Monday, 14 April 2014

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 Review

The midway mark of TellTale's fairytale noir returns the series to its bloody brilliance.

Being the halfway point of any series is difficult as it is, let alone that of a franchise created by  award winning developers. Yet 'A Crooked Mile' serves up the perfect recipe for a detective RPG, and we finally get to see some of our all important choices come into play.
Picking up after the cliffhanger of Episode 2, Sheriff Bigby Wolf finds himself in a race against the clock to track the location of Fabletown's very own Keyser Söze, offering players the best multiple choice decision of the series so far. You quite literally become the detective, choosing where to investigate first, and fast. The story based timer and multiple story options that come with this portion of the episode are fantastic, amping up the tension to an insane degree where you'll stop at nothing to make sure you get the evidence you need. You'll find yourself tactically choosing what objects to click in order to find out what's important and vice versa, and the odd chiming of a clock in the background really helps to make the player feel completely immersed in this race against time. It's an episode that'll definetly be worth replaying to see what clues you missed out on first time around. 
The rest of the episode is also solid, with your playstyle finally seeming to have an impact on others. Characters will have different interactions depending on your previous choices, and each individual suprisingly begins to hold out on their own in this installment. You can find yourself empathising with Holly the Troll just as much as the protagonist you're playing. What can be pointed out though is that most changes in characters' behaviour seems to be based more upon major story decisions within the series (killing said person here, beating up said person there) rather than one on one character interactions. Despite backchatting to Snow White on every available occasion, she'll still be kind hearted towards you rather than tutting at your every move like in previous episodes. Hopefully this is something that can be improved in Episode 4.
Choices also appear to be limited in some instances. For example, when questioned if you believe a character is guilty, the vocal options are "No, he's guilty.", "What do you mean?" and "How do you know?" Spot the difference? The player's own deduction of the mystery is therefore limited in expression, and offers little expansion when it comes to your own theories.
The episode does however introduce new characters to the franchise's folklore - including comic staple Flycatcher and the ruthless Bloody Mary, an antagonist exclusive to the TellTale's take on the Fables comics, and a villainess that will certainly leave a lasting impression next time you look in a mirror. 
The series is fundamentally a murder mystery, and as is typical of the genre we get a few red herrings and more questions appearing than actually being solved by the end of it all. It's a lot to answer for in just two more episodes, and although very little moves forward in the grand scheme of things, we do get the resolution of one character's arch, though even that is cut short by the game's phenomenol climax.
Whilst previous episodes had few truly intense action moments, the finale of 'A Crooked Mile' is, in short, badass in every sense of the word. Combat remains to be basic, but little impact is needed to exaggerate the brutal showdown that takes place, and is by far one of the series highlights. We see Bigby as we've never seen him before - and it's a beatdown that will certainly be hard to forget.
All in all, the third installment of 'The Wolf Among Us' can sometimes leave you howling for a full moon, but successfully hypes up what's sure to be a heart pounding penultimate episode.
Score: 8/10

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