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The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games

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Telltale Games feel like the modern successors to the old point-and-click adventure games. They’re about story and character, guiding our protagonist through the tale and trying to figure things out as we go, but they avoid the randomly trying to combine objects and retracting your steps a hundred times that the old games required. Instead, our influence on the story is mostly about choices — what we say, how we judge people, what we think is the right way to proceed.

I already reviewed the Game of Thrones game, which I’ve been loving, and thanks to the recent Steam sale, I decided to try another Tell Tale story based on a property that I’m not familiar with — The Wolf Among Us. In The Wolf Among Us, you play Bigby, aka the Big Bad Wolf, the sheriff of a community of fairytale characters forced to leave their home world and live in New York City. The game has a hard-boiled crime feel, with Bigby as the much-mistrusted investigator who must solve the case of a girl’s beheading in a dangerous and crime-ridden town.

The result is excellent. In fact, it’s quickly become one of my favorite games of all time. With a gripping plotline, shocking twists and compelling, morally complex characters, The Wolf Among Us sucked me in and made me utterly invested in its world far before the first chapter was done. The Telltale game style of movies that you control — you make the choices, you click to throw that punch, you are responsible for what happens — makes the entire experience incredibly absorbing, and incredibly real.

There are several important female characters in the game, with the main one being Snow White, a brave, no-nonsense, work-by-the-books figure who wants to help everyone in Fabletown but doesn’t always go about it in quite the right way. She is, as this article in the LA Times suggests, a huge influence on the gameplay experience, as the player becomes absorbed in her and Bigby’s tension-filled relationship and has to constantly question whether a harsh or violent approach to crime-solving is really necessary, when it might destroy any goodwill Snow has for us. Snow is a tough character, and a sympathetic one, who both helps and impedes our protagonist, and who, refreshingly, isn’t always the gentle one either. She has issues of her own to deal with, and the clashes between her and Bigby drive some of the tensest moments of the story.

We also have a great, frightening villain in the form of Bloody Mary (of the “say it three times in the mirror” fame), and several other morally complicated female characters who help or hinder the case. But it should be noted that the case revolves around the murder of prostitutes, and the game doesn’t shy away from that — not a count against it, necessarily, but something players should be aware of.

Unfortunately, The Wolf Among Us does have a big problem with diversity. Unless I blinked and missed it, there’s absolutely no diversity in this sizeable cast of characters. Talking pigs and toads, sure. Trolls, yes. But non-straight, white characters? Not that I could see. Even without racebending, these characters clearly exist in the world — Aladdin’s lamp plays a minor part in the story, if only as a prop — but they’re nowhere to be found. And while this might be an adaptation problem, depending on the diversity found in the original graphic novels, it’s something that could and should have been addressed, with a bit more care and ingenuity.

But as a gameplay experience, The Wolf Among Us is absolutely stellar. It’s probably not a game for people who focus on strategy and care a lot about battle mechanics, but if you’re a gamer who plays for story, like me, then this is the perfect thing to immerse yourself in. Bring on Season Two.

Rhiannon

Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

6 thoughts on “The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games

  1. In the comics, I really only recall one or two African-American fables (in Jack’s spin-off, mainly, which I never liked), and the Arabic fables like Aladdin, Sinbad, and a handful of others (with a few problematic turns here and there), though Mowgli from The Jungle Book has a recurring role as well. Willingham stuck to fair use characters, but didn’t really move beyond Europe/America and the Middle East much at all. As for gender or sexuality diversity, mostly a strike out.

    Fairest is a spin-off series focusing on the female fables, and I do know that one of Rapunzel’s main adventures takes place in Japan and she has a relationship with another woman, but I haven’t read that story arc.

    Cinderella gets around as an off-the-books agent for Bigby, too, so some of her adventures take her to other locations, but then PoC are relegated to background or enemies much of the time.

    1001 Nights of Snowfall is a Fables book about Snow White telling backstories of several fables, and the framing device is pretty much Scheherazade’s tale, which would be fine–until we get to the end and it’s Snow who gives Scheherazade the idea to tell the Sultan stories to begin with, which made me angry about an otherwise lovely collection of stories. On the one hand, women helping women in a terrifying situation. On the other, robbing the brilliant queen of her own story because a white woman has the answer instead. It doesn’t help Snow White and Bigby are the closest to main characters/leads for pretty much the entire series, ensemble or not. They’re who everyone turns to when things need done.

