|System: Xbox 360, PC, PS3|
|Dev: Telltale Games|
|Pub: Telltale Games|
|Release: Q2 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Shelby Reiches
It’s easy to forget, in today’s world of sanitized and saccharine children’s entertainment, that fairy tales were originally intended to frighten one’s offspring into being good. The original tales of the Brothers Grimm were filled with morbid and ironic ends for young, naïve characters. In Fables, though, an ongoing comic written by Bill Willingham and published under DC’s Vertigo imprint, it is the iconic characters of the fairy tales themselves who are beset upon, frightened and forced to flee their home by “The Adversary.” They’re driven to live in a section of our mundane world: Fabletown, in New York City. The more monstrous or animalistic among them, those who could not easily be disguised from average humans, instead inhabit “the Farm” in upstate New York.
The exception to this last is Bigby Wolf, the former antagonist of the Red Riding Hood tale. The once “big, bad wolf” has gained the ability to take on human aspects, allowing him to live in Fabletown where he serves as the sheriff and protector of those fairy tale folk displaced from their realm.
Bigby and his dual nature are the focus of The Wolf Among Us, the first Fables licensed game from Telltale. It’s a license they’ve been sitting on for almost two years; the partnership was originally announced at 2011’s San Diego Comic Con. Since then, the company has gone radio silent on the matter, their focus instead being on The Walking Dead and its 2012 run.
Now, though details are scant, they’re willing to open up a bit about what they have planned for Bigby Wolf and the rest of Fabletown. Though he has abandoned the role in the comics, The Wolf Among Us will be a prequel that once again sees Bigby as the sheriff of Fabletown. As sheriff, he will face a conflict that will offer him opportunities to either do the “right thing” and keep everybody in his town safe, or allow him to give into his original nature as the big, bad wolf with selfish and destructive choices.
To this end, Telltale is building the game based on the storytelling lessons they learnt from The Walking Dead. Also based on an ongoing comic book, The Walking Dead tells a story tangential to the main focus of the Robert Kirkman comics to which it is licensed. But it does so with compelling, multi-faceted characters and risky, heart-wrenching decisions that carry over from each episode of the game into the next.
While The Wolf Among Us won’t feature a Telltale original character in its lead role, they still intend for Bigby’s interactions to be touched by that same, intangible value and emotional impact found in The Walking Dead’s interactions. The Walking Dead, though, is a horror tale, and that’s an angle that doesn’t really fit within Fables or its urban universe.
Again, there isn’t a lot to go on yet. But judging by the first pieces of promotional art, the game is taking a noir approach, zeroing in on the seedy underbelly of Fabletown. Given that the first arc in the original comics was a murder mystery, and this precedes that, a noire approach seems like an appropriate fit. Doubly so with the cigarette-smoking Bigby at the game’s helm.
The most interesting detail about the game, though, is that, according to a statement made back in 2011 when Telltale first announced the acquisition of the Fables license, the game will be canon within the story’s universe. This is one thing when it comes to The Walking Dead, which features entirely new characters in their own story, just placed in a world shared by the comics, but another entirely where The Wolf Among Us is concerned, seeing as it will be focused on characters central to the actual book. It will be interesting to see just how much choice the game can really offer when its main character’s later canon is already firmly established.
There’s also the question of just how much of Bigby’s background will work its way into the game, or if maybe this story will try to keep some of his more Fables specific secrets out of play and focus instead on the simple, familiar details of the character. That’s the big question with a story-based, licensed product like this: How much familiarity does Telltale expect us to have with the series and, for those who have little or none, how will the game be structured to appeal to them?
The other major question has less to do with The Wolf Among Us, specifically, and more to do with the Fables license in general. Where else will Telltale take it? The terrific thing about this specific franchise is that there is such a broad character base, covering so many genres and archetypes, that a film noir-influenced tale about a hard-boiled detective is only really one of many potential avenues they could have explored. The naming, too, doesn’t draw directly upon the Fables license (though there is a prose story called “A Wolf in the Fold” that tells of how Bigby initially came to the mundane world), which seems to temper the sense that this is supposed to be the definitive Fables game series. Might it, instead, be simply one of many?
Either way, summer this year is looking especially big and bad.
Date: May 2, 2013