Friday, 30 May 2014

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 4 Review

Is the penultimate episode of TellTale's Fables franchise worth sinking your teeth into?

A fatal flaw of many second-to-last entries of a series is that they usually only serve to hype up their finales, and so are often victims of originality and little plot development. This is partly the case for Episode 4 of 'The Wolf Among Us', which has already had it's fair share of dull moments throughout it's steady release pattern.

Though the majority of 'In Sheep's Clothing' serves as exposition for the series' final chapter, Episode 4 has a few stand out moments that'll keep the player interested. We're immediately reminded of the events of the night before, being forced to grimace our way through a button mashing sequence to repair a bloodied and bruised Bigby's broken arm. It's an opening that certainly pulls you back into the danger our main characters are facing, though the tension quickly dies down and we're faced with a lengthy dialogue driven encounter with Snow White and your porky flatmate Colin. In fact, several sections of this episode are driven by character interactions; with some being more bearable to sit through than others. Your encounter with Beauty and the Beast in particular is a bore to endure, as their sympathetic portrayal from previous episodes is completely reversed and are suddenly depicted as one-dimensional spoiled brats. 

Most of the characters also continue to be oblivious to the player's previous choices, as noted in my review of Episode 3 here, with very little dialogue variation on this part. There are a few more choices to make within this episode that will undoubtedly affect the player's experience in Episode 5, but it's a pity we have to wait for the finale to see our minor decisions come into play.

This episode does however contain another multiple choice segment, with each path, although both ultimately coming to the same conclusion, offering unique interactions and dialogue for the player. This certainly makes the user's journey more adapted to their playstyle and specific to their choices from throughout the series. It can be noted though that your choice here does not alter the overall outcome - Bigby still learns the same information either way. Although a neat addition to the series' gameplay, it would be better for future installments if these 50/50 choices had a greater impact on the overall story; the best of which was in Episode 1, but even then, the character in question has only appeared once in the series if you managed to save them, having no impact whatsoever on your journey.

There's also very little actual detective work within this episode - a lot of the revelations made were ones that I'd deduced of my own accord, and few answers are obtained for the more important questions at hand. Unlike previous installments, the player doesn't have the option to deduce the evidence through their dialogue choices, which I found to be one of the more interesting aspects of investigation throughout the series. It's for this reason that very little really progresses story wise within the episode, which means there's a lot to wrap up in the upcoming finale. 

However that doesn't mean the episode is without it's thrills. There's an excellent fight sequence where you face off against the fantastically designed Jersey Devil, another of the Crooked Man's goons, in a heart pounding quick time event, where you'll get some much needed help from an old friend. It's also key to note that the actual climax of the episode is incredibly successful at building up suspense and creating a very unsettling atmosphere for the player, and really hypes up the series' final episode. Just make sure you choose to 'Smoke' as your final option - you won't regret the fantastic cliffhanger you'll receive for it. 

Ultimately, Episode 4 of The Wolf Among Us is very hit and miss in terms of both gameplay and story, which leaves a lot to be desired. It's up to the final chapter then to give us a gut wrenching conclusion to TellTale's fairytale noir, where we can hopefully see all of our choices come into play when the case is finally closed. 

Score: 6/10