As with all reviews, especially in episodic games like this, this review will be mostly spoiler free. Keep in mind though, episode 1 spoilers will be featured. Episode 1 left us with a massive cliffhanger, the head of Snow on the steps of the Woodland Apartments. Bigby looking on in horror as the mundies try to keep him away from the scene. We pick up just hours after that with Bigby being questioned by the police. Bigby, obviously with questions of his own, is being forced to deal with the sympathizing officer who really doesn’t understand the situation as much as she thinks. Just as it seems like Bigby will be there for the long haul, Crane shows up and wipes the memories of the mundies in the station, allowing the two to escape and continue their own investigation unhindered.
It is at this moment that The Wolf Among Us shifts from just another episodic tale to something truly special. The remainder is an emotional rollercoaster that is full of massive twists and a few particularly dark sequences. These serve as a constant reminder that these aren’t the fairy tales you remember, but rather, a desperate struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world. A few new characters make appearances, several more interesting than those introduced in episode one, each with their own problems. Plotlines from episode one also come to a fairly interesting close, or at least a pause knowing how dysfunctional many of these people are. Beauty and Beast have a rather interesting outcome, despite a fairly uninteresting argument beforehand.
Combat, if you can call it that, is just as passable as it was in episode one. Sure it can be frantic and exhilarating when the game sets you up properly, but more often than not if just feels like a means to delay you. Found the door you have been looking for? Well before you have to fight someone who just so happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. Sure try to explain, it won’t matter though, he’s made up his mind, time to fight.
One thing about episode 2 was particularly striking. It seemed as though the game was trying to force Bigby down a darker, more “evil” path. Of course you still have the final say in what Bigby does. The game, more often than not, presented more options to be the big bad wolf than someone who actually cared. Of course this could just be my interpretation, but it just seems like being the good guy doesn’t get you anywhere and the moment you start breaking/burning/taking things people like to start doing what you say. It also serves to devalue your decisions when it just seems like the game is encouraging you down a specific path. In a game about choice, there should be no clear right or wrong answers–not in a moral sense, but in a sense of correctness–and The Wolf Among Us certainly appears to be going in that direction. This could be a result of being directly based on an existing character, unlike Lee in The Walking Dead, but it isn’t a point worth disregarding.
On a slightly brighter note, episode 2 was where the striking visuals of The Wolf Among Us really shined. The style, the colors, the characters, all seemed to just pop more. Most scenes looked literally straight out of a comic in the best way possible. Characters in The Wolf Among Us show a much wider range of emotions, rather than frown, smile, and glare. The subtleties on their face when they show emotions, the kind of subtleties you just didn’t see in Telltale’s earlier games, really helped sell the scene. There were several moments where I was left dumbfounded or actually hurt by something someone said to poor Bigby. These were things that episode 1 just didn’t demand of me, but episode 2 has them in spades.
If Smoke and Mirrors is any indication of what episodes 3-5 are going to be like, the The Wolf Among Us is setting up to be one hell of a ride. Characters are coming together nicely, the game is succeeding at keeping the player on their toes and always on the cusp of discovery, but in a way feels exciting rather than frustrating, and the story itself is evolving and growing rapidly, yet still not forgetting about the smaller plots. While it does struggle from some unfortunately placed combat sequenced and a growing decision bias, Smoke and Mirrors far surpasses episode one and may be difficult to top in future episodes. Lets just hope episodes 3-5 don’t each take 4 months to release.