I don’t normally review games. This is for a few reasons.
- I am not formally trained in writing for games even though I have written for a few small projects.
- I rarely play a single game at a straight stretch, thus I do not think I have a clear idea of the story and how it was paced.
- Games are a very interactive medium and as such are even more subjective in their effect. Thus making it difficult to evaluate what worked for one person and what didn’t.
So with all that said, I am going to review a game and make up for the fact that I did not read a script this week.
‘The Wolf Among Us’ by Telltale Games is an interactive story-focused noir mystery set in the world of Fabletown. Fabletown is a place in New York where all the characters from western fables of old have come to live.
The game itself places you in the shoes of Sheriff Big B, also known as the Big Bad Wolf, as he tries to solve the murder of a prostitute named Faith. Now I won’t get into the story details. Enough to say that it’s a pretty great narrative but what makes the game stand out, and in particular, for the time it came out in; is its morally challenging choices. Most games that try to give players choices, draw a clear line between good and evil. Good is rewarded and evil is punished. This makes the choice rather boring, no evil character thinks that they are doing evil and no player wants to feel morally judged by a game for trying out a different solution to a given scenario.
To some extent, Wolf does the same, some choices clearly forge allies, while others make enemies. what feels refreshing here is that the narrative is so nuanced that sometimes you are not sure what is the right choice. In other instances, you feel driven to make the more aggressive choice. I frequently found myself making unusual choices. Being kind as long as I could tolerate it, and then snapping out when I felt that Big B had reached his boiling point. Thus, the game not only succeeds in placing me in Big B’s shoes, which are hard to fill as he has the ungrateful job of enforcing the law on a grey society, but it also manages to give me options that make my decisions feel real and not just morally guided.
A good noir story—which I am a fan of—often places the hero in morally grey situations with allies turning into enemies and vice versa. Wolf does the same, where you may try to do right all the time, but some situations call for blood and it feels wrong to follow the law. For this to make sense, we need to take a moment to appreciate noir as a genre. Born out of detective pulp fiction post-WW1, noir films depicted a world-weary man trying to make ends meet in a morally corrupt society that had befallen even harder times. Everyone is a suspect, especially the women who are often ‘femme fatales’. No one can be trusted. The law is trying to do its best but the mobsters and gangsters run the show. These films became really popular during that time period as they felt somewhat true. People were incredibly cynical and smoked a lot. Wolf has all of this, and is thoroughly enjoyable because of it.
A refreshing story with refreshing choices set in a refreshing world, all in a game that revamped a whole style of game design.