The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf, Review - Games Weekly

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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Wolf Among Us: Cry Wolf, Review

To flip reverse a famous line from the Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, Bigby was a great cop but a lousy detective. Or at least he will be in this final episode of Telltale’s fairytale noir of New York for players who haven’t been paying consistently close attention.

There have been clues as to the identity of the killer, of course, but not many. Blink and it’s entirely possible to miss the main one. See it and it’s entirely possible to forget about it. Unlike a regular non interactive TV show The Wolf Among Us has spread its five episodes out over a long period that began way back in October, and that’s a fair amount time to hold on to purposely minute plot points, evidence and visual suggestions that a regular detective game would have automatically logged in note books and inventory screens, and a regular TV show would have fitted in to five consecutive weeks.

Episode four ended and episode five begins with our mistrusted law man standing in front of a kingpin in a room full of henchmen, and one of them was always going to be the murderer. Disappointingly, while it is possible to choose the one you have deduced or simply guessed is responsible from a very short list, it’s also possible to simply ask and you’ll be told. Worse, the answer is not surprising as the room is full of villains and so when the culprit’s identity is confirmed it’s easy to be met with a shrug. Sure, that guy. Why not, he’s a creep. Whatever.

Thankfully, this tautly written series wasn't really about who actually did the deed and so, once Cry Wolf has finished providing quick-time event after quick-time event as Bigby engages in fights and chases and yet another fight that sees him unleash his darkest side, the narrative gets a great deal more interesting. All five episodes become far more important than they initially seemed, moral decisions that have been made get questioned by Bigby’s peers, and his methods and history of violence are contrasted against those of the kingpin himself The Crooked Man.

There’s another slight problem, although it’s one that could well be personal. We played Bigby as a character desperate to not give in to his bestial urges and to make amends for his past, and so when it came to being accused of being not much better than a gangster boss that ruled with fear and intimidation that accusation felt largely hollow.

Indeed, a scene that could have been about carefully winning over an unconvinced crowd became one in which most people agreed that he was a decent guy who should be trusted.

But then even decisions that were made that felt like the right thing to do eventually come back to have awkward consequences. Many, even small, plot points are addressed and with no small level of skill; there’s effectively some sympathy for the devil and new themes never before apparent rise to the surface. It still makes for engaging entertainment and rewarding drama.

A larger problem is the way that the series as whole has been uneven in content and player requirement and how few of the decisions made actually steered the narrative in any significant way. The episodic format and the game’s engine certainly suits The Walking Dead far better, but then that’s because The Walking Dead isn’t trying to be that cunning and all you need to enjoy it is a quick recap of a previous episode.

The Wolf Among Us is different, as the threads of much of its deeper narrative only become apparent during its final scenes. That’s all very clever, but that doesn’t help counter the fact that time spent playing previous episodes that felt short and unsatisfying was still time spent playing short and unsatisfying episodes. Enjoying them more in retrospect doesn’t help anything much other than our suggestion that to really enjoy the series it is now advisable to enjoy it one sitting or at least as few as possible.

If played with the dialogue from episode one still echoing in your mind then the very final scene of episode five certainly makes a great deal more sense than it otherwise would, as the storytellers certainly do their best to explain what the final conversation means for Bigby’s entire quest, but it could still leave you confused. Ultimately, then, it’s now clear that The Wolf Among Us is a whole that’s far greater than the sum of its parts.


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