After an almost four month long absence, The Wolf Among Us returns with Bigby Wolf continuing his investigation into the deaths of two female Fables. At the end of the previous episode, ‘Faith’, you chose to arrest one of two likely suspects. This new episode picks up with Bigby going to interrogate your captive – and as the title of the episode, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, implies, things are getting murkier and murkier in Fabletown.
• Developer: Telltale Games
• Publisher: Telltale Games
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
• Also Available On: PC, Mac OS X, Xbox 360
• Release Date: Available Now
After the discovery at the end of episode 1, Bigby is in a dark place. After escaping police custody with the help of Ichabod Crane, Bigby makes his way to a rudimentary cell underneath the Business Office to interrogate his prisoner. In my case, I chose Tweedledee so the conversation quickly becomes heated. However, just as things begin to unravel for Bigby, he gets a lifeline in the form of a welcome surprise.
All of the above may seem cryptic but I really would not want to spoil anything for those who have not played this game yet. The story, as well as the characters that play a part in it, are paramount in this game. Even the setting is crucial, not only for building atmosphere but also for informing your decisions. Fabletown is a dark place where dreams apparently go to die. Many characters are either led to vice, drugs or murder – sometimes, all three at once.
One of the most impressive elements of episode 2 is how well it builds on the characters of the first. Bigby is brought to life by some excellent writing and voice-acting. The tertiary characters are also given plenty of personality. Toad remains a grumpy old man, who at the same time, worries deeply for his son. He is like the likeable version of Kenny from The Walking Dead.
The hunt for the killer takes many interesting turns throughout Smoke and Mirrors. Bluebeard, a new character is introduced and immediately appears to want to take control of the situation. Bigby also bumps into Jack, one of the more annoying characters you meet. Hitting the button to threaten him was uber-tempting, though I was gunning for the sympathetic investigator vibe at the time.
In the review for the first episode, I made the point that if The Wolf Among Us followed the same pattern as The Walking Dead, the gameplay would eventually turn towards more decision-making territory. Thankfully, this has happened a lot earlier than I anticipated, with only a few, brief moments of combat of quick-time events to put up with. This lends itself to a much more enjoyable experience as despite the undoubted improvements in the controls, these sections remain one of the weaker aspects of Telltale’s games.
While we are speaking of weaknesses, I feel I have to mention the game’s engine again. Even after such a long delay, there were numerous times throughout my playthrough where the game stuttered between scenes and sometimes, over dialogue. Though it never actually impacted the gameplay, it was still an annoyance I could have done without.
Irrespective of these issues, I really enjoyed my time playing Smoke and Mirrors. I was particularly pleased with the ending. If, like episode 1, it had relied on yet another twist ending, I might have become exacerbated. I was understandably relieved when the focus was not to turn your head around with a trick ending but to hit you with a piece of revelatory knowledge to tee up the next chapter in the story.
The Wolf Among Us is not treading the same water that Telltale’s other big franchise has. Instead of asking you how you will survive in this world, Smoke and Mirrors brings the question more into focus – specifically, is it possible to go against your nature in pursuit of the greater good, or do you have to dirty your hands to get things done?
With a (hopefully) much shorter wait ahead of us for episode 3, I guess we will find out soon.