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The Wolf Among Us: Smoke and Mirrors review

The Wolf Among Us: Smoke and Mirrors review

There is something to be said about Telltale Games and their ability to really suck you into a story with their settings, characters and engrossing plots that the game industry could learn from. The wait for The Wolf Among Us episode two was agonizing, at best, as episode one was the perfect set-up to an engrossing game noir unlike we’ve seen before. I get it, The Walking Dead is the big license and takes precedence, but The Wolf Among Us felt like a special game from the start and the arrival of episode two does not disappoint.

You are once again Bigby Wolf and there are a few murders involving Fables that need to be put into perspective. If you’ve never watched a film noir before some of the subtleties and atmosphere might be missed on you, but if you know the genre you’ll probably already be in love with this game from episode one. It has all of the classic elements of a noir without feeling derivative, in fact, it feels fresh in a videogame. The damsel in distress, the burnt out, angry protagonist with a dark past and a tendency for violence who is looking to right the wrongs of his past by helping those around him, oh, and it’s a very dark game.

In the usual Telltale fashion the game boots up with a rehash of your decisions from episode one before spitting you right back into the story. A lot about episode two is a bit more contemplative and exploratory compared to the rock ‘em sock ‘em first episode, which might throw some players off. If you were looking for Bigby to bare his fangs and smash things up some more you might find yourself disappointed in this episode, but then again, there wasn’t a need for a lot of violence within this episode. Bigby has to break some bad news with a few surprises along the way, with the picture finally starting to come into focus from the first episode, at least enough for you to start seeing how fractured Fabletown really is.

There are a few new characters introduced in Smoke and Mirrors, but not many, as you’ll find yourself dealing with Toad and his son again, as well as Ichabod, Tweedledee, Beauty, Beast and a few more. There is one big surprise within the episode that happens early on, but it’s a pretty massive spoiler and you’ll have to see it yourself. This episode doesn’t pull any punches, either, as the story is definitely a bit more mature than what most gamers are used to. That means that yes, there are some bare breasts in this episode tacked onto some gore and swearing to round things out. What’s interesting is that none of it feels out of place or forced, it all makes sense within the context of the story and fits perfectly.

Fabletown was supposed to be a refuge for the Fables, but there is a distinct darkness and melancholy that just feels oppressive. It’s clear that no one is happy in Fabletown and that the mighty have indeed fallen, it’s just a matter for someone like Bigby to try to, sometimes feebly, apply the brakes and try to slow everything down to make sense of the situation. Throughout the episode you get to see just how complicated Fabletown is. It’s easy to question Ichabod Crane’s failures, but he becomes more than a one-dimensional bureaucrat in this episode, you get to see multiple sides of Crane and begin to understand how difficult it must be to lord over Fabletown in the fractured state that its in.

But there always needs to be an enemy, right? There always needs to be an enemy, just like there always needs to be someone that realizes that things are as black-and-white as they appear, nor will everything be neatly wrapped up with a bow at the end. This was only episode two of five so to go into this expecting answers is foolish, instead you need to have an open mind and try to just take everything in. There is a lot going on, sometimes more than you’ll see on the surface.

This episode felt a bit short, but maybe that was just me wanting more game and not wanting to wait another few months for the next installment. What is clear is that The Wolf Among Us is Telltale doing what they do best while trying something a bit different and that they are doing it extremely well. I can’t recommend this enough.

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