The Wolf Among Us – Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors Review

Gaming

The Wolf Among Us – Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games, Warner Bros.
Platform: XBLA (Reviewed), PS3, PC, Mac, iOS
Release Date: February 5th, 2014
Price: $4.99 – Available Here

Overview
The first episode of The Wolf Among Us showed a glimpse of Telltale being able to apply their award winning narrative style to another property with just as good of results. The change in focus from survival to investigation even allowed it to stand out from The Walking Dead and show it as it’s own beast. Though unfortunately, The Wolf Among Us suffered a long wait between the first and second episode, which is sure to have left an aching in players dying to know what happens after the shocking cliff hanger.

Story
Episode Two picks up shortly after the end of the first episode, Bigby now reeling after the discovery of a second Fable body and now on a renewed mission to discover the identity of the murderer. The end of the first episode left players on a pretty big choice between who they would be pulling in to question and after a short look at the mundane side of the murders quickly gets to the questioning itself.

Unlike the first episode there are not many new branches for players to choice between this time through. While this is a little disappointing in some regards it does make some sense as there were quite a number of large choices that players had to choose between previously and now there is simply more content spread between those lines of decisions. This has it’s ups and downs and while the first episode had a lot of choice, the lack of them is noticeably stark, but perhaps over time later episode can find a healthier balance of the two.

While there are less choices to be made that change the path of the narrative, there are many more active instances this time around for players to delve into the kind of character they want their Bigby to be. Starting at the interrogation, players can better explore their choice between the good cop or bad cop methodology, which will of course impact how all the different characters will react to him down the road both in the rest of the episode and forthcoming episodes.

The investigation itself moves surprisingly quickly in this episode and because of this feels surprisingly short. This is a little disappointing after the extra wait just to receive the episode, but in terms of quality it is able to meet their previous mark. The amount of content available through difference choices may be impacting the length as well in this case, as players have two different possible interrogations that can each go two different ways, possibly with those characters remembering and/or holding grudges down the line.

Despite the shorter length than the first episode, Smoke & Mirrors has plenty more to offer in the world of Fables, plenty of new characters to meet and locations to learn about. This time around there are more lesser known Fables as well and giving a better idea of what kind of world the Woodlands were before they left. Even getting into the well known like Snow White, Big Bad Wolf, and Crane putting more of the secondary or tertiary Fable characters in at this point shows just how much they can do with the rest of the season.

Gameplay
One of the main aspects of The Wolf Among Us that stands it apart from The Walking Dead is that Bigby can take much more of a beating than anyone else can. This still stands true in the second episode, but ultimately only comes into play once in this episode. But it is still utilized effectively when exploring the character of the player’s Bigby as it adds an extra layer of depth when in the middle of a fight to having to choose to end the fight or keep going.

The other difference is the use of investigation, this time around players have more to investigate and have to actually try and piece together what the clues mean to the bigger picture, something that doesn’t come up very much in The Walking Dead. With the way the story continues to weave itself it will be interesting to see how much more of the investigation plays a part of the rest of the story.

The biggest addition this time around are extended scenes where players choose how threatening they want to make Bigby. The choice between having him actually smashing things up or simply threatening to or actually being pleasant to other characters. While more or less a series of binary choices, the depth that it gives each scene provides a lot for the player to decide how they, as Bigby, will react to the continued pressures of everyone treating him as the Big Bad Wolf. Just another aspect of Telltale knowing how to let players decide through doing instead of just dialogue.

Visuals & Audio
Continuing with the cell shaded graphic novel style visuals is a no-brainer at this point, so the more interesting aspects of the visuals comes down to just what the characters look like themselves. The more intriguing character styles come down to Georgie Porgie and Jack Horner, whom those that know their nursery rhymes would certainly not expect the characters to look, much less talk like this. But, even better still make the looks and character make sense within the context of living in New York.

The voice acting of the episode likewise does a great job continuing to hit the mark in quality, as the additional characters still sound authentic and fit their respective roles. Even with all the possibilities that players can choose between when going through the episode, the conversations remain fairly fluid as they proceed marking how well written and preformed it is. The music likewise continues the feelings of the noir style of narrative, even across the different locations Bigby visits this time around.

Overall
Despite an unexpectedly longer wait than was originally foreseen, The Wolf Among Us Episode 2 is able to maintain the same level of narrative quality. Unfortunately, with also having a shorter length than the first episode, it puts the episode in an interesting position. Is this what players can expect down the road? Or will this be simply on of the shorter episodes in the season? Hard to tell, but none the less the quality of the content still more than meets what Telltale is known for and leaves some excitement for what else will come.

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Bachelor of Science in Game and Simulation Programming

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