By: Mike Chen
Note: The Wolf Among Us series looks, sounds, and plays the same from episode to episode. For an examination of those series characteristics, please see our Episode 1: Faith review. This review will only provide an overall score for Episode 4: In Sheep’s Clothing.
When we last left Bigby Wolf and Snow White at the end of The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3, A Crooked Mile, things were dire indeed. Patching up Bigby’s wounds is the opening act of Episode 4, In Sheep’s Clothing, and it’s a reminder how smart game design can accentuate a gruesome physical moment.
Unfortunately, that moment isn’t representative of the rest of the episode, at least in terms of innovative interaction. In Sheep’s Clothing continues the pattern established by the series of actually including very little gameplay. There’s nothing wrong with the narrative of this episode; in fact, it’s quite interesting and provides a few a-ha moments that are quite gripping. However, at a length of about 90 minutes, it means that you’re rushed from the opening scenes to the cliffhanger finale before you know it. The good news is that 90 minutes is packed with twists and turns, and there’s rarely a dull minute.
Despite having never read the Fables comic books, I’ve grown to really enjoy the characters and world of The Wolf Among Us. That only compounds my frustration at the overall game design. To use an analogy from another game genre, The Wolf Among Us often feels like the adventure game equivalent of an on-rails shooter. Conversations appear but don’t really have much impact on the outcome (sans a few significant points), so while you get to pick what you say, you ultimately have very little say in its impact. You CAN die during some physical confrontations, but then you simply respawn a few seconds back.
It’s fine for the primary game mechanic to be dialogue trees, but if Telltale is going to stick with that, then there has to be some weight or purpose behind it. Dialogue choices advance things forward, but you’re not getting Bigby to necessarily uncover information or convince someone to do something unusual.
In Sheep’s Clothing has a few moments that trickle down, but it still feels like you’re primarily a passenger on someone else’s ride. As with the other episodes, the writing, acting and art are all top notch. It’s a GOOD ride, for sure, and from a story perspective, things are poised for an exciting conclusion. As a player, though, I wish I had more agency in how things unfolded.
In Sheep’s Clothing is a short and enjoyable episode in the world of Fables. However, it doesn’t address the series’ biggest flaw of having very little interaction with the story. There’s one episode left for Telltale to try and strike the proper balance of gameplay and narrative.