Telltale games came out earlier this month with the Wolf among us, a game laid out much like their previous title the Walking Dead. In many ways the Wolf Among us is exactly like the Walking Dead, even down to the graphic style. The game works the same as the Walking Dead in that it is point and click, with the occasional QTE thrown in. The meat of the game comes in the form of the dialogue system that Walking Dead implemented, with your choices shaping the overall course of the game. But that’s were the similarities end. Because while the way the story is handled is the same, the story itself is drastically different than Walking Dead. Instead of zombies we have Fables, characters like Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf brought into the modern world.
The story follows Sheriff Bigby, alias the Big Bad Wolf, as he tries to hunt down a serial killer and overcome the actions of his past. The game delivers well on story in all regards, from providing us with not only an incredibly strong main character in Bigby, but also creating many other solid characters, from the boisterous Toad, to the secretive Beauty. There is also a lot going on in the way of subplots, with Beauty’s mysterious midnight outings, as well as the overacrching story of the poorer Fables dealing with the reality of the real world and a lack of support from the richer Fables. All of this flows together seamlessly creating a solid world with enjoyable characters. The game addresses a lot of interesting topics, numbering from the ineptness of the state, to class conflict.
The problem with the game comes in the form of its multiple similarities to Tell Tales previosu title, The Walking Dead. While WD was an incredible game, so good that it got game of the year, should Tell Tale make all of its games like this? Of course it should. What needs to be noted about Tell Tale, is that unlike other developers, such as Ubisoft or Square Enix, developers that also focus heavily on story, Tell Tale doesn’t try and find a happy medium between mechanics and story, instead it ties mechanics to a block of lead and throughs it into the river. True WAU does have mechanics, but lets be honest point and click mechanics aren’t known for their realism, Tell Tales use of them is an end to a means, as soon as the mechanics fulfill their purpose their chucked aside, lost in the sea of story that Tell Tale unleashes.
While some may say this is a bad thing, and that the use of interactivity is what makes a game a game in the first place and therefore an equal balance needs to be achieved. I disagree, video games are a new way of telling stories, unique in not that they let the viewer participate, but unique in that they let a viewer decide. While it can clearly be seen that games that focus solely on mechancis, i.e. Call of Duty, and League of Legends, are incredibly successful, games like The Walking Dead outdo them because they provide the viewer with something new.
After all the closest thing we’ve ever had to choice in our stories was with those You Decide! Books, and those were mediocre at best, and still had a certain degree of linearity in them. But with games, you can mix and match stories, and in the case of games like Minecraft, can make your own.
However, mechanics and interactivity are still needed, else you end up with what amounts to no more then a movie on your computer. And Tell Tale does avoid this with Wolf Among Us, aside from the point and click mechanics there are QTE’s, but even those don’t provide the viewer with much interaction, as no matter what you do you’ll still come out on top. But a game based in mechanics isn’t Tell Tales focus, its not what they are setting out to do, as can be seen by their opening press statement: “Telltale will also create original stories and characters of their own. There is a ...segment of the market that craves...narrative that...provides a range of emotions.” Says CEO Conners, as can be seen Telltale doesn’t necessarily care less about mechanics, its just not their focus. And besides based on the success of the Walking Dead, it looks like the gaming community at large doesn’t necessarily need a game right now with strong mechanics, just strong story.
So while The Wolf Among Us may suffer from dull mechanics, it still hits the nail on the head with its ingenious story and choice system, providing the gamer with not only a well made story, but a story that’s well made by them.