The Walking Dead series certainly made TellTale Games a household name, but many wondered if much of their success was due to the popular license. While the company achieved moderate success with their interactive story-point and click adventure formula, their market was decidedly niche. Taking on the less well known Fables comic book license is undoubtedly a test for the developer. Unfortunately, the four month delay between the first and second episodes is a stumble in their attempt to gain momentum with their new mature themed franchise.
The long delayed Smoke and Mirrors picks up right where Episode One left off and places Sherriff Bigby in a somewhat unusual position. The scene lets players get up to speed with dialogue choices, instead of the fast and furious quick time events that were so plentiful in the first episode. While the chief gameplay mechanic of the series is very similar to a point and click adventure game, there is actually very little true gameplay. The vast majority of Telltale’s games are dialogue choices and quick time events. In the case of Smoke and Mirrors, most of the episode is filled with a variety of interrogations.
The story aspect of The Wolf Among Us is undeniably compelling, but TellTale seems to be holding quite a bit close to the vest. There are no huge branches in the plot dictated by your choices, as with the first couple of episodes of The Walking Dead. Instead, everything seems to be building to a boiling point. Smoke and Mirrors is able clear up some of the questions Faith posed and players unfamiliar with the Fables comic books finally get to see who this Blue Beard guy that Bigby hates so much, is. Of course, the Episode 3 preview at the end of the two hours of gameplay will pose even more questions.
From a design and production standpoint, the choice to go episodic is a pretty sound decision, but such a long delay between the first and second episodes is likely to cause problems. While the level of presentation in The Wolf Among Us makes the game highly immersive, such a long wait between iterations is likely to make many would be fans give up and forget about the effort. I couldn’t imagine a TV show surviving under those circumstances and on top of that, the AAA game calendar is off to a quick start in 2014. Hopefully, their shot at Game of Thrones will go a bit smoother.
The Wolf Among Us is a very adult take on the classic adventure game genre, set in a dark and modern fairy tale world. If all of that sounds appealing to you, this series is definitely something you should check out. The real question is, “Is this something more mainstream gamers can get into?” Notwithstanding my personal appreciation for the game, the short answer to that is, probably not. Yes, it is gritty, and sexy, and gorgeous, but there is very little meat on the bones, particularly in Smoke and Mirrors. When the biggest payoff in the episode is the preview for the next episode, players may decide to go elsewhere.