    1. Completely agree. Also, I was disapointed with the Bigby/Snow “romance”. So, basicly, she didn’t want anything to do with him until they gave them a potion that makes them have sex, and after that, she didn’t remember what happened but since she was pregnant, sudently she gave up on her career to become a mother. Bigby dissapeared but Snow jump to marry him when he comes back because he’s the father and that’s aparently all it takes… And the author thought that “women would swoon when we read that”. Really? To be honest I stoped buying the comic at that point…

      1. She didn’t so much give up her career for the cubs, it was more that due to Fabletown law she had to take them to the Farm while they were unable to control their appearances or tendencies to flight. Dr. Swineheart mentioned the possibility of abortion, but Snow was vehemently opposed (and the story there is in the novel Peter and Max where the Pied Piper made it difficult if not impossible for the Fables to have children until Peter Piper dealt with it).

        Even after going to the Farm, Snow was involved in most policies, plans, and advice to the other leaders. Also working closely with Charming once he won the election was not something she wanted. But she never really stopped being a leader, just not the daily grind of it.

        As for Snow and Bigby’s relationship…It does have problematic issues. He’s carried a torch for her since he met her as a wolf, and later there’s destiny involved as he took the destiny intended for some jackass wizard he killed back in the day. Snow, I think, is meant to also secretly love Bigby the whole time, but she is too guarded until the whole twu wuv thing with the cubs takes hold. Combined, I think, with realizing how much she missed him when Fabletown law kept them apart? I don’t know. I see what they intended, but yeah–it came across as “man does not quite get the situation or women’s responses at all.”

  2. Sounds like a fun game (had it for a while. Just never played it) but as for the matter of a lack of racial diversity, most of these characters are at their core lifted from european folklore. Unless they wanted to needlessly racebend (which really comes across as cheap pandering and is almost worse thanks just flat racism being added for the sake of flat racism. The only one I can think of would be Aladdin and shoehorning him in somewhere would again just come across as cheap. As regards non straight characters, how do you know half the cast wasn’t and just didn’t want to shout about it? Not everyone wants to make a big thing of their sexuality. A game isn’t Tumblr after all. Although that comment is specifically targeted at That group on the site, there’s also a lot of furries for some reason.

    1. Ah, the “historical accuracy!” Fallacy for white-only stories. In a fantasy where one of the main characters is really a half-wolf, half-wind monster who has been forcibly transformed into a human man. But PoC, who actually exist, are more of a stretch.

      Europe has always been racially diverse, and people of color were not always servants or slaves; colonialism in the last few centuries and chattel slavery have seriously changed perceptions of and reactions to race. How many continents-spanning invasions and empires existed over time in that part of the world? Most of them, especially the Romans, famois for military movement, conscriptions of local populaces, and creating safe and efficient methods of trade and travel?

      1. I am well aware of the racial diversity of Europe. I am also well aware that they weren’t always slaves or servants or whatever else. There’s evidence that at least one African merchant did very well for himself and it can easily be inferred from that evidence that there were others who did the same. My argument however is not actually a fallacy as you so claim because the great majority of the source material and indeed the general population was mostly white. Considering as half the fairy tales are about royalty or at least nobility it stands to reason that the ruling class of a majority white country is likely to be white. The most likely answer to the supposed lack is that the developers had more important things to focus on than some imaginary diversity quota. I don’t live there so I can’t comment on the racial diversity of New York but being the creative type myself I can say with confidence that when I build a character I focus more on their personality and their actual character than what colour I think they should be. It’s hard enough to build an interesting world without worrying about why Mr Toad isn’t a flaming homosexual as well as a foul mouthed three foot toad in a sweater (as entertaining as such a character would be it would detract from the overall theme of the game) or why that troll over there has a white glamour. It could even be argued that it was deliberate because in a majority white country you’re going to attract less attention if you’re white. They’re trying to be at least partially incognito after all.

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