Cry Wolf: ‘The Wolf Among Us’ Season Finale Closes The Loop [Review]
While I was playing the final episode of Telltale Games’ first season of its Fables prequel game, The Wolf Among Us, I was struck by just how many genres it cycles through before its conclusion. It’s a locked-parlor mystery. Then it’s an action movie. There’s melodrama in there. One scene is straight-up horror. Then it’s a legal drama.
Previous episodes covered even more genre territory, from noir to surreal fiction to police procedural, but it wasn’t until this episode that it dawned on me that Telltale was honoring the storytelling style of Fables, which started as a whodunnit and quickly became beyond categorization in its genre-hopping. Fables isn’t just a series about storybook characters, it’s a story about stories, and Telltale gets that. This final episode, “Cry Wolf,” absolutely proved it.
In my reviews of the previous episodes, my biggest complaint about the game has been that it sometimes felt like Bigby Wolf wasn’t in control of his own destiny, or at the very least, it felt like the decisions the player made — the game’s chief mechanic — didn’t always have much of an impact on what actually happened. That all changes here. Not only does this episode have some major, major decisions that affect the ending considerably, it also incorporates decisions from previous episodes, too.
A scene near the end serves as a trial for the game’s big bad guy (revealing who he is would be a spoiler of sorts), but at the same time it’s a sort of a trial for Bigby, and by extension, you as the player. While it does feel like a bit of a cheat to make the end sequence the time when all of Bigby’s actions come to a head, it makes a good bit of sense in the context of the scene, and the ones that follow. The villain attempts to turn the tables on Bigby and get the people of Fabletown to question his actions; Bigby has to defend his “report card”, for lack of a better term.
So far, I’ve focused on this episode’s talky parts, but one extraordinary thing about this one is that there are several scenes with no dialogue at all. Previous episodes have had chases and fights, but this one has an extended chase scene through the streets of New York that involves lots of quicktime events and even a timer, which is a brand new element. Late in the game, Bigby has a lengthy (and completely terrifying) fight with a character who is what you might call the final boss. The writers and developers did an amazing job of making her genuinely scary, and the fight with her feels huge.
While we’re on the topic of action sequences, I’d like to note that the timing of the game’s quicktime events feel vastly improved over how they were back in the first episode, when they felt awfully clunky. The developers seem to have worked out the kinks there, though the load times, at least on my Xbox 360, are still a bit on the long side.
Last week, when the trailer for the finale of The Wolf Among Us hit the internet, I suggested that maybe the trailer’s final scene, from the opening moments of the first episode, was some indication of an attempt at circular storytelling, that somehow the end of the season would mirror the beginning. Without spoiling anything, I think I was onto something there, but what’s really nice about how The Wolf Among Us ends this prequel story is that there’s still some considerable uncertainty left hanging when the credits roll. The game shifts back to what it started as –a neon noir– and Bigby’s left guessing about the nature of identity in a reality where magic can turn anyone into anyone else.
A game that constantly changes its genre mask ends on a note about uncertain identity. Appropriate, that.