I’m beginning to question whether episodic delivery is the right model for a mystery game like The Wolf Among Us. Knowing that two fifths of the game still lie ahead, it becomes a little obvious that the leads we pursue in A Crooked Mile will mostly be red herrings. Ichabod Crane might be scum of the earth, but he’s clearly not a serial killer, and tracking him down is more or less an excuse to do some character building and uncover a few clues to the real mystery. But while it might not be packed with shocking revelations, episode 3 of The Wolf Among Us delivers solid character drama and tense action in spades.
Episode 3 picks up in the Open Arms hotel just moments after episode 2 ended, with Bigby, Beauty, and Beast still reeling from the discovery of Crane’s sick obsession with Snow White. Worried that Crane might be after Snow, Bigby charges out looking for her. He finds her at a funeral for Lilly, the decapitated troll hooker who’d been impersonating her for Crane using black market “glamours” (expensive spells that allow beastly fables to masquerade as human).
The troll funeral hits some strong emotional beats as Bigby’s all-encompassing concern for Snow clashes with the grief of Lilly’s friends and family. Tempers flare and possibly explode, depending on how sensitive your Bigby has been to the plight of the Trip Trap regulars. Things get tense when Tweedles Dee and Dum show up with shotguns to coerce Bigby into leaving Ichabod alone, and in the ensuing chaos some of the bigger fables get shot. The opening credits roll, and Wolf is on the case, his shoulder aching on account of the buckshot.
This episode lets us spend time with a few more Fables mainstays. Doctor Swineheart comes in to patch Bigby up and offer him a bit of sagely advice (that he’ll almost certainly ignore). The highlight of the episode, though, is a stroll through the offices of Dee and Dum with Flycatcher (the frog prince), one of the most likeable characters in the Fables universe (even if he can be a touch preachy). Everything about Fly, from his model to his voice, is positively spot-on, and it’s great to see the beginnings of the working relationship he has with Bigby in the comics. So far, this season is doing a great job of doling out fan service.
Telltale’s original Fables also get some solid development, and they’re shaping up to be just as enduring as the main cast of the comics. The relationship between Grendel, Holly, Lilly, and the Woodsman makes for some compelling drama, and as beastly outcasts themselves they make nice foils for Bigby. Each gets their own moment of real humanity (or… trollity? Eotenity?), and you can’t help but feel for them. They’re broken creatures trapped in a world where they don’t belong, but they have each other, and they get by.
Likewise, the villains really get to make their presence known in this installment. Snow and Bigby have to spend more time dealing with Bluebeard, who barges his way into the investigation with a blatant ulterior motive. We finally get to see the inner workings of the Tweedle’s shady “detective” business, and draw ever closer to their enigmatic boss, The Crooked Man. Bigby and Snow manage to track down Crane’s black market witch, an encounter that can easily go pear-shaped if you’re not diplomatic. We’re also introduced to Bloody Mary, a sadistic hit-woman who seems to be in charge of the Tweedles. She really steals the few scenes she’s in, and I’m eager to see more of her.
Mechanically, the concept of time-sensitive decisions is really beginning to come to the fore. There’s a significant chunk of content in this episode that can’t be accessed in a single playthrough, which indicates that Telltale are following through on the promise of diverging player paths. Unlike Lee in The Walking Dead, Bigby has the power to change the world around him, and the decisions he makes in his investigation are really beginning to cascade. Naturally Telltale will have to tie off the ending to some degree in order to link up with the comics and possible sequels, but I hope that my decisions will still have a marked effect on the outcome. If they do, this season will be well worth replaying.
Telltale’s really raised the stakes on the action scenes for this episode. Tarantino is cited as the central cinematic inspiration for Crooked Mile, and it shows. Whereas previous episodes involved a lot of fisticuffs, here guns are brought to the very first fight. The fights are intense, shotguns firing blast after blast with no concept of ammo count or reloading. Blood gets everywhere. At one point, a dumpster is thrown.If you want to, episode 3 really lets you unleash your Big, Bad side.
A Crooked Mile marks a strong midpoint in Bigby Wolf’s magical dead hooker mystery tour. The writing keeps you on your toes and manages to evoke some pathos, even without any big twists to prop it up. The Telltale tool is proving to be a great vehicle for interactive storytelling, and I think The Wolf Among Us represents the company’s most solid work to date. It remains to be seen if it can hit the same high as The Walking Dead, but it’s doing a far better job at maintaining a consistent pitch. For fans of the comics and adventure buffs alike, The Wolf Among Us continues to assert itself as a must-play game.
Version Reviewed: PC