Telltale’s fourth episodes in their adventure series tend to go one of two ways. They either bring together everything that happened in the first three episodes and play off the fact that the player has lived with the game in their lives for months, setting up a finale while also making the player really consider everything that has brought them to this point. The best example: the first season of The Walking Dead. On the other hand, in their more puzzle-based efforts, the fourth episodes have often felt cobbled together, reusing assets and ideas and ultimately feeling like filler.
In Sheep’s Clothing is more like the former than the latter, although it never touches Telltale’s wonderful zombie game. This is an episode that leans very heavily on the fact that the next one will be the finale, which brings the plot into a stronger point of focus and lets the character work – which is where the writers really shine – take precedent. The ‘Crooked Man’, episode 3’s shadowy figure, remains hidden for most of the episode, but the hunt for him - and the clear and simple fact that, this late in the game, finding him feels genuinely important – gives your actions a stronger sense of purpose.
I’ve criticised The Wolf Among Us in the past for basing its decisions too heavily on whether or not you want Bigby to be a jerk, and while that’s still the case here to some extent traces of grey have seeped into the black and white strokes. Your choices in the game – and at this point the whole game consists of making choices, more or less – influence what sort of character you portray Bigby as, and it made sense to me that the man who I’ve tried to portray as caring and remorseful would start snapping inappropriately at people now. It’s great feeling like you’ve crafted an arc for Bigby, even if, in reality, your choices are fairly limited.
By the time things wrap up though, reflecting back on the whole experience so far, it’s hard to feel like one’s actions have made any serious impact on how The Wolf Among Us has panned out. Aside from one death in Episode 3 I can’t think of a single major choice that really changed things, and there are so few instances where you’re actually in control of the character that the whole thing feels like a choose-your-own-adventure movie more so than any of Telltale’s previous efforts. At one point, as Bigby moved through a meat locker full of carcasses in a cutscene, I reflected back on a simple moment from the second episode of The Walking Dead’s first season. By simply giving the player control, the game made a sequence in which you creep up a flight of stairs and open a door incredibly impactful. Why has The Wolf Among Us been so insistent on us watching but rarely acting?
The episode sets up for a genuinely interesting looking finale, one with the potential to make up for some of the missteps the season has taken on the way there. The fourth episode is the most compelling, from a plot and character perspective, since the first, and there’s one fight scene midway through that manages to be genuinely exciting. It’s also rather short though, ending just before things really ramp up. This season has held the player at a bit of a distance and made them watch interesting things unfurl without quite feeling like they’re involved, but this episode, at least, lets you feel like you’re in control of your reactions to the plot a bit more than previous ones did.