ways.

Case Review

  • Still Strong: The story continues, and is no less worth telling.
  • Still Good-looking: When it comes to bringing a comic-book to life, nobody does it better than Telltale.
  • Same Old, Same Old: Apart from a few minor characters, there is nothing new to find here.
  • Short and...: It’s a disappointingly short experience, and there are no meaningful new choices to make.
  • What Took You So Long?:  The disappointing length is made worse by the long wait.
3.5
Score: 3.5/5
Considering the time we had to wait, Episode 2 is too short and shallow.

Appeal

I'm the big bad wolf, hear me rawr. Well, more accurately growl. A lot. Because that's what Bigby spends most of its time doing in the second chapter. Which is understandable considering the subject matter. First he thinks the lady he's rather sweet on is dead, then he finds out, spoiler (not really), that she isn't. It doesn't really put him in the best of moods. Even choosing the calmer, more conciliatory dialogue options, he's still pretty pissed. It's something that, if you will excuse the pun, helps humanise dear old Bigby a great deal.

The game itself, or chapter, in this case, is quite short. Even for an episodic game. Clocking in at barely 80 minutes even if you dilly dally around looking at everything. It is also lacking several of the key scenes promised at the end of the first episode. One of which, Bigby's transformation into his full wolf guise, now being made part of the promised scenes for the third chapter. Considering that this one was released several weeks later than advertised, that becomes something of a bugbear.

Having said that, the narrative remains strong and intriguing, with many new details being slowly revealed and teased as you progress through the investigation. A lot of it is likely red herrings, but they are presented in such a way that nothing feels obviously false, giving the impression of a living, breathing, reactive world. Not as good as the first episode in some ways, but better in others. Feeling more focused, perhaps in part because of its reduced length.

4
Score: 4/5

Appeal

The Wolf Among Us finally returns after a delay of several months with a new episode. The obvious question to ask is was it worth the wait? Well, yes, I’d certainly say so. More or less. If you enjoyed the first instalment then you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s more of the same here and that, already, the many threads sewn in Faith’s episode are showing signs of coming together.

This episode offers some answers alongside a further thickening plot that continues to be compelling and engaging throughout. Once more the voice acting is of a high standard and the presentation continues to be deliciously noir. On the other hand, there are also more QTEs and, even some puzzles (though these are quite easy and not especially notable). As with the first part, the combat here is the weakest component of the experience. Thankfully it tends to be quite brief in appearance. The ‘is it a game or is it more of an interactive movie’ debate is neither here nor there now as it’s difficult to deny the fact that this second episode, overall, only adds to an already satisfying story telling experience.

The Wolf Among Us continues to offer a great deal to already established fans of the Fables universe as well as new-comers. Some may be disappointed by the low amount of action in this episode but considering this is only the second episode of five, I’d argue that the pacing is more or less spot on here. One certainly gets the feeling that the purpose of this instalment is mostly to add more to the build up for the payoff in the final episodes. The plot is still keeping its cards close to its chest but it’s now leaving a subtle trail of bread crumbs for those paying close attention. One thing for sure though is that you’ll want to follow this rabbit hole to the very bottom. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait quite as long for the next episode.

4
Score: 4/5
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