The third and middle chapter to the five episode series ‘The Wolf Among Us’ by Telltale Games, is now out on Xbox 360. As we are now three episodes in, it is almost impossible to now proceed without giving away spoilers to the first two episodes so please bear that in mind before reading on.
A Crooked Mile begins following the dramatic reveal at the conclusion of Episode 2, Smoke and Mirrors. The strong theme of player choice is once again thrust upon the player as you must make decisions straight away with the game using adding pressure by forcing you to make those decisions quickly. Time is very much a theme for ‘A Crooked Mile’ as both decision making and story telling become far quicker then both previous episodes, the heightened pressure to make the right choice will have you second guessing almost immediately what the decisions you make. I did find that by now in the third episode, my choices were made more by reflex when the time to pick one was short.
The end of Episode 2 saw the character Ichabob Crane become the chief suspect in Fabletown’s Sheriff Bigby Wolf’s investigation of the serial killing of female fables. The dark sinister obsession Crane has developed for Snow White has led to him hiring prostitutes and forcing them to use a Glamour, to have them take on the image of Snow White just before their untimely and very gruesome death. With the need to find Crane wading against the desire to protect Snow White, Bigby sets off to find Snow to both protect her and to get her help to continue the investigation.
One of the brilliant things that ‘The Wolf Among Us’ does is force you the player to face the consequences of your choices all through the game. Episode 3 has you facing decisions you made at the end of Episode 1, as to talk to Snow you must find her at the funeral of Lilly, second victim of the serial killer where Snow is giving a eulogy. Being the hated figure of justice, Bigby is soon confronted by Holly, Lilly’s sister who is far from pleased at Bigby’s arrival at the funeral. Conversation choices here will again shape Bigby relationship with these characters. You can take a soft approach and handle the situation with care or you can be harsh and cold. The story all along as allowed you as the player to shape the kind of man Bigby is in such conversation encounters. Your responses are often remembered by the characters, so it is important to try and work out how your relationships with the characters in the story could be either useful to you to gain information at that moment or in the future. In this case you are put in the situation or handling the members of a funeral for a character they believed you, Bigby, failed to protect. You also have to decide how you inform Snow of the developments in the case by choosing to either delicately protect Snow from the truth of Ichabob’s obsession with her or risk your relationship by just being honest and sharing all the gruesome details.
These subtle decisions you have to make keep you right at the heart of the story, every conversation and course of action you decide shapes so much in the narrative of how the story will unfold. Such a style in gameplay inspires you to go back and see what a different choice or conversation reply would make to the game. Bigby’s place in the Fabletown community is constantly under the spotlight. His history and reputation alienate you from the other characters and at moments where the ‘Wolf’ is forced to come out, your choices to either embrace the violence of the Wolf when in combat or to try and control it by taking a less violent path do shape how you are able to interact with the other characters. Episode 3 deliciously tempts you into giving in the darkside of Bigby’s personality as the story unfolds further with the investigation into Crane and the murders opens up far wider then it has before with the introduction of new characters that have an immediate impact on the world and story.
Episode 3, A Crooked Mile, does the job of keeping the story and gameplay interesting. The change in pace for your first playthrough has you at times making snap decisions but also gives you enough hints to help you make choices you want to make. It does still however suffer from the loading screens which for me slow down the times between scenes just too much but had less buggy moments then Episode 2 suffered. By not only reminding you of the choices you have made in the earlier episodes but also showing you the consequences of those choices, Episode 3 keeps everything moving at a nice pace and always makes you feel like you are driving the story forward, a story that is becoming more dark with its twists and turns that leave you wanting the next episode just to find out what happens next. This is something The Wolf Among Us has been so successful in doing with each Episode.
If you have enjoyed The Wolf Among Us so far then ‘A Crooked Mile’ delivers the same amazing story telling experience and just like ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ does a great job of keeping you engaged with the world and characters with enough to do in the episode with its gameplay that you get a solid experience from playing it. It is a game that is well deserving of your time and energy and will not let you down with gameplay or story.
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