Bill Willingham’s “Fables” series is truly a gem in the comic book world. It’s incredibly complex, with overtones that challenge the tenets of the fairy tales that you experienced from your childhood, from Humpty Dumpty to Alice in Wonderland, as well as the “core” princess legends perpetuated by Disney.
In Fables, nearly every one of the storybook heroes (as well as anti-heroes and villains) fled their home, hundreds of years ago, to roost in New York.Beneath the storytelling, Fables is also an incredibly biting commentary, not only on modern New York City, but the modern world as a whole. For example, Prince Charming is a manipulative philanderer, sowing his seed across New York and leaving women destitute. There’s also The Farm, an upstate location designed for Fables who cannot “glamor” themselves to appear human. Of course, Glamoring is expensive (and has an expiration date), so many Fables are shuttled to the Farm, quite against their will.
I can’t stress enough: though Fables: The Wolf Among Us is essentially a primer to Willingham’s universe, it’s also filled with several nods to the source comic, in a world that’s brought to life with breathtaking clarity by Telltale. Sure, Walking Dead’s 3D world was pretty brilliant, but it didn’t *really* capture the stark feel of post-apocalyptic Georgia quite like the comic does.
The Wolf Among Us absolutely nails the aesthetic, from the background airship in Snow/Ichabod’s office, to the collection of rims and racing pictures adorning Mr. Toad’s skeevy apartment.
The titular character is Fabletown’s sheriff, the Big Bad Wolf…or Bigby to his peers. He’s tasked with regulating the laws that govern all fables, investigating problems and generally keeping the peace. The Wolf Among Us is an ever-expanding journey with both Bigby and Snow (White), that starts on a typical day in Fabletown.
As I said before, Telltale has completely nailed the cel-shaded aesthetic of the comic world, and each character quite literally pops to life, thanks to stellar voice casting. The actors they picked are fantastic, and make the characters they portray so much more real than I expected. Everyone except Bigby. Sure, the actor does a competent job, but (and this is just the annoyed fanboy in me) I always imagined him having a darker, more sinister, cigarette-infused growl, and not the “whiny hipster smoker” that he sounds like.
Don’t misunderstand: he’s growing on me…but with the other voices sounding almost exactly as I’d imagined, I keep hoping Bigby’s going to be replaced by Ray Stevenson. Now THAT’S a scary guy with a
Hand-in-hand with the voices, is the spot-on dialogue. Even though Bigby might not sound the way I’d like, I could easily pick realistic dialogue for him from the available choices. And it’s not even the choices: scripted dialogue from Snow to “Woody” (and all of the fables in between) is excellent, and really propels the story forward.
In fact, the whole experience is so organic, and so engaging, that it seemed to be over far too quickly. Of course, there’s a major branching point in the story (among the smaller, branching moments), that you can replay with a radically different outcome. And you’ll want to replay it…immediately. If only to see what you missed out on.
Gameplay-wise, Chapter 1 stumbles a little bit. I found the quicktime events to be so incredibly fast, that it was difficult to 100%. Maybe that’s the point, but I always thought that in combat, Bigby would be a little more on the ball than Telltale gives him credit for.
Likewise, there are moments of exploration that can be hindered by invisible barriers and corners, resulting in Bigby literally stumbling around the foreground. Sure, I know that there’s a finite amount of useable space in the semi-static pane, but it’s the Fables universe! And dammit, I’ve been waiting 15+ years to explore…SO LET ME EXPLORE MORE!
Control aspects aside, Chapter 1 is a fantastic first foray into the Fables universe…but if I can stress anything, it’s to check out the original series (at least the first trade) to get a better handle on Willingham’s world. That, and you’ll understand why things unfold the way they do.
Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.