Telltale, at this point, seem pretty confident in the schtick they refined over the course of the first season of The Walking Dead. Their episodic releases have boiled down the puzzling aspect of the point and click genre to a point where, by now, it’s essentially non-existent. At one point in A Crooked Mile you find a key in a drawer and use it to open a door; for much of the rest of the runtime, the only part of Bigby you’re controlling is his mouth.
Having moved past the halfway point, it’s still not entirely clear what, exactly, Telltale is building towards with The Wolf Among Us. The central mystery, and the character map that weaves it all together, has grown convoluted by episode’s end, motivations, alliances and the world’s lore all blending together to create an increasingly vague picture. Right near the end a figure is purposely obscured, their identity kept a secret, and you’re left wondering why, exactly, you’re meant to care about discovering who they are.
On a scene by scene basis, it’s still an interesting game, although one that I’m feeling less involved with as I go through it. Having established Bigby through my actions in the prior two episodes, my choices here are now more about whether I want to remain consistent than anything else, and there’s little sense of choices really carrying through in meaningful ways.
Telltale have used memory as a powerful tool in their games – being told that a character will remember your actions can be chilling – but when you’re ensured that one character won’t remember an encounter in this episode (because they’re drunk) it’s a pointed reminder that few of your choices so far seem to have really had a major effect on proceedings. One choice is initially presented as particularly weighty, but later reveals itself to be less about shaping the story and more about choosing which part of the game to skip over, encouraging a second playthrough that is looking a bit less likely with each new episode.
The only real exception to this comes right at the end, with a major choice presenting a genuine moral quandary which may or may not be paid off in the next episode. But each episode of The Wolf Among Us so far has suddenly become more interesting right at the end, and it would be nice to see an episode that carries off this sense of weight and purpose throughout its entire running time.
If I’m coming across as negative here it’s because A Crooked Mile is disappointing, not because it’s bad. There are qualities inherent in Telltale’s design philosophies that will likely prevent The Wolf Among Us from dipping much lower than the grade below – the visual style remains utterly gorgeous, the voice actors give it their all, and the incidental dialog is well written. Bigby is a great character, and it’s hard to ignore the allure of making him increasingly gruff and grumpy as his night wears on. The action sequences, although not particularly exciting to control, are fairly brutal in this one, and there’s still some hope that it will all come together well once the season wraps.
The Wolf Among Us feels no less confident than Telltale’s Walking Dead seasons, but at this point it certainly doesn’t feel as well directed. It’s no longer something that is inspiring great enthusiasm or excitement from me, but it’s also not something I feel the need to abandon midway through.
James “Jickle” O’Connor is a freelance games critic, journalist and occasional editor, based in South Australia. His favourite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and he is absurdly, comically rubbish at most fighting games (except for Killer Instinct on the SNES, which was, incidentally, the first game he ever owned). He has huge soft spots for point and click adventure games, third-person shooters, and Deus Ex.
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